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  • Jeana Neu

Donor Retention is Important. In Fact, It's Everything.

You've heard said before, "customer loyalty" is more valuable than attracting new customers. The same holds true for donors. I'll tell you why...

Your repeat donor is very valuable. Make sure they feel that way.

#1 – Communicate, and don't ask

One basic rule of thumb for donor cultivation is that you should always do some non-ask communications with donors. You can do this in the same format as you do for solicitation.

For example, if you are going to be asking for money by mail, be sure that your donors also get newsletters and other non-solicitation mailings throughout the year.  Likewise, if you are going to be asking for money from a major donor face-to-face, be sure that you also have some cultivation meetings with him in between asks, just to build the relationship.


If you fail to follow this rule, donors will start to think of your communications the same way they think of sales literature – as something to be wary of.  If the only e-mails a donor ever gets are asks, then they will start to delete your e-mails without reading them.  On the other hand, if they get lots of great stories and resources from you by e-mail, they will look forward to reading what you send, including the occasional solicitation.


#2 – Let Donors Touch and Feel

It is important for donors to connect physically with your organization.  By giving your donors sensory experiences like volunteer opportunities, tours of your facility, and small group meetings with your staff and other donors, you are cementing the relationships you have with your supporters.


The danger for non-profits that only communicate with their donors at arms-length (mail, e-mail, and the yearly large gala event) is that the donor will get excited about what you are doing, but then put your organization in the back of her mind, until she gets excited by another non-profit’s work.  Keep your donors excited about your work by letting them touch and feel the good that you are doing and that they are funding.


#3 – Make Your Non-Profit Their Non-Profit

While your donors have proven that they are willing to support you through financial gifts to your organization, most people don’t like to be just another checkbook for your non-profit. 


They want to be heard in more ways than just making a donation.


Give your donors other ways to be heard.  Send them surveys about the work of your non-profit.  Set up advisory councils for different programs and initiatives.  Pick up the phone and call your donors to ask them for their thoughts.


The more your donors see the organization as “their non-profit,” the more they will invest to support your work.


#4 – Keep it Mission Focused

When you are prospecting for new donations, the talk is all about how important the mission is, your non-profit's impact, outcomes...but once a donation is made, talk too often turns to next level gifting, sponsorships, events, and board positions.


Donors gave because they believed what you were accomplishing was important. You don't want them to forget their dollars are actually making a difference. Make sure you are updating them with how their donations are impactful, meaningful, and always useful in the mission you both believe matter.

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