The Catholic Fundraiser

4 Simple Tips To Improve Donor Retention and Engagement

Posted by National Catholic Development Conference on 2/15/17 2:41 PM

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You just completed your new donor acquisition campaign, and new donors are finally sending in their first gift. Now, after spending significant amounts of money acquiring these donors, you have to worry about their retention rates.

How can you get them to give a second gift?

How are you going to make sure they stay engaged?

To help your nonprofit excel in its mission, we compiled four simple tips that will help you engage your donors and help you in retaining online donors:

Tip #1: Utilize a personal touch.

Set aside a few minutes each day, maybe in the morning after reviewing your email and calendar, to handwrite notes to key constituents. Whether you are wishing them a happy birthday, thanking them for a recent gift, or just dropping a note to say “hi,” the personal touch helps to deepen your relationship.

It's important to develop a plan that allows you to regularly, but quickly and effectively, personally connect with donors.

“In today’s electronic world, handwritten notes are becoming rarer and rarer. Take advantage of this to stand out in an even more positive way by sending genuine messages to your key constituents!” [Source: Jeff Jowdy, “A Magic Formula for Donor Retention, Building Relationships,” Nonprofit Pro]

Tip #2: Don't ignore donor complaints and concerns.

When you receive complaints from donors, it can be easy to move on and focus on the donors who are happier to support your mission. But there can be lessons to be learned from those dissatisfied donors.

A donor, or potential donor, who has taken the effort to alert you to their complaint is, on some level, invested in your mission. They are concerned about your organization and are seeking to make improvements.

Fundraising strategist Maeve Strathy recommends these steps:

  1. Start out by listening; hear out their complaints.
  2. Make a point to apologize on behalf of your organization.
  3. Take this as an opportunity to further engage this donor — figure out what has gone wrong and consult them about how you can fix it.

[Source: Claire Shinn, “Put Donors First — Tips to Succeed,”]

Tip #3: Craft the perfect thank-you email.

Electronic acknowledgments are a key element of your email strategy to build donor relationships. Customize the email with personalized details like the donor’s name and the campaign they contributed to. Send the note from an address with a name, not just a generic “from,” and include a signature image with the same name. Keep the tone of the email short, friendly, and conversational, rather than business-like. Grab the reader’s attention with a subject line that says more than just “thanks for your gift.” Tell your story and be sure to let them know how their gift will be used. Instead of asking for another gift, suggest other ways donors can engage with your mission, such as subscribing to your newsletters, connecting on social media, or participating in an upcoming event.

 “Ultimately, donors want to know that you care. Thank-you emails are an easy, inexpensive way to show your gratitude. Before you send out your donor thank yous, make sure that your message is donor-centric and that you expressed your appreciation in a clear, impactful way.” [Source: John Haydon, “Donor Thank Yous: Crafting the Perfect Email in 6 Steps,”]

Tip #4: Use storytelling to show your donor's impact.

Research continuously shows that donors want to know how their gift is being used. Even after sending an acknowledgment for a gift, you can continue to let donors know how their gift supports your mission. Continue to tell your story throughout the year and build donor engagement.

Storytelling can be the ideal way to show how a gift is being used, especially when you use visual tools. Create a photo album of your latest project and ministry in action. Include details in the captions explaining how donor support made a difference in the project. Even better, create a short video highlighting the project or a beneficiary of the project. Video production doesn’t have to be a large investment — grab your smartphone or tablet and give your donors a first-hand look at what they have been supporting. [Source: Vanessa Chase, “Sharing Your Story: How to Engage Donors with the Philanthropic Impact of Their Gift,” NP Engage]

Do your "Email Subject Lines" make your donors want to open emails?

Attend our next webinar to learn best practices in increasing email performance and response rates.


About The Catholic Fundraiser

In this weekly blog we share tips, tactics and case studies for professionals in the Catholic fundraising community. Learn how to advance your mission with articles on technology, donor engagement, nonprofit leadership, social media, and emerging trends.

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