In the nonprofit world, we’re always on the search for new donors. We direct vast resources toward reaching the public to create fresh connections—and we should! Not only is it necessary, but it’s exciting to spread your organization’s message, especially so when when a potential donor shows interest.
But what happens after that first nonprofit donation? Do your donors remain engaged? Or could they forget about your organization, change their mind or find another nonprofit to donate to instead? If you aren’t effectively engaging donors, they might!
Donor retention is vital for an organization to thrive—and often, even to survive. But in the current nonprofit environment, 96 donors are lost for every 100 gained. Luckily there are ways to build stronger relationships with your current donors and engage new donors, so they will become loyal, long-term supporters. The more connected they feel to your organization, the more likely they are to give—and keep giving.
1. Understand the Difference Between Donor Retention and Donor Loyalty
“Donor retention” has been a buzzword in the nonprofit sphere for decades. It describes an organization’s capacity to solicit donations from its previous donors.
“I don’t really like the term ‘donor retention’,” said Richard Dietz, director of fundraising strategy at Abila. “I like to use the term ‘donor loyalty’ instead. I want donors to be loyal, to want to come back, to be excited to come back.”
By addressing donor loyalty instead of donor retention, you humanize your donors. Remember, you aren’t just looking for the next monetary gift from your donors: Their ongoing support is valuable. Loyal donors raise awareness. It shows that your organization values its relationship with them and that they’re not just numbers to be retained.
2. Look for New Nonprofit Donors in the Right Places
One way to generate new donors who are likely to become long-term, loyal donors is to narrow your search. You don’t always need your content to travel far to have an impact. Your newest loyal donors might be closer than you think.
Those attending an event for your organization are more likely to become long-term donors than those who have never interacted with your organization. It’s even more likely for volunteers. Volunteers have donated their valuable time to your organization, so they likely want to continue to see it grow and succeed.
3. Stand Out from the Crowd
What does your organization do that is unlike any other nonprofit of its kind? What makes it different from another organization in your area that serves the same population? Why should donors choose yours?
To the public, and sometimes even to seasoned professionals, a lot of nonprofits sound exactly alike. So, the most unique aspects of your programming, mission or service model will be what set you apart.
“Everybody may not like what our difference is,” says Pamela Barden, owner of P J Barden Inc. “They may not think it’s best. Well, they’re not going to be loyal donors anyway.” Highlighting your difference will attract donors who are passionate about what you do, not just passionate about the cause you serve.
4. Improve Donor Relations by Learning Why They Give
Understanding your donors’ motivation for giving is key to stepping into their shoes. Most donors give for highly personal reasons. These include being passionate about the cause, knowing someone who has been affected by the cause or even a feeling that the organization is depending on their support. Getting a sense of why your donors choose to give to your organization means you can cater toward those values to keep them coming back year after year.
It’s also another step toward personalizing the donor experience. If you know a donor consistently gives to one of your five programs, you can target them with updates about that specific program to keep them engaged.
5. Create a Welcome Series
A welcome series is a series of emails triggered when a new donor gives to your organization. This serves to thank them, teach them more about what you do and hopefully begin an ongoing relationship with the donor that will foster loyalty. This series is an opportunity to educate donors on the great things your organization does.
A welcome series may be any length, but Dietz recommends about five to seven emails over the course of one or one and a half months. “People [are] afraid that if you send seven emails to somebody in fives weeks that they’re going to unsubscribe, they’re going to be unhappy. The date does not show that, the date shows the opposite,” he said.
In Experion Marketing’s study about the effects of a welcome series versus a regular monthly newsletter, they found that a welcome series resulted in four times more opens and five times as many clicks. New donors are already excited about the work you do. A welcome series can fuel that passion and set the foundation for the next gift.
To learn more about building and strengthening donor loyalty, download our white paper, "6 Steps to Improving the Donor Giving Experience and Fostering Donor Loyalty."