Donor Retention: Structure Your Fundraising Operation for Success

What requires more effort, acquiring new donors or retaining the existing ones? Most nonprofits are likely to answer that acquiring new donors requires significantly more work, but that doesn’t mean retaining donors is an easy task. Still, maintaining a high donor retention rate is absolutely crucial.

Nonprofits with a high donor retention rate have long-term supporters who come back year after year. Nonprofits with a low rate need to continually acquire new donors, ultimately costing them more time, money, and effort in the long run.

This article will discuss how to structure your fundraising operation for successful donor retention.

 

Challenges Nonprofits Face Today

Sadly, the outcome of neglecting your donor retention efforts is one that most nonprofits wouldn’t willingly face if they had the choice. If you don’t worry about it, there’s more at risk than you might have thought.

The rate at which donors are lost is referred to as the “attrition rate,” which can significantly impact the number of donors in your donor database from year to year.

The other red flag nonprofits need to be aware of is what happens when donors stop contributing. If donors stop giving, there is a very small chance they will ever give again.

Don’t overlook this concern. Instead, always assume that if a first-time donor didn’t contribute the second time around that, it’s highly unlikely they will come back because that’s what the data shows.

 

3 Elements of a Strong Donor Retention Strategy

You’ll be happy to know that building a donor retention strategy doesn’t require much investment, even relative to most nonprofits’ notoriously strict budgets. Here are three key elements to implement for building strong donor retention.

 

 1. Rely Heavily on Proven Data
Why is it important to have good data? Data helps you identify where to focus your efforts for the largest impact. Using data will also allow you to track your retention and attrition rates, ensuring your strategy is as effective as you are hoping it will be.
To become an effective donor manager, donor management software is integral to your nonprofit.

 

2. Put a Special Focus on First Time Donors 
It’s crucial to retain donors from the beginning of their relationship with your organization. Data shows that if they don’t contribute at the next opportunity after their first donation, statistically, they are not likely to donate again.
Knowing this information, it’s important to make a special effort to get the first-time donors to give a second time. Find creative ways that speak true to your nonprofit and its mission.

 

3. Choose Tactics You Can Execute Well On
There are hundreds of guides and lists of things you can do for donor retention. Try not to get lost in the shuffle of trying to tackle all of them at once. Instead, choose a select few and  execute those in a fashion that will stand out.

What you should NOT do is go through the motions so that you can check them off your list.

Some popular donor retention tactics include:

  • Thank donors quickly
  • Segment communications
  • Update on outcomes
  • Create a personal touch via phone calls and handwritten notes
  • Survey donors
  • Offer recurring gift options

Read our article on best practices for increasing donor loyalty HERE

Conclusion

The best ways to increase donor retention are linked to your nonprofit’s relationship with each donor. Getting to know your donors, what they like, and what you can do to maintain your relationship with them are critical components of donor retention.

Postalgia can help you focus on deepening your donor relationship by sending written thank you cards. The services Postalgia offers include design, copywriting, list hygiene, mail preparation, as well as the full suite of direct mail production services and much, much more!

Want to level up your direct mail? Contact us.

Authentic Communication with your Donors

INTRODUCTION

The nonprofit sector is in the business of people-helping-people. What better motivates people-helping-people than being authentic!?

This blog contains vital information about maintaining authentic communication with your donors. The 3 main takeaways are: Be true and consistent, attend to your donors, and create personal experiences. Adding personalized and specific details to your communication methods will make all the difference.

 

BE TRUE AND CONSISTENT

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All nonprofit organizations have a cause that they are passionate about. Before you communicate with your donors, you need to establish a set of values and beliefs that your organization follows. Make sure when you set up those values, you are being true to yourself and to your cause. To have authentic communication, you need to BE AUTHENTIC.

Once you identify your core principles, you must represent them in every message and any form of communication. You may not be popular with everyone, but at least you will be showing community members that you are true and consistent. The main point is to stick to your set of values and beliefs, but there are more Principles for Authentic Donor Communications that Build Relationships.

