4 Habits to Retain Donors

Donor relationships are just that: relationships. They are either getting stronger or weaker. If left to themselves, they will grow weaker. Retaining donors requires intentionality. Here are four habits your organization can develop to build stronger relationships with donors and retain them:

#1: Communication is the key. 

Relationships don’t grow stronger through silence. My one piece of advice to my daughter and son-in-law at their wedding was “never assume what has never been said.” This is also true with donors. Never assume they know the impact their gift is having. You have to tell them!

If you want donors to remain as excited as they were when they first gave, then tell them stories of how their gift is making a real difference in the world. We help our clients provide donors with an impact story at least once per month. Tell them a story or share some important metrics. 

Impact updates make donors feel connected to the work and the value of their gift. They will be much more likely to renew their gift when they sense how it is improving the world.

#2: Give as much as you ask. 

Some organizations are drains. They are always asking and taking but never giving. They send me emails asking me to sign up for an event, fund a special need, register for their golf tournament, etc. They are always asking but never giving. The relationship doesn’t feel very reciprocal.

How can organizations give to their donors?

  • Send email updates without any strings attached. It is actually possible to send an impact update to donors without asking them to do anything.
  • Send them a birthday and Christmas card. If you value the relationship, then do the things that are normal in a healthy relationship.
  • Ask how you can pray for them. 
  • Create special events and opportunities just for them. Host a VIP reception for your longest-standing donors or host a special webinar for donors with a Q&A session. 

Healthy relationships are mutually beneficial. Retaining a donor becomes much easier when they feel they are valued beyond their money.

#3: Be thankful.

Donors are a gift for which every organization should be thankful. Just as much as our spouses and children need to hear how much they mean to us, we should also communicate the thankfulness we have for those who are generous to our organization.

How can we express gratitude to donors?

  • Make it the first thing they read after hitting the donate button. One organization has a video that automatically plays of their staff dancing in the office as they celebrate the gift.
  • Send them a handwritten thank-you note.
  • Have someone from the staff or board call to personally thank them.
  • Send them a special note around Thanksgiving to reinforce your gratitude.
  • Scratch a personal thank you across the top of every donor receipt that goes into the mail.

The point is: find every way possible to tell them you’re grateful! Donors are people and people tend to stay in relationships where they feel appreciated.

#4: Don’t take them for granted.

We often take relationships for granted until it is too late to recover them. Nonprofit leaders didn’t get into their profession to nurture donor relationships. Instead, they are driven by their love of their organization’s mission (which is a great thing). 

It’s important to remember: donors are not a distraction. They make the mission possible. They are a valued partner in the organization. Make sure you believe that and embody it in the way you communicate with them. 

If your organization’s communication style is sporadic, then don’t be surprised when your donor retention rate is sporadic. When you improve your communications with donors, your retention rate will improve as well. If you want your organization to grow and retain donors, make them feel acknowledged, valued, and appreciated through consistent and creative communications.

Book a spot for “Ask Andy Anything”

Got questions about how to improve your organization’s communications with donors? Our founder, Andy Jones, helps leading organizations develop and improve their donor communications and marketing. This is your chance for a 1:1 session to ask him anything about your organization’s communications and marketing. Click here to book a spot


P.O. Box 2541
Chattanooga, TN 37409

[email protected]

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