It can be frustrating to not understand why donors only give once. Was the donor turned off about your mission? Was there any engagement with the donor after the donation? Could it be a mixture of things that may be out of your control?

Keeping donors beyond the first donation can be difficult; however, applying effort in the right ways can keep those donors longer. According to Adrian Sargeant, one of the leading experts on donor retention, even a 10% improvement in donor attrition can help increase the value of donor giving by 200% long term. Understanding some of the factors that cause donors to give once can also help pinpoint areas where improvements to donor engagement can be made.

5 Tips to Improve Donor Engagement

  1. Identify Donor Roadblocks
  2. Retain Existing Donors
  3. Increase Donor Communications
  4. Create a Powerful End-of-the-Year Appeal
  5. Show Gratitude Toward Donors

1. Identify Donor Roadblocks

Donors have many reasons for donating once. Joanne Fritz, a writer for The Balance, points out that author and ethicist Peter Singer describes roadblocks that lapsed donors run into for continuing donations:

  • The victim or person in need for your cause isn’t known. The story of an identifiable person is more relatable for donors.
  • Donors are more interested in causes that are near them.
  • Donor belief that their donation won’t help enough or won’t make a difference.
  • Donors think that someone else will donate to the cause.
  • Something might seem unfair regarding how the donations will be used or the process.
  • Thinking about or donating money makes donors uneasy.

2. Retain Existing Donors

With the reasons for donor one-time gifts in mind, there are ways to maintain individual donor relations with your cause for the long-term. Make sure you’re telling compelling stories with your content. This goes for your online donation contest, website, or social media, involving those who are directly affected by your cause.

If your mission is to assist others in another region be sure to relate to similarities between your local region and those in the area where your cause will help. This will bring understanding to the work you plan to do.

Develop a “group” mentality when it comes to how your cause works with current donors, volunteers, and your employees. Donation usage within your cause must be clear and where that money goes must be transparent. Offer other means of assisting your cause besides money including volunteering or offering to be an ambassador.

Communication with your donors is the best means of keeping donors long-term. Staying in contact with donors goes along with building trust through customer service. Fritz, author of the article “How To Get First Time Donors to Give Again” for The Balance, lays out a game plan for keeping donors in the loop with your cause. Build a relationship with donors after the first donation and don’t forget to reach out often via newsletter or personal email every month about what their gift has accomplished, as well as any plans your cause has for future donations. This helps to build the possibility of a future donation and keep donors engaged with the cause.

3. Increase Donor Communications

Most nonprofit organizations are comfortable with fundraising and asking donors to donate their time and/or money. This is an art form that not all people possess and some are born with the gift of asking for gifts that go to a good cause. But what is your organization doing after your goal is reached and you are about to help those that benefit from your mission? What you do post-campaign is important to the longevity of your organization. Here are some tips to increase donor loyalty:

We mentioned creating a compelling story to improve donor relations. This is not a one-time effort. You can create top-of-mind awareness for your cause by sharing success stories throughout the year. This will also create trust in your organization that their funds are being used properly and efficiently.

Social media is a wonderful tool to share stories, photos and links from your website. If you don’t see your donors on your pages, find them, and invite them to follow you. Give them a thankful shout out from time to time so their friends and followers see their philanthropic efforts.

In addition to sharing your news, we encourage you to ask your donors for their input on how you are doing. Here are a few questions we found in a sample survey from Storytelling Non-Profit:

  1. Over the years that you have generously helped us (state intended purpose of gifts of time and money); how did those gifts and involvements come about?
  2. Of the programs and services your gifts help support, what are the most important to you? Which are expressed in the most compelling way?
  3. To what degree do you feel your gifts of (time and money) to us have made a difference (to the people you serve) (to the community you serve) (in achieving our mission)?
  4. How could we enhance our efforts?
  5. What are some of the guiding principles you use to make your philanthropic decisions?
  6. What do you expect from the charitable organizations in which you are involved? To what extent are we meeting those expectations?
  7. Of the organizations to which you give, which ones do the best jobs in sharing the significance and impact of your gifts? How so?
  8. How well would you say you know members of our Board and our CEO?
  9. On a scale of one to five with five being very satisfied and one being not at all satisfied, how would you rank your level of satisfaction with your giving to our organization?

Maintaining a steady stream of positive communication with your donors builds trust and loyalty. It shows that you value good stewardship. It has been proven that if you continue to show that your organization appreciates each gift they will stay dedicated to you and will likely give more as they can.

4. Create a Powerful End-of-the-Year Annual Giving Appeal

Your non-profit organization depends on donations to maintain your mission and purpose. A potential donor might see your messages throughout the year and may think you are doing wonderful things and want to help. But time gets away from them and they forget to write the check, or another nonprofit’s “ask” catches them at the right time. This is where an end-of-year appeal comes in handy.

The end-of-year appeal may produce a successful response due to the fact that it is a tax-deductible donation that can be written off. People also tend to be more generous around the holidays; it’s what’s affectionately known as “planned giving season”

These donors may have simply procrastinated or are starting to get into the holiday giving spirit.

Statistics are impactful when writing the content, but backing them with information that evokes emotion will create a larger impact. Include personal stories, client quotes, and photos. This is your opportunity to tell your supporters what you accomplished this year, and who you’ve helped. They should feel your plea and the urgency of your request. Don’t forget to include the call to action and the request for donations; encourage them to help by giving.

Also, take into consideration how they will be reading your message. If you are using email, think about the visual design and mobile compatibility. Simple designs will highlight your message, and a responsive email design or mobile-friendly version are added bonuses to a potential donor.

Remember that a thoughtful thank you will assist in future appeals for the next gift. Let donors know how their money was used. Stand out this year as an organization that is extraordinarily grateful for the donations you receive.

5. Show Gratitude Toward Donors

Picture this: your fundraiser is going well and people are donating to your cause. You think to yourself, “How do we show our donors that we appreciate their gift now and possibly in the future?” The answer is gratitude. What you do to show that thankfulness to donors is up to your non-profit just as long as it’s prompt.

Gratitude is defined as a readiness to show appreciation and return kindness. One of the key parts of showing gratitude is doing so in a timely manner. “Within 24 to 48 hours of receiving a gift, send a thank-you note or email,” says Jeff Cova, veteran executive of non-profit Winspire, Inc (source).

How you extend your gratitude is also important and depends on how you would like to do so. This can take the form of a brief “thank you” email or a quick personal call. Even a handwritten thank you notes add a personal touch, and is a simple way for engaging donors.

Create a Donor Engagement Strategy for Your Nonprofit Organization Today!

Whether you’re trying to engage a recurring donor or catch the attention of a new donor, communication is key for fostering the donor journey! Identifying roadblocks, increasing communication, showing gratitude, and creating an end-of-year annual giving appeal will foster a positive donor relationship, paving the way for a successful fundraising campaign for for many years to come.