How to retain donors and supporters (for the long run)

January 27, 2018 - 5 minutes read

60% of new donors will not give to your nonprofit again. And that’s not just a one-off stat. Research from the Fundraising Effectiveness Project shows that donor retention rates for nonprofits have continued to waver around the 40% mark across multiple years. If the same numbers are projected for a business enterprise, you’d have managers scrambling about in a panic to find out why they’re losing customers.

To make sure you’re presenting your best foot forward to your donors and volunteers, there are a few guidelines that every nonprofit can (and should) follow. I’ll lay them out over 5 points.

Make ‘Thank you’ a core part of your communication

A simple ‘thank you’ is all you need to show you appreciate and recognize one’s work and also a key element in volunteer and donor retention. Donors are valuable supporters of your organization and the best recognition programs thank contributors in a timely and appropriate manner. Also, thank individuals for attending events, rallies or responding to surveys.

No matter how big or small the contribution may be, showing gratitude goes a long way in mobilizing that individual to become more involved in the organization and its work. Creating a sense of goodwill is important in prompting supporters to come back to your nonprofit.

Personalize your communication

While communicating with donors remember to be authentic and personal. Personal methods of communication not only helps you put forward a friend-next-door face but also tells your donors you know them and develop relations.

Use peer-to-peer texting or phone banking to communicate rather than sending out emails. You can also use these tools to collect supporter information right at the time of the conversation. This information collated over multiple touch points forms a basic foundation of your donor communication. For an in-depth guide on the topic, read our blog on personalizing donor communication.

Explain the real-world impact

Every donor, while being a part of a nonprofit, wants to know…‘How they can change the world?’. So, tell them. Your organization must show the changes that each contribution make toward an on-the-ground mission. An effective example comes from food banks who compute the number of meals provided for every dollar that is donated.

Helping donors understand the impact of their contributions lets them align their investment (of time or money) to tangible returns. That knowledge of working together with an organization to create tangible change for the better is essential to donor loyalty.

People are different. Treat them so

What are you doing to keep donors? Are you sending out emails, texts, phone calls or using other channels of communication? Hold the channels.

Before you start with your outreach, segment your donors into categories such as large donors, small donors, supporters, volunteers, activists, and prospects. This allows you to send tailored messages to the target audience rather than a blanket message for everyone on your list.

If you’re using texts and phone calls to engage your audience, you can mark supporter type right on the survey form for easy sorting. Make your donors feel you are communicating with them after understanding their personal preferences and interests, and your way more likely to retain their support.

Communicate regularly

When nonprofits aren’t consistent with their communications, people lose interest in you or forget that you exist. It’s nothing personal. Every day, your supporters are torpedoed with a multitude of communication (texts, calls or posts). We live in a time of split-second attention spans. If you’re out of sight, you’re out of mind. Regular communications, either through the mail, phone calls, texts, or social media keeps you from being forgotten in the rabble.

Donors, either big or small, are important to the furtherance of your organization’s mission. Keeping them engaged through authentic, personal channels will keep supporters as ardent advocates of your cause.