 

ATTEND TO YOUR DONORS

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Make sure to put effort into focusing on your donors. Remember, without your donors you can’t support your cause! Maintain relationships with donors by consistently communicating and creating opportunities to connect with them.

There are various ways to stay connected with your donors and maintain authentic communication. You can schedule regular meetings in person or virtually to provide the opportunity to interact with them. This is the time to have discussions about your organization’s progress and get the opinion of the members. You can ask questions like: Why are you passionate about the cause? What is your preferred method of communication? How would you like to take action?

You can also connect with your donors by sending them information via digital and physical communication methods.

 

WAYS TO CONNECT WITH YOUR DONORS

Social Media
Community Events
Newsletters
Impact Reports
Thank You Notes
Website Blog
Google Forms Questionnaire

 

The main focus should always be on your donors, so you can build authentic relationships.

 

CREATE PERSONAL EXPERIENCES

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To keep up with authentic communication, you can create personal experiences! How do you do that? Well, make sure to keep donor profiles and use their names when sending emails, newsletters, donation cards, impact reports, and postcards. It is also important to consistently send messages to donors and volunteers to let them know your organization is working hard for the cause.

A little bit of effort goes a long way, especially when you want to create personalized  experiences. Emails and text messages only go so far and are often overlooked, so it is important to seek other forms of communication. Sending handwritten note cards and direct-mail packages addressed to specific donors, tells your members that you value their support.

 

CONCLUSION

To summarize, figure out what your nonprofit is passionate about helping, stick to your values and beliefs, focus on including your donors, and organize personalized experiences that show your donors how much effort you put in.

BONUS TIP

Put the effort in and delight your donors with a handwritten note!

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Tips for Effective Storytelling for Nonprofits

INTRODUCTION

Nonprofit storytelling is an essential skill to have to maintain a successful nonprofit organization. Storytelling informs your donors about how their donations are being spent and who their donations affect.

This article provides 4 essential tips to effective storytelling. You will learn how and why it is important to be intentional, how to evoke emotion and empathy, how to initiate connections, and the importance of saying thank you to your donors through storytelling.

 

1. BE INTENTIONAL

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Organization is key to effective storytelling. The first thing you want to do is create a plan for the story you want to tell. Begin by setting your goals on what you want to communicate with your audience. Next figure out the Who, What, Where, When, Why , and How of your story. Once you have a proper outline figured out, you will find it much easier to tell the story.

Be intentional about how much detail you share by keeping content short and attention grabbing. Try to only include important facts that are vital to the story. Good storytelling keeps the audience interested by finding a suitable balance between the story’s length, timing, and authentic content.

 

 

2. EVOKE EMOTION AND EMPATHY

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Keeping in mind that it is important to be intentional with the details you share, choose specific facts to build your story that will evoke emotion and empathy. Your aim is to help your donors feel personally connected to the cause, and you can do that by using the names and photos of those in your story. Videos are also a great tool in effective storytelling because it quickly visualizes and humanizes the story.

There are many ways to evoke emotion and empathy in storytelling, and this short article provides 4 examples of effective nonprofit storytelling.

 

 

3. INITIATE CONNECTIONS

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A key element of effective nonprofit storytelling is initiating connections between the story and the audience. Once the story has been told and donors become emotionally invested, you can connect them even further by explaining how their donations impact the cause. Let your audience know specifically where donations go and how they are used.

This is where you can point out how change will happen and why it matters. To compliment your story, visual aids can be a helpful tool that highlight these facts. Many Nonprofits use infographics as an effective storytelling tool. Infographics can be displayed on a variety of mediums from social media platforms to printed media.

 

 

4. CLOSE  WITH A MEANINGFUL ‘THANK YOU’

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Don’t forget about gratitude! Always remember to appreciate your donors and say thank you. Acknowledging the efforts of your donors is another key element specific to effective nonprofit storytelling. A good thank you has the ability to seal the connection your story made and builds personal relationships with donors to increase donor loyalty.

