5 Online Donor Retention Strategies for Your Nonprofit


Guest Post by Dan Quirk

Online communication is an up-to-date method of outreach that allows your nonprofit to reach the majority of your donors swiftly and with ease. However, without face-to-face contact with your supporters, retaining donors can be quite the hurdle in the race to maintain your donor stewardship strategy.

Since you’re only communicating digitally, how do you make sure your donors really know what your nonprofit embodies? And how do you make sure you, as the nonprofit, know your donors?

Before you get too stressed, know that we’ve crafted 5 best practices to retain more donors when you’re communicating online! Check them out:

  1. Thank your donors.
  2. Report back on your donors’ impact.
  3. Segment your donor database.
  4. Engage your supporters on social media.
  5. Clean up your donor database.

If you’re ready to learn how to retain more donors during your online outreach efforts, let’s get started.

Bonus! Check out Salsa’s Top 10 Online Fundraising Tools Your Nonprofit Needs to Know to find the best online fundraising providers for your organization.

#1 – Thank your donors.

Some organizations thank their supporters directly after a contribution and then again at the end of their campaign. That way, they’ve covered all their bases and their supporters are caught up on the success of the campaign they supported!

What to do next: Thank your supporters for contributing online and supporting your organization. Your thank-you’s will show you’re grateful for their engagement with your nonprofit.

You can thank donors through multiple avenues. Since we’re discussing online communications, it’ll seem natural to thank your supporters via email and through social media posts.  Keep in mind that you should also send donors a thank-you letter. Direct mail hasn’t died out and your contributors will appreciate this intimate expression of gratitude.

But when should you follow a prompt or template and when should you craft a personalized acknowledgement?

Generally, smaller donations receive an automated thank-you email. You can automate email thank-yous to send out that solicit donations under a certain dollar amount.  For example, if you select $25, everyone who gives $25 and under to your organization will receive a similar thank-you derived from your template. The main difference will be the proper address at the top of the email. You’ll always want to make sure you include your supporter’s name in any thank-you!

On the other hand, more significant contributions will warrant personalized messages. A donor who contributes $250 deserves a more intimate thank-you and will probably be looking for one. Configure your CRM to remind you to craft a personalized thank-you for these donors so they feel valued as part of your community.

You can also configure automated thank-you notes for different campaigns. For example, text-to-give campaigns often don’t draw in large contributions so automated thank-you’s drawn from a template might be a suitable expression of gratitude for this situation.  In any case, your organization should develop a standard for when donors receive templated thank-you messages and when you’ll craft more personalized notes.

#2 – Report back on your donors’ impact.

Your constituent relationship management software will most likely be able to help you create custom reports so you can analyze the information that’s vital to your organization!  You’ve probably used your CRM’s reporting features for details on your event registration, project goals, giving trends, and more.

What to do next: Try using these reporting features to analyze your social media interactions and donor retention so you can show your supporters how big of a difference they make for your organization.

This will be your opportunity to show your supporters you know them. For example, you can send an email update to your supporter based on the results of the last project they contributed to.  Your supporters will appreciate this type of update because they’ll want to know where their money is going and who it’s helping.  You might use language like this: “Because of your gift of $25 to our Support the Children Campaign, our nonprofit was able to help 2 children in need acquire school supplies that will last the year.”

Remember to address your outreach with your donors’ first names! They’ll instantly feel more connected to your organization if they feel like you’re speaking directly to them. Mention previous campaigns they’ve volunteered for or made donations to in order to show them you really recognize and appreciate their unwavering support.

#3 – Segment your donor database.

Your CRM will have a flood of new information from the fields on your online donation forms so your new donor profiles will be rich with data from the start.

What to do next: Analyze your CRM’s donor profiles to know when and how to interact with different supporters.  This data will help you renew and upgrade more donors because it’ll be easy to stay on top of your supporter relationships. With your donor profiles laid out in front of you, you’ll be able to determine which level of support your donors fall under.

You’ll most likely be able to segment your supporters into three separate groups:

  • One-time donors. These individuals have supported a campaign or two but don’t consistently give to your organization.
  • Loyal donors. These donors give regularly to your campaign and are fairly active in your community. These supporters will usually volunteer for different campaigns.
  • Major gift donors. These supporters are donors who regularly give large contributions of $500 or more to your nonprofit.

After identifying the types of donors your organization has, you’ll be able to run different supporters through major donor cultivation processes. Your CRM will remind you when to connect with these prospects via email, schedule meetings, and set task reminders for other important interactions.

You can work on converting loyal donors into major gift donors and your one-time donors into loyal donors with your CRM’s cultivation steps.

#4 – Engage your supporters on social media.

Social media is practically made for retaining donors, so capitalize on this easy and low-cost method of communication.

What to do next: Stay active on social media. Since many donors are already on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, interacting with supporters on these platforms is an easy way to stay relevant in their lives.

Your organization can easily thank supporters for their contributions with social media. A quick tweet saying thanks to a donor can go a long way!

Using social media to make your online social persona present in your donors’ everyday lives works best if you create an editorial calendar that your nonprofit can follow on a monthly, weekly, and daily basis. Plus, this is a totally free way to manage social media content!

Look into social media trends and use your CRM to find out when your donors might be looking at their phones. If most of your supporters work 9-5 jobs during the week, they’re more likely to check social media during their lunch break (from 12-1pm) and after they get home from the office (7pm on).  Keep these optimal times in mind when planning your editorial calendar so you set your social media content up for the best performance possible.

You might find it easier to work backwards when planning your calendar.

If you have a set date for your next fundraising event, for example, you may want to schedule posts backwards from that date. Invites are best sent out a few months before your event so with your calendar, you’ll know when to start reaching out to supporters via social media to get them excited about the event.

Make sure to build your calendar in an easily accessible place for all of your nonprofit’s staff, volunteers, and board members. If you’re working with a hard copy, pin it to the wall of your office or if you prefer to keep it digital, try creating your calendar within your CRM so every user can view it.

#5 – Clean up your donor database.

This step isn’t limited to donor retention just for online communications. It’s most definitely a necessity for any organization striving for better donor retention rates, no matter how they go about outreach.

What to do next: Set aside some time, at least once a year, to clean out your donor database. Use this scheduled time to eliminate duplicate records and update outdated information.  Consider going through your donor database one section at a time so not all of your data is inaccessible to your staff, board, and volunteers. Your nonprofit will still need to function during your cleaning process.

Clean data will keep you from making small mistakes that could cost you an important relationship. For example, if a couple has recently divorced, you won’t want to address content to Mr. and Mrs. Smith, so it’s imperative that you update the respective donor profiles.

A mistake like this that seems so minuscule could lead your donors to believe that you don’t know them, which in turn will lead them to withdraw from your nonprofit’s community. Think about it: if a nonprofit can’t even get your name right, imagine what else they might mess up.

Cleaning up your donor data lets you avoid small mistakes that might cost you a relationship. Your updated donor data will help you retain supporters and appropriately cultivate those relationships!

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About the Author

Dan Quirk is the Marketing Manager at Salsa Labs, the premier fundraising software company for growth-focused nonprofits. Dan’s marketing focus on content creation, conversion optimization and modern marketing technology helps him coach nonprofit development teams on digital fundraising best practices.

Photo Credit: Official GDC