How to Retain Donors—Tools & Tips

Donor retention is key to helping your nonprofit grow. However, it doesn’t come without hard work. Effectively implementing specific strategies like those outlined in this article will help your organization retain more supporters. With better retention rates your nonprofit will see an improved revenue stream in the years to come. “How to Retain Donors—Tools & Tips” will get your donors to give and give again.

Why Retaining Donors is so Important

Donor acquisition is expensive and time-consuming. The logic of acquiring more donors to grow your nonprofit only works if you can keep that engagement high over a long period of time. If you can’t retain your donors, you’re wasting time and money.
There are several reasons why donor retention is so important for nonprofits:

1. It’s much less expensive to ask a donor to give again than to acquire a new donor. 

2. When donors give to your organization over time,they’re more likely to increase their contribution amounts and can potentially leave planned gifts in their wills.

3. Retained donors are a more reliable source of referrals, volunteerism, and peer-to-peer fundraising for your nonprofit.

Strategies to Improve Donor Retention

There are a few things that you must focus on in order to improve donor retention. These things are:

  • Preventing donors from lapsing 
  • Encouraging increased donor engagement
  • Creating an ongoing strategy to foster donor retention

Donor Retention Strategies

Communicate more frequently and provide diverse opportunities for engagement.

By communicating more frequently and giving donors an increased opportunity to give, they will give again. Send a compelling renewal mailing or email appeal at least once a month to segments of your donor file, and you’ll be sure to increase their overall commitment to your organization.

Send a Follow-up Mailing

Enhance your best-performing appeals by mailing a follow-up package three weeks later. Follow-up mailings are cost effective ways to get additional donations from the same creative package you just mailed. By printing twice as much, the printing costs will be less. Consider changing the envelope teaser copy and, if you’re mailing a premium, you should consider testing the follow-up without the premium inside.

Include a Certificate of Appreciation

Send each of your core donors a certificate of appreciation. Adding an appeal with a certificate of appreciation to a segmented portion of your donor file is a great way to show your donors you care. Including this mailing during a month that you normally don’t communicate with your donors will bring in those extra donations that your organization truly needs.


Personalize your appeal letters. Personalization provides a stronger connection to your donor and will increase the response of your direct mail packages too.

Enhance Your Acknowledgements

Include a donation card in your acknowledgment packages to allow your donors to give another gift. Acknowledgements should be viewed as donation opportunities. While you shouldn’t ask for another gift in an acknowledgment, the reply envelope is a gentle reminder that donations are welcomed and appreciated.

Obtain a Second Gift in Year One

Do everything—and I mean everything—you can to obtain a second gift in the first year a donor gives support to your organization. Donors who make an additional gift their first year are twice as likely to make a gift in their second year.

Thank New Donors

Thanking new donors immediately is critical and these tips for writing thank-you letters donors love can help. Accomplish this with a welcome letter and reply envelope. Nonprofits have about 90 days after the first donation to form a relationship. After 90 days, retention drops dramatically.

Mail Your Best Donors More Often

Build a relationship by segmenting your file and mailing your best donors more often.

Planned Gifts

The majority of planned gifts come from donors who gave 15 or more times during their lifetimes. Create a planned giving strategy to identify and steward these donors.

With better retention rates, your nonprofit will see an improved revenue stream in the years to come. “How to Retain donors—Tools & Tips” will help you motivate your donors to give to your organization for years to come.

We know you’re busy, and we know your donors are busy. Let us help you connect with your donors by creating a donor-retention strategy for your organization. Consistent and frequent communication that motivates and informs will keep your donors engaged and foster growth at every level. Please connect with me, either by phone or email, and let’s see what we can do together.

Write Choice Marketing—Helping nonprofits maximize donations through compelling copy and donor responsive strategies.

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