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Five Donor Retention Strategies for Your Online Fundraiser

Posted: 11/20/2020

Click here to read on Candid.

by Sally Russell

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has forced certain adjustments in all industries and parts of society. Even though plenty of nonprofits threw virtual fundraisers before, the current situation practically made that the only option for the past six months or so.

As your experience has probably shown you so far, having a successful fundraiser—be it in-person or online—does not only signify raising a lot of money. Another factor influencing a fundraiser's success is donor retention, which is the number of donors that continue to give to your nonprofit after making their first contribution. This can often get quite tricky for nonprofits.

To remedy that, follow these donor retention strategies for your online fundraiser. They will be reasonably easy to implement to ensure success.

The importance of donor retention

For most nonprofits, donor retention hovers around 40 percent. The numbers are even lower for first-year online-only donors. In 2018, it made up only 22 percent, so there is a lot of room for improvement.

Donor retention is up to ten times cheaper than acquiring new donors, according to Nonprofit Quarterly. Putting additional effort into improving it comes with obvious benefits. The main disadvantage of online fundraising is not putting you face-to-face with your donors. This can make it trickier to retain them, though there are ways to get around it.

A recurring giving program

One way of improving your donor retention is making it easier for your donors to continue making their donations when you present an online fundraiser. Providing donors with the option of recurring giving on their donation form will do the trick. To do this, you will need the appropriate nonprofit software to enable this process.

You would be well-advised to offer billing frequency options—weekly, monthly, yearly, or on another basis. Your donors will create an account that will allow them to upload their payment information only once, modify their preferences, and track their recurring donations.

To show your gratitude, make personalized receipts, including the donor's name, the amount they gave, and the impact it will make on your efforts. Your donors will be sure to appreciate the convenience of their automated donations and the ability to track them. It makes it easier for them to contribute to the cause they care about. The receipts will be a neat reminder of the work you are doing and why it is important that they continue their support.

Showing appreciation

One of the vital donor retention strategies, especially for first-time donors, is ensuring they know their gifts are appreciated and making an impact. Thanking them in a timely manner is a prerequisite for asking them to make a subsequent donation. These are the options at your disposal:

  • A personalized email should go out as soon as possible after your donor makes their contribution.
  • Sending out a handwritten thank-you note is a great donor retention strategy, especially when it comes to more substantial contributions. It should be personalized and signed by a member of your organization's leadership.
  • A social media shout-out in the form of tagging on platforms like Facebook or Twitter can also work. It allows you to engage directly with your donors while publicly thanking them for their contributions. Before doing this, ensure you get consent from your donor that they would like to be featured on your social media.

Staying in touch

As Lisa Sargent told npENGAGE, the best donor retention strategies are not a mystery. They are common sense strategies that need to be employed consistently and with care. One of them is continuing to engage with your donors.

She suggests several ways to do this—publishing a donor-driven newsletter that is focused on stories and measures the impact donations are making four times a year. You can supplement this with four annual appeals.

Finally, find ways to appeal to your donors to engage with your nonprofit in ways that aren't money-based. Providing volunteering options, sending birthday cards and anniversary notes, asking donors for testimonials, and continuing to tell your success stories will keep donors engaged without asking them for money. And continuous engagement is the key to upping donor retention.

Telling your story well

As mentioned above, story-focused content plays a significant role in donor retention. How can you go about telling your story in the best way? Just as explaining the problem well is essential for donor acquisition, describing how the donations of your donors are helping is paramount for donor retention.

To build your brand as a successful nonprofit appealing to donors, you have to put a lot of thought into how you craft your narrative. Using real stories of your beneficiaries is one of the best ways to engage your audience. Putting human faces on a problem and showing the mechanisms that help your beneficiaries will go a long way in hammering your point home.

Using visuals is another effective strategy. Photos and videos will tell a gripping story, especially if you are able to use them before and after footage where applicable. Finally, frame your story in such a way that it ends as a direct call to action (CTA). The most effective storytelling will demonstrate the success of your prior work as well as the need for continuous support from your donors.

Peer-to-peer fundraising

The key to all successful donor retention strategies is strengthening the bond between your organization and its donors. Inspiring them to engage with peer-to-peer fundraising is one of the best ways to do that.

Peer-to-peer fundraising requires your supporters to raise money on your behalf by tapping into their own social networks. Not only does this help raise funds, but it also increases your nonprofit's visibility, making it easier to acquire new donors. This requires you to recruit volunteers among your donors who will then use one fundraising platform to create their own pages to raise money for your cause.

This helps donor retention a great deal as it lets your existing donors engage with your cause and explain why it matters to them. Additionally, their personal appeal to their networks makes it more likely that the acquired donors will stay too.

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