Donor Retention: Even If They Come, They Won’t Necessarily Stay

Donor retention is one of most challenging - yet rewarding tasks for non-profits. Find out how to keep the donor relationship fresh and profitable...
Donor Retention - people chasing a carrot

Acquiring new donors is only part of the battle. Donor retention is the other part.  

Once Fundraising Ambassadors recruit their friends and family to join a cause, organizational leaders must then retain their new donors. In order to retain donors, they must form relationships with them. They must connect with them, and the sooner the better.

The following statement is a hard truth. When a Fundraising Ambassador asks her friends to donate, her friends care very little about the actual cause (i.e., your organization). The only thing that’s important to them is that the cause is important to their friend. 

To new donors, an organization is a blank canvas. Left untouched, it remains unmemorable. 

The development director wanted her organization to become memorable. So she spent the weeks and months BEFORE the campaign planning a donor retention strategy.

BEFORE the campaign launched:

  • She created a Welcome Email to new donors, giving them background on the organization and the people they help. This email made donors feel like they joined an exclusive club of people who care.
  • She blocked off time on her calendar to personally call three new donors every single week. While she prioritized them by dollar amount, her goal was to reach every single new donor. 
  • She added Thank You emails and Report emails to the communication calendar aimed at new donors. She wanted to stay top-of-mind throughout the year, reminding donors about the generosity they exhibited.
  • She gave Fundraising Ambassadors language they can use to thank their donors as well. After all, that initial relationship must remain ironclad for donors to continue giving. 

Prepared for “the day after,” the development director’s mantra became “thank new donors profusely.” She shared stories of impact. She provided them with updates about how donations were used. She flattered them with flowery language about the heroism they demonstrated. 

She used every opportunity to make donors feel absolutely, positively, and unabashedly awesome about having given to her cause. 

The Keys to Donor Retention

The key to donor acquisition is a strong peer-to-peer fundraising strategy. 

The key to donor retention is a strong Thank You and Reporting strategy. 

Organizations can bring new donors in by enlisting their supporters to ask their friends and family to donate. They can retain new donors by telling them over and over again that they have transformed the lives of service recipients. 

Following these steps creates relationships and connections, the pillars of any strong fundraising department. 

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