10 Donor Retention Ideas from Nonprofits That Achieved Growth in 2020

For as long as donors have been giving, it’s been a best practice for nonprofit professionals to put energy toward retaining them. But after the ways COVID-19 changed the fundraising game, fundraisers are finding themselves having to rethink just how to do it.

So, who better to ask than nonprofits who grew their donor retention amid the pandemic? The DonorPerfect Team surveyed our top donor-retaining customers to collect donor retention ideas that work, even in a challenging climate.

Why does donor retention matter?

The 2020 DonorPerfect Fundraising Benchmarks Report suggests that there’s a strong correlation between growth in giving and donor retention. Though the COVID-19 crisis negatively impacted overall revenue, those who maintained strong donor retention fared better than those who did not.

10 Donor Retention Ideas You Should Try This Minute

Check out these tried and true donor retention strategies from nonprofits who made it work during 2020.

Donor retention idea #1

Don’t dismiss the power of a personal touch

In the midst of lockdown orders, many nonprofit professionals found success in promoting donor retention by bringing their typical donor engagement communications to life. Here are the strategies that worked for them:

  • Adding a handwritten note or ink signature to your pre-printed letters
  • Ensuring every donor receives a thank-you regardless of their gift amount
  • Personally calling new donors and donors who give a gift over a specified amount
  • Including personalized video messages in email communications

Donor retention idea #2

Expand the cadence and reach of your communications

While some fundraisers cut back on communications during the crisis, those who increased donor engagement saw better donor retention rates. Those nonprofits attribute their success to “over communicating.” For one nonprofit in particular, what had long been their quarterly newsletter was transformed into a monthly e-newsletter. Changing up their format and updating supporters on their needs and impact kept their mission top-of-mind for donors.

Donor retention idea #3

Give your nonprofit’s digital presence a little “zhoosh”

With digital communication becoming the norm, many nonprofit professionals made time in 2020 for a donor engagement makeover. By devoting resources to reviewing and refreshing your nonprofit’s social media content, your website, and your email campaigns, you may uncover opportunities to better engage them. Try these steps to help identify areas of improvement:

  • Experience what it’s like to donate to your nonprofit by donating to it yourself
  • Be sure that you’ve received a thank-you within 48 hours
  • Review the thank-you and follow-up emails you receive
  • Refresh your storytelling content and keep your messaging brief
  • Update the look of your emails, website, and online form to match your branding

For more ways to revamp your nonprofit marketing content, check out the webinar, Your 2020 Digital Communications Makeover.

Donor retention idea #4

Reconnect with lapsed donors

Once a donor gives, you’re one foot in the door! You’ve already inspired them to donate before, and chances are, they’re likely to give again if you give them a nudge. Some fundraisers say that they check in with lapsed donors on a yearly basis. This is a chance for you to provide an update on the impact their previous gift has made – and to show them with photos and videos.

Donor retention idea #5

Lend donors your ear

When you give your donors a voice in your mission, they feel more like partners in its success. During the pandemic, nonprofit professionals let their donors know they were listening by inviting them to participate in video calls with the board and surveying them about ways they could improve their operations.

Donor retention idea #6

Ask board members to pitch in on retention efforts

Donors deeply appreciate transparency from their nonprofit’s leadership, and they want to know them! Involving your board members in your fundraising efforts can help you to spotlight the people behind your organization and build trust. Some ideas nonprofit professionals shared were to:

  • Enlist your board members to facilitate virtual events
  • Share video messages from your board members on social media
  • Encourage your board members to create special content, telling a story about your nonprofit

Donor retention idea #7

Check in on your donors to ask, “How are you?”

If there’s one good there’s one good thing that came out of the pandemic, it’s that folks were reminded to take better care of their relationships. In the same way they picked up the phone to call their loved ones, nonprofit professionals sent kind messages to their donors to let them know they care. In addition to an occasional phone call or handwritten letter, let your donors know that you’re there for their support just as much as they are for you.

Donor retention idea #8

Show donors how they make a difference

Nonprofit professionals who’ve grown their donor retention during the pandemic inspired donors’ confidence in their mission by sharing the direct results of their gifts in a tangible way. This way, donors can see for themselves how their hard-earned dollars are allocated. Some virtual and socially-distanced ideas fundraisers shared were to:

  • Offer guided tours or host small gatherings at your facility
  • Share impact videos that tell a story about one of your program recipients
  • Send physical copies of photos related to a project they helped fund

Donor retention idea #9

Run a monthly donor campaign

During the pandemic, many nonprofit professionals quickly learned that they can depend on monthly donors to maintain revenue. The industry average for donor retention is ~42%. However, DonorPerfect client data tells us that that average rockets to 90% when measuring only monthly donors. Many nonprofit organizations established monthly giving programs throughout 2020 knowing they’d gain funds they could rely upon for the long haul.

Donor retention idea #10

Boost your social media presence

While apart from their donors, nonprofit professionals took to social media to share what their mission means to those they help, the history of their organization, and a more intimate look into their daily lives on the job.

The authentic, friendly nature of this format makes donors feel more like your Facebook friend and part of your wonderful community. Even if you don’t have many followers, social media platforms are an excellent way to store memories that you can easily search for when you’re looking to recycle content for your other communications.

Retain more donors with DonorPerfect! Get your copy of Your Donor Retention Toolkit today!

by Laura Bucher

Apr 28 21
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