It takes a lot of work to get new donors.
There’s planning and marketing. Some speaking gigs and media exposure. Or maybe a friendraising event.
Regardless of how you get them, you work hard to get new people into your family of supporters.
So, why not spend an equal amount of time working to keep them?
Why donor retention feels hard
If you had plenty of time to slow down and think, and maybe work at a reasonable pace, lots of things would feel different and probably less overwhelming.
When you’re moving at the speed of light, trying to check things off your list as fast as you can, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s really important.
Here’s why I think donor retention feels hard :
Keeping happy donors isn’t top of mind for you. Money is.
And you need to flip that.
Focus on the person and the relationship first, not their wallet.
Think about it from the donor’s perspective. What would make her want to stick around and give again?
(If you really want to get inside her head, practice being a donor yourself.)
You have to understand that donors today are more savvy. They know good fundraising when they see it.
They’re tired of being just a number in your database.
They’re tired of the relentless requests for money. And the endless event invitations.
Frankly, they’re tired of you showing up all the time with your hand out for money without appreciating them in return.
They expect more. They want to see a good return on their investment in your organization.
Want to be crazy-successful in your fundraising? Pay attention to what your donors want and give it to them. Inspire them and help them feel good about giving. Make the donor experience and donor retention a priority.
It just makes sense to cater to the source of your funding, doesn’t it?
Donor Retention Best Practices to Keep Donors Giving
It’s really not that hard to keep donors giving. Just make them happy and give them what they want.
Here’s are 4 donor retention best practices to keeping donors happy and keeping them giving:
1. They want to be thanked and appreciated. Thank donors warmly, sincerely, and promptly, every time, no matter the amount they gave. Thanking donors well is the first step in wrapping up the current gift cycle and starting the next one. Do a good job of thanking donors and they’ll be very likely to give again. Think about it for yourself: Have you ever gone out of your way to do something for someone, and then not been thanked? It doesn’t feel good, does it? And you don’t usually feel like helping that person again. So, don’t be that person to your donor – thank your donors well.
2. They want to feel good about their giving experience. People like to feel smart about their choices and donors are no different. They want to know they made a good decision to give to you and that you’ll do great things with their money. No one wants to make a donation, then worry that they just wasted their money. A prompt, meaningful thank-you will help create this experience.
3. They want to know how you used their money. No matter how much they gave, they want to know that you put it to work, and that it’s being used to change lives, especially if you told them it would. Give donors meaningful information about what happened after they gave. Tell them a story about someone whose life has been changed for good by your nonprofit’s work. In a nutshell – follow up after the gift. Don’t leave them wondering what happened.
4. They want to trust your nonprofit. Building trust is about building relationships. It’s about getting to know your donors and speaking their language. It’s about focusing on helping them get what they want so you can get what you want. It’s NOT about spewing information at them or bragging about how great your organization is.
What doesn’t work
I see lots of nonprofit folks boring their donors to tears. How? They’re very ego-centric in their communications.
That means they write about what’s important to THEM, not what’s important to the donor.
Here are a few examples of things your donors just don’t care about (sorry!):
- “It’s our 20th anniversary”
- “We’re the oldest/biggest/bestest (fill-in-the-blank) nonprofit doing this work”
- “We’re fully credentialed”
- “Our staff is very experienced”
- “We cover a big area: we have 10 programs in 20 counties”
Your donors expect you to have good staff and be around for the long haul.
They expect you to do good work. Using those points as pieces in your newsletter or reasons for an event, and you will be seriously disappointed.
What DOES work
Here are a few examples of things that DO work to make donors feel good, give them what they want, and get them on the road to giving again:
- Write and send a powerful thank you letter that’s warm and sincere. Get a paper letter back in the mail within 48 hours. Send an email receipt immediately if they gift was given electronically.
- Make a thank you call. Call the donor to personally thank them for their gift. I know you think this is a lot of work, but truly there’s no better use of your time than thanking a donor. If you want help, enlist a couple of Board members to make these calls. Even if you have to leave a message, it lets the donor know you care, and that is powerful.
- Shoot and send a thank-you video. This is SO easy to do! Use your smart phone, hit the button and sincerely thank the donor. Load the video onto YouTube (make it unlisted unless you want everyone to see it), then email the donor the link. Personalize the video (say their name) for best results.
- Stay in touch. Newsletters are the best way to keep the communication going. Unfortunately, most nonprofit newsletters are crap. They’re ego-centric, irrelevant to the donor and full of junk no one cares about except the person writing it. So, make it interesting to the reader and keep it SHORT. Remember that your email newsletter is probably being read on a mobile device, which means attention spans are super short and screens are tiny.
To win the donor’s heart and keep them giving, your job is to give them what they want.
And to do that, you need to carve out the time to think about what that is and do a good job of creating it for them.