5 Donor Retention Tips for Nonprofits

Those of us in the trenches know that growing your nonprofit is like getting an elephant off the ground with a balloon. The smaller you are, the harder it is to stretch that donor dollar to its maximum percentage. According to a 2018 study from The Growth in Giving Initiative, the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, the…

5 minutes read
5 Donor Retention Tips for Nonprofits

Those of us in the trenches know that growing your nonprofit is like getting an elephant off the ground with a balloon. The smaller you are, the harder it is to stretch that donor dollar to its maximum percentage.

According to a 2018 study from The Growth in Giving Initiative, the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, the average growth rate is 3.9 percent. Alternatively, in order to double your giving rate in five years, this number has to reach 14.9 percent. The least expensive solution for your organization is to control the donor to shrink through the development of donor retention plans.

Fact: For every 2 donors you gain, you lose 3 more.

A Strategy Guide For a Path to Real Growth

1. Make donor retention a major part of strategic planning and everyday practices.

The first step in increasing your growth rate is to maintain thorough tracking records so that you can target donors with the most effective campaign.

The second step is to treat your lapsed donors as a separate group for target campaigns like you would Major Gifts, etc.

Lastly, approach every aspect of your organization through a lens of concern for donor retention. This is the least expensive way to successfully increase your growth rate and fundraising effectiveness.

But is it really easy? To make it so, we’re here with a Donorbox webinar on how you can find out what your donors want, acquire and retain them for a long time, and eventually, supercharge your donors’ growth. Watch this video to learn all that from a nonprofit expert in conversation with Donorbox.

“Your donor retention rate is the percentage of all donors who give in 2 consecutive years.” from, Fundraising Effectiveness Project

2. Enhance Donor Experience

This process is all about understanding donor motivations, as well as making interactions pleasurable and hassle-free. According to Psychology Today, the number one reason potential donors choose to give a tangible donation is that they exhibit a shared interest and experience.

This is good news. This means they are already in emotional agreement with your mission. All you have to do is keep that connection flowing to secure their future funding.

Engaging donors with positive objective outcomes and storytelling is key. Desperate claims of crisis and crying poor don’t work anymore. You have to put a positive spin on even the saddest story. For example, think touching rather than tragic.

Lastly, give your donors the feeling they are an important part of the action plan and outcomes.

Donor retention strategies

Pro Tip: Be inclusive: keep your donors informed of your endeavors and accomplishments.

3. Personalize Communication

Use email software that will generate automatic replies and personalize all your email communications from the very first thank you.

Make it easy to give. Include a link to donate in every email. We promise you, they won’t be offended. They appreciate the convenience of simply finding an email rather than locating your main page.

Provide several donation options for their gift, such as single and recurring gifts in a few suggested amount levels. This has the dual benefit of convenience for the donor and another data point for you.

To aid in donor retention, offer regular opportunities to update contact information. One of the biggest reasons for lapsed donors is working on old outdated information.

Donor retention communication

Tip: Always approach donors in the gesture of friendship and make contact hassle-free.

4. Use Targeted Email Campaigns

Targeted email campaigns are real art. They require some finesse. You have to use an ambidextrous approach of both aesthetics and analytics while inspiring an emotional appeal.

Targeted campaigns can help with cultivation and retention by grouping donors into specific areas. They are more likely to be drawn into the mission in order to upgrade their donor level, retain their loyalty, or renew their relationship with the organization.

Align these groups with different areas of your mission. For instance, if a donor’s only interaction with the organization is for events, then they should be targeted for any communication regarding events, etc.

It’s important to use a mixture of photos, text, and graphics for emails. Do not use templates! Although design consistency is a priority, authenticity is even more important.

Tell a story within a story and use real-life high definition photos to highlight achievements and successes. Once again, statistics have shown there is a parallel between a high rate of donation to a positive-oriented appeal.

Pro Tip: Tell An Appealing Story With a Positive Approach

5. Use Cross-Platform Social Media Marketing

You must have a presence on at least three social media sites. The first reason for this is search engine optimization (SEO). A couple of years ago, the algorithms for search engines were updated. Now, you need to have more than one source of input in order to get found on search engines in any real way.

The second reason is for donor cultivation and retention. Just like a for-profit business needs the best location, a nonprofit has to be where their donors are spending their time. This means social media platforms.

Cross-platform marketing serves several functions; easy access for donors, brand identity recognition, and valuable personal interaction with donors.

Pick social media sites that align with your needs as an organization. For example, Facebook is an option for peer-to-peer fundraising and this is a great way to use the talents of your core donors to spread the word of your mission organically.

If your organization uses photos or videos, then Instagram or Youtube may be a great option. You can also use Twitter to make announcements, invitations, and publicly thank specific donors.

Pro Tip: Be where your donors are and make friends with them.

Donor Retention is Inherent to Your Nonprofit’s Growth

Use these guideposts to increase your retention rates and hold on to those donors in the future. Don’t overlook your small to mid-level annual fund donors because they are the foundation of your organization.

Be innovative and creative in your approach to cultivation techniques. Think deepening relationships rather than prospecting. Have an effective plan to return lapsed donors to your mission and welcome them back with open arms. Be gracious in your good stewardship by always saying please and thank you.

7 Practical Donor Engagement Tips to Do Today:

  1. Use post schedulers to maintain consistency on social media and stay ahead.
  2. Use subject line optimizers for email campaigns. Don’t get stuck in the spam folder.
  3. Use videos that are 30 seconds long or less to explain your mission or introduce a new program. People are 40% more likely to watch and respond to a video.
  4. Submit your nonprofit to local area employers who match funds with employees. Often they have volunteer incentives, too.
  5. Make attractive, shareable posts for social media. They don’t have to directly concern your organization but make sure they have a small version of your logo and link back to your page.
  6. Create a contest or voting input on social media. Be interactive with your audience.
  7. Use your logo on every communication. Be consistent, people need to see an image or idea 3 different times to remember it.


It’s easier and cheaper to retain an existing donor, rather than reaching new ones. Take care of the donors you have and show them how important they are to you. In return, they’ll continue to support your nonprofit so you can keep doing what you do – changing the world!

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Raviraj heads the sales and marketing team at Donorbox. His growth-hacking abilities have helped Donorbox boost fundraising efforts for thousands of nonprofit organizations.

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