 

 

CONCLUSION

To review, always begin with a plan where you organize your facts of Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How. It is important to be intentional in your storytelling to maintain the interest and attention of viewers. Evoke emotion and empathy by providing specific details about those in the story. Things like names, photos, and videos allow donors to see the story at a personal level. Create connections between the viewer and story by explaining how donations directly affect the cause. Infographics are a great tool to put a focus on this information. Perhaps the most important element of effective nonprofit storytelling is wrapping things up with a thank you. Acknowledgment goes a long way!

 

BONUS TIP

Consistency is key! Make sure to update your donors often about how their donations are impacting the cause. Monthly impact reports, newsletters, and handwritten notes are great tools that can be personalized and sent directly to your donors. Storytelling is only one way to Increase Donor Loyalty with our Best Practices.

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How To Reach Out To Inactive Donors

Donors who are inactive or have lapsed may appear to be a lost cause. These contributors haven’t given to your nonprofit in a long time; why would you spend money attempting to entice them to do so again? The truth is that many inactive donors don’t see themselves as inactive or are even aware they are inactive. It is important not to assume that just because a donor hasn’t given in months or years, they are no longer interested or will never give again.

In this article, we are going to offer you actionable advice on understanding inactive donors and developing a plan to reactivate them. By following these steps, you can increase your donor retention rate, increase the revenue you receive from lapsed donors, and most importantly, save valuable time.

Why Make The Effort To Reactivate Donors?

If you’re having trouble fostering long-term giving, you’re not alone: more than 75% of donors will only donate to a single nonprofit once. This is the case regardless of how much you ask for and even when donors are aware that your organization needs their help.

The fact is that it is difficult to keep individuals giving, particularly if they have only given once. So, what makes them worthwhile?

To begin with, inactive donors may be easier to convert than prospective donors. They’ve already made a donation to your nonprofit, suggesting that they identified with your objective at one time. Just because they’ve dropped out doesn’t imply they’re no longer engaged in your cause.

Second, it is less expensive than recruiting new donors. You have their contact information and know how much they’ve previously given. This means you won’t have to spend money to buy lists or sending generic mass mailings with the expectation that your request will be received by someone receptive.

Define a lapsed donor and how you’ll approach them

It is critical to first grasp your universe. Who is considered a lapsed donor by your organization? Is it someone who hasn’t given in over a year? Once you’ve defined this subset, you’ll need to run the appropriate reports to generate a list of your inactive donors. This will allow you to communicate with them directly.

When you’re ready to mail your list, bear in mind that many inactive donors do not consider themselves to be inactive donors. In reality, they may still consider themselves to be significant contributors to achieving your organization’s stated mission.
If you approach them with a finger-wagging tone, they will most likely be turned off from contributing again. Remember that they are contributors, and approach them with the same respect as your most active donors.

Understand When and Why They Became Inactive

Examine the data from your CRM to identify patterns that may have resulted in donors becoming inactive. There isn’t much you can do if you observe that many contributors ceased giving amid a global downturn. However, if you have a segment that ceased giving as a result of a change you made (for example, to your communications programme, more or fewer direct mail pieces, a changing organizational focus, changes to your online donation page, etc.), that is useful information to have in the future.

You can also ask them directly, via a survey or other feedback tool. Take the time to listen to the responses and engage them in a two-way conversation. Let them tell you why they haven’t given lately, versus inferring via data or worse yet, going with your gut.

Reactivating Your Donors

So now that you have an understanding of who your inactive donors are and some idea of why they stopped giving, it’s time to begin the process of moving them from inactive to active.

Reaching out to someone who hasn’t given in a while with the same generic message you send to everyone else in your donor network isn’t going to be very effective. Some will reactivate, but many more will just move further away from your nonprofit.

Personalize Your Approach

Historically, the way NGOs have interacted with the bulk of their supporters has been far distant from the organization’s fundamental objective. The traditional fundraising strategy focuses on the organization’s needs (money, advocacy, volunteerism, etc.) and fails to recognize how the act of donating truly works.

This approach to everyday donors contrasts sharply with how NGOs interact with wealthy donors. Those who write large cheques are treated to highly tailored experiences designed to keep them linked to the *why* of their donation.

