Year after year, campaign after campaign, nonprofits find themselves asking the same old question: why aren’t we seeing healthy retention rates?
Improving donor retention is one of the top priorities for nonprofits of all shapes and sizes, no matter their fundraising experience or capacity. In a perfect world, inspired givers would come back again and again to support your cause, but we know that’s not always what happens.
Luckily, there are many ways your organization can lay the groundwork for a healthier donor retention rate by building donor relationships that last.
When these best practices are in place, your team can start focusing on strengthening other parts of your organization’s strategy instead of worrying about having enough prospects in line to meet your latest campaign’s goals.
Check out some of our top donor retention tips! These include:
- Maintain strong supporter relationships
- Offer donors many ways to give back
- Try peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns
- Make giving convenient for your community
- Follow up with your lapsed supporters
Can’t wait to get started growing a sustainable donor community? Let’s take a deep dive into our favorite donor retention strategies!
1. Maintain strong supporter relationships
One of the most common mistakes that nonprofits make when it comes to donor relationships is to not do enough to maintain strong connections.
If you want your donors to return again and again to support your campaigns, you can’t leave the ball in their court when it comes to engagement and interaction. To really increase the number of returning givers, you’ll need to position your organization as a fixture in their lives.
There are a lot of “in person” ways to achieve this, including hosting events like charity auctions, networking meetups, and stewardship galas.
However, in a world that’s increasingly oriented toward digital interactions, one of the best ways to build sustainable relationships is to make regular online connections with your community.
Here are a few low-cost, low-effort ways to maintain strong relationships with donors online:
- Publish a nonprofit newsletter. Regularly send email updates to supporters with information detailing your organization’s latest accomplishments, upcoming events, and the progress of ongoing fundraising campaigns.
- Send regular acknowledgements. Acknowledging donor support is one of the best ways to foster strong relationships. Send thank-you messages immediately after receiving gifts, and follow up with formal acknowledgement emails regularly.
- Keep up a social media presence. Curate a fun, engaging social media presence that your supporters will be excited to encounter in their feeds. Post pictures of your volunteers at work and share mission-focused content to get them inspired.
When it comes to upping your donor retention rates, relationship maintenance is the name of the game. With these easy-to-implement digital strategies on hand, there’s nothing in the way between your nonprofit and an engaged, inspired donor community.
2. Offer donors many ways to give back
All too often, donors fail to return to give because they simply aren’t presented with diverse or varied ways to show their support.
Sometimes, donating just doesn’t fit into your supporters’ lifestyles like it used to. They have busy lives of their own, and it’s no secret that for most individuals, making regular charitable gifts isn’t always at the top of their to-do lists.
Yet, most nonprofits make the mistake of only offering one or two ways to support their cause, and that’s a big problem. If you don’t present donors with diverse ways to contribute, you risk alienating motivated individuals who really care about your cause.
Try some of these strategies to make giving back accessible for more supporters:
- Share online fundraising pages. If your team doesn't already offer online giving, what are you waiting for? Create and share attractive and inspiring online giving forms with your supporters. For best results, make them mobile-responsive for smartphone users.
- Promote volunteer opportunities. While volunteers aren’t donating their money, they are offering up their valuable time to your cause. Even better, volunteers are among the most motivated demographics to donate down the line.
- Offer text-to-give technology. A great way to access donors on-the-go is to promote text giving to your community. With this method, supporters send a text to a special fundraising keyword. In seconds, they can make a gift right on their phone.
Bonus. Want to learn more about text-to-give fundraising, one of the fastest-growing and most accessible fundraising strategies out there? Check out OneCause’s extensive text-to-give guide to brush up on this essential subject.
3. Try peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns
Peer-to-peer fundraising is another great way to leverage the power of supporters who many not have the capacity to donate directly.
In a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign, nonprofits empower volunteer fundraisers to set up campaign pages on behalf of their cause. Then, these individuals drive donations to the organization through these pages by sharing them with friends, family, and colleagues.
Not only is this fundraising method a great way to maintain engagement with your supporters, but it’s also one of the best ways to grow the reach of your nonprofit. The more these pages are shared online, the wider the audience of individuals that will encounter your cause.
