3 Strategies to Increase Donor Retention


BAM! Something amazing has just happened.

A good Samaritan just walked through the front door, pulled you aside, and shared their idea to donate money to your organization. They might’ve said, “You know what, Clay? Those roof tiles are looking a little worn and I’ve noticed the leak that’s sprung in the corner of the lobby. I want to help replace your roof.” Great! Or, they might’ve said, “Your organization has been there for me and our community when we needed you the most, so I want to give this check to you. Do with it as you please.”

It’s something special when you find someone who believes in your cause enough to relinquish their hard-earned cash. But, how do you plan to maintain a high donor retention rate? Those who are willing to give are the heart and blood of a nonprofit or church—after all, running an organization still costs money, no matter how good its intentions—but how do we evolve their generosity from a one-time thing to a continued experience? A commitment like that is much harder to earn, and it means being there for them as much as they are for you.

Remember—Treat Them As People

First and foremost, you can’t treat them like a piggybank. Most who donate do so because not only do they want to help a good cause, but they have a yearning to be recognized for it too. It feels good, and so do what you can to make their contribution as rewarding as possible. Call them up and thank them over the phone (without asking for money). If you’re the type of organization to participate in public events, be sure to mention their name to those attending. You’ve got all sorts of paraphernalia as well—add their name to a pamphlet or brochure. The key is to develop a relationship so that they feel an intimate part of what your organization does.

Respect them.

Dogging their tail for multiple donations is not the right approach, as it undermines why they donated in the first place. Charity for the sake of charity is more powerful than charity out of obligation (can you really call it charity then?). This means if an individual expresses a distaste towards being pressured into giving, then respect them for that. Practicing restraint may be difficult—after all, money isn’t a commodity. It’s the bottom line for a business to run.  Bringing up the possibility of multiple donations isn’t such a terrible thing, but don’t push them. Do your best to recognize them for the contributions they’ve already given, and hopefully they’ll come around. If they don’t, at least you’ve maintained positive relationships with your patrons.

Do It Right!

Lastly, consider approaching donor acquisition intelligently. Do research on who interacts with your organization. Keep track of your visitors and look for the repeat offenders—those who enjoy you enough to keep coming back. Shotgun methods of approaching anyone who walks through the door will become repetitive with similar results, and your other patrons will take note of what looks like desperation. Instead, focus on friendship building before you consider asking them for donations. If they get to know you and your mission first, they’ll be more receptive to the idea of sacrificing what their hard work has earned them.

People should never be treated as a means to an end. They should be respected and befriend your organization. After all, organizations are made up of people.

Note: Aplos will soon be launching a full-fledged donor management suite with donor retention as its primary focus. To learn more, go to: aplos.com/donor-management-software.

Clay Harmon writes content for Aplos by day and makes up novel-sized stories by night. When doing neither, his Kindle e-reader is close at hand, or he is drinking coffee and losing at video games on his computer. Raised at the gateway to Yosemite, the occasional trip into the Sierras gives a quick fix for an addiction to mountain air and serves as inspiration for future books cooking in that brain of his.

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