3 Savvy Strategies for Effective Donor Retention

The donor lifecycle describes the relationship between fundraiser and donor. You inform donors about your mission, make the “ask”, express gratitude, communicate results, and repeat.

The goal: retention.

The key to effective donor communication is to close the gap between making a donation and the impact that these contributions will make.

Here are 3 communication strategies to improve the likelihood that people will support your fundraising goals year after year.

1. Successful Fundraising Strategies Are Mission-Driven

Giving money without getting a tangible return is counterintuitive to some of the most basic principles of economics.

However, if you can collapse the space between the dollar they give and the impact of those dollars, you’ve mastered the art of developing philanthropy. You can accomplish this by framing your fundraiser with a strong mission.

For example, charity:water has quickly risen to popularity because of innovative marketing and a clear, compelling mission: “Our mission is to bring clean and safe drinking water to every person in the world.”

Whether you’re selling a tangible good to raise money or going for a pure ask, you can help others understand why your group is fundraising by articulating a mission that is based in a broader context. Mission statements that address “systemic change” are powerful, and help people see the difference their purchase can make.

2. Successful Fundraising Strategies Communicate Impact

From your donor’s point of view, seeing how their dollars are spent brings their contribution full circle.

Nonprofits have often mastered “the ask”, but often forget to close the loop and share their success. The most successful fundraising communications retains donors by making them a part of that story.

How many books did you buy, how much money did that save teachers, and what lesson plans were created because a donor made a gift?

These kinds of connections are how storytelling works as a powerful tool that makes donors feel engaged with your cause. Once donors connect with that need, they’re far more likely to remain supportive.

3. Successful Fundraising Strategies Express Gratitude

Fundraising consultant Janet Hedrick suggests that a fundraiser should consider thanking a donor multiple times in multiple ways.

When thanking someone who participated in your fundraiser, keep these guides in mind:

  • Use donor-centric language, and remember that “you messages” communicate gratitude better than “we messages.”
  • Begin and end your oral or written communication with a “thank you.”
  • Communicate in a way that is meaningful to your audience. Consider your capabilities for public recognition, and thank major supporters in a more public way.
  • If your program or mission is on-going, keep donors or customers informed about recent developments. A donor who never grows cold never has to be resold!

Mapping out your donor cultivation strategy, and continuing to engage them in your impact even when you’re not fundraising can lead to increasingly successful campaigns year over year, achieving that goal of donor retention.

John Haydon