Encouraging Donors to Keep Coming Back

How can your not-for-profit urge donors to open their wallets again … and soon? It's not easy, but with some hard work and creativity, you can motivate donors to give again in early 2024, even if they contributed as recently as December. Here are six suggestions:

a group of people assembling a heart-shaped jigsaw puzzle

1. Strut your stuff. All too often, financial contributors feel their money has disappeared into a black hole, never to appear again. To instill a sense of urgency and call donors back, demonstrate how their contributions make an impact.

For example, post frequently on social media about programs or events that wouldn't be possible without support. Then use your newsletters to provide greater depth and specificity in longer articles. You can allow readers to connect the dots between donations and projects, but there's no reason why you can't be explicit as well. You'll also want to issue regular (generally, semi-annual or annual) reports about your charitable accomplishments. Some of the most powerful tools are detailed case studies and emotional client testimonials.

2. Divide and conquer. One key way to attract recurring donors is to personalize your pitch. If you segment contributors and then reach out to them with messages tailored to their segments, they're more likely to respond favorably.

You might group donors by how they've donated in the past. For instance, has a donor previously responded to a direct appeal, contributed to someone's personal fundraising page or used another resource? Or you might also segment contributors according to the amounts they've previously donated. Frequent and generous donors deserve special attention, such as personal phone calls or invitations to events for your biggest supporters. You can segment donors by the types of programs that interest them. That way you can tailor your pitch to their preferences and highlight aspects of your charitable mission that are more likely to hit home with them.

3. Say thank you thoughtfully. Nonprofits typically send thank-you emails automatically to acknowledge donations. Donors expect these emails, but you can do more. Add a personal touch to your communications to show how much you appreciate donors' generosity. You might ask one of your staffers to send a handwritten note that mentions a specific program the donation will support.

If it isn't feasible to personalize thank-you notes — and that's completely understandable if you're short on human resources — at least you can segment email messages (see Tip 2). This small gesture can make a big difference.

4. Follow up promptly. It's only natural for nonprofit staffers to take a deep breath and relax after the busy holiday and year-end donation seasons. But don't wait too long to decompress. Charitable fundraising is a year-round proposition that requires tenacity.

If you generate most of your donations from specific events — as many organizations do — keep the ball rolling with a targeted effort in late winter or early spring. Similarly, if you prosper mainly from direct gift initiatives, ramp up activities in February at the latest.

5. Use the element of surprise. Loyal donors can tire of routine appeals. So try to mix things up with unconventional communications ranging from personalized "shout-outs" on social media to email campaigns featuring humorous stories or photos. The trick is to nudge donors to sit up and take notice.

6. Ask for feedback. Existing donors may have good ideas for improvements or tweaks to your programming and communication strategies that could prove to be beneficial. Use surveys and questionnaires to give them the opportunity to sound off. Of course, you may not always like what donors have to say. But that doesn't mean you should ignore their sentiments, especially if multiple donors make the same comments. Be sure to follow up with donors who express negative opinions or who offer ideas that you plan to implement.

Donor retention is all about building and strengthening relationships. So it's important to not take these stakeholders for granted. Keep reminding donors why they supported your organization in the first place.

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