Keep ‘Em Coming Back For More: Building Relationships with Reoccurring Donors

It’s the question every nonprofit asks as they gear up for another year of fundraising: How do we retain our donors? The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) and the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute releases annual survey findings each year, revealing some interesting trends in donor retention. Over 70% of donors who make a first-time contribution to a nonprofit never come back to make another gift, creating a revolving door where nonprofits must continuously attract new donors in order to keep afloat. But it’s not all doom and gloom. The latest report also shows that charitable giving increased by 2.7% in 2021, along with a 10% increase in households donating to charity.

So how do we keep those new donors coming back and encourage them to stay involved in a cause?

        1. Demonstrate the impact of donor dollars: Don’t let a donation go gentle into that good night. Donors are often left wondering how their money is being used or if it made an impact at all; and when they don’t see the difference a donation made, they are unlikely to return to give again. Nonprofits can demonstrate their impact in a few ways, including success stories in newsletters, using social media to document impact stories, and releasing annual reports to show the strides the organization has made to fulfilling its mission.
        2. You said please, now remember to say thank you!: Saying thank you to donors should be a no-brainer, but it’s surprising how often this gets glossed over. An automated receipt upon donation isn’t quite enough for a donor to feel truly appreciated. Stepping up communications can be a meaningful way to show that contributions are much more than just a transaction. A handwritten note is an incredible gesture, but not always feasible for organizations with limited staff. A personalized email with a tailored message is also an effective way to help demonstrate that donors aren’t just a line in a spreadsheet, but valued allies in an organization’s mission.
        3. Tailor your follow-up outreach: When a donor contributes for the first time, it’s important to tailor your follow up messages according to the context of how they learned about your organization. There is a big difference in how to approach someone who responded to a direct appeal versus someone who donated through a friend’s donation page. A softer approach to share additional information about the cause is often a better way to contact someone who donated because of a friend or colleague’s request rather than an immediate direct appeal for additional funds.

Retention rates are a challenge for every nonprofit, no matter how large or small. These three steps provide a great place to start brainstorming ideas that work best for your mission. You know your supporters best, so bring your team together to brainstorm strategies that can strengthen your relationships with your donors!

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