Individual contributors nowadays, on average, anticipate a high level of tailored attention, even if they give as little as $20 per month. This trend can be attributed to for-profit consumer marketing. Your donors have grown accustomed to highly tailored web experiences – or on the flipside, generic bulk mailers that usually end up unread and in the garbage.

So you need to meet those expectations by personalizing every touchpoint you send to inactive donors. By including specific, personalized information tailored to that individual donor in your direct mail piece(s), you are letting them know that they matter.

Get Them Up To Speed

Before you make an ask, it is important to let your inactive donors know about what your nonprofit has been up to since they last interacted with the organization. Inform them of what’s been happening in your organization and your long-term vision.

Remember to address them as if they are key team members in need of an update, rather than as if they are clueless. Include tales and positive effect data, as well as a clear description of your next plans and approach.

Not giving them a “what’s been happening” update and sending them regular updates on recent victories is like inviting someone over for dinner, then serving the same meal they had at your previous party. That may have been great for your guests back in 3 plus years ago, but they need current information to pique their interest.

You can summarize recent campaigns, news articles, accomplishments and more in a quick direct mail piece. If you have too much activity to summarize, you can break it up into multiple pieces sent out at regular intervals. Alternatively, a growing number of nonprofits are redirecting their inactive donors to an online portal where they can view recent news, meet the staff, see photos from past events and get updates on upcoming programs.

Tell your inactive donors how much you miss and appreciate them
Find a way to express your care for their well-being while also thanking them for prior donations. We recommend that you begin with appreciation. Thank your donors for their contributions to your team in a sincere and heartfelt manner. Only until you’ve properly acknowledged their contributions should you tell them you miss them. You liked having them on your team, so make sure that’s the message you’re sending rather than one of guilt.

Making them feel as though they were a part of something genuine and great is a guaranteed approach to re-engage lapsed supporters. Your letters and emails should show your gratitude to your supporters. It is vital that your approach is perceived as just that. Nobody wants to be treated like an ATM, therefore you don’t want people to think you’re only interested in their money.

You should also remind them of the last time you heard from them or when they were connected with your organization; they may have just forgotten to donate.

Invite Your Lapsed Donors To Give Again

Now that they’ve caught up, it’s time to make an actual ask. Sometimes you’ll ask for a donation, but it’s often best to entice them back into the organization by inviting them to an event or asking them to participate in an advocacy action first. Be open to fresh opportunities for them to contribute. They may no longer be able to donate, but they can still volunteer.

Whatever technique you apply, make sure you are positioning your inactive donors to eventually make a donation. By doing this you are giving them an opportunity to routinely connect with your organization again and eventually become a member of your active (better yet recurring) donor list.

Time To Reach Out To Your Inactive Donors

So now that you have a plan to reach out to your inactive donors, what are you waiting for? It’s important not only for the health of your organization and ability to execute its mission, but it’s also essential for establishing a sustainable revenue stream. Don’t wait any longer: begin the process of converting your inactive donors to active givers today.

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How You Can Make Small Donors Feel Important

We understand that large donors are often the primary focus of non-profits, charities and other organizations that rely on donations. Given the potential amount large donors could contribute to meeting your fundraising goals, sometimes you might feel like the large donations are all that matter.

However, you might be better off focusing your efforts on a broader spectrum of donors than the 15% that make over $100,000 per year (U.S. figures). Why? Because large donors are notoriously hard to convince. You will spend more time trying for minimal outcomes instead of focusing your efforts on someone else who may give less but will actually give.

Small contributions can be an important part of your fundraising efforts. Giving a gift is more like creating and nurturing an ongoing conversation. The donation is the beginning of a relationship, not the end. Letting donors know they helped out, even if it’s only a few dollars, goes a long way in making those people feel a part of what you do and how much they mean to your cause.

Every donor needs to feel connected and that they’ve made a lasting impact on your organization’s mission. So recognizing every donation is important.

In the end, a great donor is the one who gives often. After all, you never know what someone else’s small gift could lead to in the future. And donors who give smaller amounts of money have a higher likelihood of donating again.

