11 Simple donor retention ideas you can do today

As you should know by now, donor retention is one of the most important donor metrics for a nonprofit to track and respond to. Every organization should understand the data behind donor retention and consider the ways in which they can improve their practices. Your retained donors give more frequently throughout the year, and give larger gifts (with no additional acquisition cost!), and beyond that contribute to a loyal and dependable relationship. Curious how to make your own #relationshipgoals? You can begin (or continue to) treat your donors like you would your closest friends with these 11 simple donor retention strategies.

1. Make “donors matter” your mantra

To begin, donor retention begins by putting  thought and effort into your donor relationships. It’s good to remember that donors are people as opposed to thinking about them as a static resource. You can apply the same respect and empathy in talking with donors as you would in any other interpersonal relationship: Always engage authentically, and avoid thinking about your time with donors as purely a business interaction. Don’t just prioritize donations, prioritize the people behind the donations — if you believe your donors matter, they’ll believe it, too.

2. Design your donor retention strategy

There is, of course, also a business side to donor engagement, and like all things business, having a plan is key. Once your organization has decided to make donor retention a priority, take the time to brainstorm together and devise a plan. Before you begin to show the donors the love, look inward and consider the current state of your donor relationships: What are your weaknesses? What are your strengths? Map out a donor retention strategy that includes doing more of what works, as well as finding ways to improve. By formalizing a plan, you help to streamline the donor engagement process while also unifying your staff’s efforts and holding your organization accountable to donor retention goals.

3. Thank your donors – a lot

SAY THANK YOU. And say it all the time. Showing donors gratitude for their contributions is a key part of building a relationship with them and keeping them engaged in your organization. Recognize donor generosity by promptly sending a personalized thank you note for all donations, just like you would for any gift you receive. Keep in mind, too, that different levels of donors warrant different types of thank you letters. If your well of inspiration on this front could use some refilling, retail thank you emails are a great place to find ideas outside the box.

4. Speak their language

Since you want to treat your donors like real people, make sure you’re communicating in a way that they understand by removing jargon from your emails. Talk less about the intricacies of your mission or your industry and instead emphasize more impact-focused, emotional, and humanizing content. Focus on creating a personal connection with your donors, and use familiar language and references to reiterate that you understand and relate to them.

5. Put your donors in the limelight

Everyone wants to know that their money and time is making a difference (especially nonprofit donors) . If possible, update your donors about the projects and programs that they’ve helped to fund to offer them a more tangible understanding of their impact. You can even share donor stories with a larger audience, and feature specific donors or gifts in newsletters, on your website, or in other materials that your donors and followers receive.   

6. Engage frequently…

Don’t let your donors forget about you! A strong donor relationship requires consistent effort and maintenance, so be attentive towards your donors and make regular contact. While it’s important to continue to send newsletters and other traditional forms of content to your donors, consider experimenting with news types of engagement, like creative seasonal giving campaigns, to increase year-round impact and remain on your donors radar.

7. … But don’t *ask* frequently

Although regular engagement is important, it’s also crucial not to let every donor interaction become an ask. Invitations to upcoming events or sharing interesting articles reminds donors that your organization exists, that you care deeply about your cause, and that you care deeply about them. Relentless asks for donations, however, become much more bothersome and may send the message that previous giving has gone unappreciated. Take care to intersperse asks with other forms of relevant content that respond to the interests and involvement of individual donors.

8. Segment donors

In order to send content that responds to the interests of your individual donors, you have to segment your donors into strategic lists. Use Google Analytics and content marketing to keep track of your donor engagement trends. By segmenting donors into specific lists based on how they initially signed up and when they engage, you can gain a better understanding of what motivates them to contribute to your organization and continue to tailor your asks and your content accordingly.

9. Use multiple forms of communication

Using multi-channel communication to increase donations and connect with donors is an important technique for all nonprofits to consider. One benefit is that it demonstrates responsiveness to individual donor behavior. We now have access to more modes of communication than we can possible choose from, and everyone has different preferences depending on demographics and on the situation. Multi-channel communication will help you determine each donor’s preferred form of contact and strengthen your ability to successfully engage with them. It also allows you to connect with donors on more than one level, and serves to further humanize you and your organization.

10. Make it a team effort

One necessary step in creating a donor retention strategy should be sharing that strategy with your entire staff, and determining how each staff member can incorporate donor retention goals into their work. It takes effort from the whole organization for donor retention to become a real priority, and every person on the team can benefit from some form of donor interaction. You never know which staff member will best connect with a donor or act as their first point of contact (whether online or at an in-person event), so it pays for your staff to be on the same page.

11. Ask for feedback!

Perhaps the greatest value your retained donors can provide is to offer their own insights into your engagement strategy. Don’t be afraid to ask your donors for feedback — you can even formalize this process by creating some form of a donor advisory board, through which willing donors can answer questions from your team and provide continued guidance around successful donor retention ideas. Donors like to know that their voices and opinions are valued at your organization, and highlighting the importance of their feedback can be another positive step for all of your donor relationships.


So, which of our 11 simple donor retention ideas are you going to try today? Let us know @WholeWhale, or tell us some of your own tried-and-true donor retention strategies!