Here are some smart peer-to-peer fundraising ideas that can help boost supporter retention:
- Reach out to regular volunteers. Just as your volunteers are a great demographic for solicitations, they’re also the perfect segment for peer-to-peer fundraising. Promote this fundraising method as a volunteer opportunity to get them excited.
- Post educational how-to guides. Not all of your supporters know about peer-to-peer fundraising, or how to make the most of this method. Share educational content with them detailing how these campaigns work and how to take them to the next level.
- Spotlight exceptional peer-to-peer fundraisers. One great way to increase the number of peer-to-peer fundraising volunteers is to show them love for their efforts. This way, supporters can trust their hard work will be appreciated by your team.
Since healthy donor retention rates require your supporters to stay regularly engaged with your cause, peer-to-peer fundraising is the perfect fit for maintaining supporter engagement. Even better, it does double duty by helping grow your community and spread your message.
4. Make giving convenient for your community
For many individuals, giving back to their favorite nonprofit causes can be seen as a hassle. As we touched on earlier, making donations isn’t always front-of-mind for supporters.
To make contributing easier on your community, consider implementing some easy fixes to maximize the donations that they make over the course of your fundraising calendar. These might boost how many gifts they make, or the impact of those donations.
The fact of the matter is that your best opportunity to lay the foundation for retaining donor support is during their first donation to your cause. At this juncture, your team has ample opportunity to put into place measures that maximize their giving potential.
Consider some of these strategies to boost the impact of their gifts:
- Set up a recurring gifts program. If donors can opt into a donation subscription, they’re more likely to make regular gifts to your campaigns. A set-it-and-forget-it approach is one of the best ways to ensure high donor retention.
- Encourage matching gifts. Before, during, and after donation, remind your donors to look up their matching gifts eligibility in a matching gift database. Many of your supporters are probably unaware that this option is even available to them.
- Try low dollar amount fundraisers. Just the mere act of completing a donation makes donors more likely to give again in the future. Regularly promote low dollar amount fundraisers (like $5 or $15 donations) to get them in the habit of giving.
If donating to your cause becomes a no-brainer decision for your donors, your donor retention rates will skyrocket as well as your fundraising success. Try implementing convenience-boosting strategies to foster giving among your community.
Bonus. Looking for more ways to make giving convenient for donors? Consider hiring a fundraising consultant to boost your strategy. Check out this guide to hiring a fundraising consultant from Averill Fundraising Solutions to get this process right.
5. Follow up with your lapsed supporters
Finally, there’s one more great way to improve your donor retention track record, and that’s to learn from your lapsed donors.
Your lapsed donors are the supporters who gave once or twice but never maintained their support, or are the individuals who used to regularly give but stopped abruptly. If your team wants to make the changes necessary to retain more donors like these, reach out to them.
By asking these individuals why they didn’t feel inspired enough to regularly give back, you can learn a lot about what your nonprofit is doing wrong. Similarly, if you find out what inspired them to show their support in the first place, you can focus on amplifying this aspect of your strategy.
Try these follow-up ideas to learn more from your lapsed donors:
- Share lapsed donor surveys. The quickest way to get in touch with your lapsed donors is to send out a survey, either via mail or digital channels. Ask them point-blank why they’re no longer giving and what might convince them to give again.
- Call on past peer-to-peer fundraisers. If your team has lost out on a portion of your peer-to-peer fundraising volunteers, investigate why. Like your regular lapsed donors, send out a questionnaire and see why they’re no longer fundraising on your behalf.
- Send letters to previous major givers. For those who used to give in large quantities, send out formal letters (or emails) inquiring why you’ve lost their support. Just showing this extra effort might be the deciding factor in converting them back to active givers.
The bottom line? When your nonprofit is facing a donor retention downturn, it’s time to regroup and gather the facts. Once you understand the why of this problem, you’ll be able to get at the heart of what strategic changes need to be made.
Retaining donors is an essential part of having a robust and healthy fundraising strategy. With these tips and methods in mind, your nonprofit can get started retaining more donors and laying the groundwork for consistent support!
Kelly Velasquez-Hague brings over 20 years of fundraising, nonprofit management, and sales/marketing experience to her role as the director of content marketing for OneCause. As a member of the OneCause sales and marketing team, Kelly manages all of the company’s content strategy and execution. She is passionate about empowering great missions and loves that her current role allows her to continue to help nonprofits reach new donors raise more funds for their cause.