These small contributions may not add up to large amounts of money, but they add lots of goodwill. The best approach is to make every single donor feel like a superstar by recognizing their contributions. This post will offer tips on how to make small donors feel important and encourage ongoing contributions – no matter the size.

Personalize Your Thank You

First, take time to thank your donors personally. The best way to make sure your donations feel special is to personalize every interaction. It’s easy for a donor to feel like they’re just one in a million faceless donors when receiving form letters. Personalizing can make all the difference.

So why not create a unique letter template? Start by using their name, then talk about what they gave and how it helps those your organization is trying to help. Add specific details about the donation, such as the name of the campaign they contributed to, the amount or other personalized information. It doesn’t take much time, but it would mean so much more than any generic “Dear supporter” ever will.

As we have noted before, a handwritten card or note can be sent by physical mail and will go a long way in making them feel valued for their contribution.

Talk About The Impact of Small Donors

Small donors want a personal connection to the work or cause they are supporting, and your best bet is to provide information that will build their sense of contribution. Again, remember always to make sure you’re careful to segment them by what they contributed towards and speak to that specifically, not just in generalities.

Detail their contribution. Your storytelling skills will help you connect with and forge stronger relationships with your small donors, making sure that they don’t feel like an anonymous name on the list. Outline the projects and missions that their donation will support while emphasizing how this gift makes a positive difference in people’s lives. Wording like “Your gift makes it possible to…” is key.

Show how all donations matter. Make sure to explain how their donation is advancing change and helping others, even if it was only the minimal option – let them know small bits really do help! You can emphasize this by visualizing your data in an infographic or colourful chart.

Highlight Small Donors Often

When it comes to fundraising, small donors can often be undervalued. For your campaign’s small donor program, you want to make small-dollar givers feel as important and appreciated as your larger donors. You can do this through regular communications with them as well as publicizing their gifts so that they feel like a part of the organization.

One way of doing this is through a supporter section on the website where donors of all sizes can see what they are directly contributing to and testimonials from other contributors. This is a great way to show support from other people and encourage others who might not have donated yet.

Another way is to set levels of giving that suit your campaign and the types of donors you’re trying to attract. You might have a “Heroes” group for those who give $100 or more, another one called “Trailblazers” for people who donate at least $250, etc. Or maybe create a recurring giver program – creating levels of support where people agree to make a donation of $15 every month via an automatic payment charged to their credit card, or giving a fixed max annual donation in regular intervals throughout the year.

Of course, you will never go wrong with perks and benefits for your various groups. For example, you could offer your $100 or more small donor group a free bumper sticker and a monthly e-newsletter, while members of your $250 or more get all that plus an invitation to two special (free) events put on by your organization. Any recognition of donors goes a long way.

Ask For Their Feedback

Although donors give more when they feel connected to an organization, it’s easy for this feeling to get lost.

It is important to identify your supporters and make them feel like they are an integral part of your organization and its success. Make your organization fun and welcoming by asking for feedback in newsletters or social posts. Your supporters will feel valued if you take the time to include them as part of your organizational culture.

The people who support your organization enjoy feeling like their contribution is important. So make them feel like an active part of the organization, and it will pay off in future donations and goodwill.

Take The Time To Listen

There are many reasons why people may donate to your organization. It is important for you to realize that the “why” behind a donation can have an immense impact on how much money they give and will continue giving in future donations.

For this reason, it is best when talking with small donors to take note of any interactions where you gain insight into their motivations. It’s important to know your donors and remember the reasons why they support you.

These insights can guide your fundraising efforts in the coming months. Listen with an understanding ear, write down their words of wisdom when you can, then use them as a guidepost for future campaigns. Your future success in fundraising could be determined by whether or not you pay attention to the committed supporters of your campaign.

The common thread in all of these points is that sincere recognition isn’t just important for large donors. Every donor should feel connected to your organization and a valuable part of achieving its goals. If you take the time to properly acknowledge your small donors, they will not only continue to give, but they may become a large donor over time.

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