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Engage with your donors, build loyalty and drive growth

So far, 2020 has been one heck of a year. Bushfires. #MeToo. Brexit. Megxit. Trump’s Impeachment. Black Lives Matter.

And then to cap it off life came to a grinding halt in the face of COVID-19. Entire industries decimated, mass unemployment, mandatory masks, travel bans, working from home and unprecedented lockdowns.

It’s shaken our country to the bone.

So what has this meant for non-profits? For many, face-to-face work has been impossible. Volunteers have dropped off. Fundraising events have been cancelled. Campaigns have been forced online. Donations have slowed.

The need for retention has never been more important.

Luckily, there are tried and tested ways to take your existing retention strategies to a whole new level.


Here are six key donor retention strategies to engage with your donors, build loyalty and drive growth. 

Donor Retention Strategy #1: Let them talk

We talked about donor centricity in a previous blog post. To summarise, the success of your fundraising is dependent on the relationships you build with your donors.

How do you build good relationships? By asking about their wants and needs. And by really, truly listening.

Here’s how you can start a conversation with your donors:

  • Surveys

Online surveys are a fast, cost-effective way to understand what donors think about your organisation, what you’re doing well, what could be improved, what programs they find most engaging, how donors would like to be spoken to and how often, for example.


  • Feedback meetings

Show donors you care by inviting them to a meeting for their valued opinion. By creating an intimate, informal space to chat and share stories, you can expect some engaging and honest answers, greater trust and long-term loyalty.


  • Online forums

These are an easy, safe and accessible way for donors to provide feedback. Just be sure to regulate the discussion to ensure a fair and respectful conversation.

Remember that when you ask for feedback from donors, it’s not one-sided. Thank them for their time and effort, and let them know how you plan to use the information gained.


Donor Retention Strategy #2: Make it easy to give

Imagine your friend tells you about a charity, let’s say to rescue stray cats. You jump on Instagram, find their page and decide you want to help.

You click the link in the bio.

But …

Instead of taking you straight to the donation page, it lands on the homepage. You navigate the website until you find what you’re looking for.

But …

The donation form is lengthy. It asks for too much information. It also forces you to set up an account before you even hand over your credit card details. All you want to do is give some money to rescue stray cats.

But you’re fatigued. Annoyed at the process. And instead of finishing up you click away and close it down.

The charity for stray cats just lost you.


To counter this, make the donation process EASY. Here’s how:

  •  Keep donation forms short.

Ask for only the basics. Get straight to the point so that it shortens the time donors spend making a donation.


  • Donating via your website is great, but don’t make it the only channel.

If you have an Instagram account, make sure your website is mobile optimised and the link goes directly to your donation page. The same goes for all other social media platforms.


  • There should be one ask, and one ask only: for a donation.

Don’t force them to sign up for a newsletter or start an account too – some donors won’t want that, and it will be enough to send them packing.


Donor Retention Strategy #3: Invite them to join an exclusive club

And by club, we mean a donor membership program – one they will want to be a part of because of the incentives they will get in exchange for their generosity.

How does a donor become a member?
By donating a certain amount. Or volunteering a set number of hours each month. Or perhaps even hosting an event (post-lockdown) to raise money.


What does a donor get out of it?
Special updates and progress reports before anyone else. Newsletters with highly tailored content. Invites to intimate gatherings, tours of your facility, meet and greets with key people such as the CEO or researchers for a personal update on the projects they are funding. You could also provide free parking or early access to events.


What do you as a non-profit get out of it?
Highly engaged, invested and loyal donors who are far more likely to keep on giving year after year, and who are willing to spread the word about your cause.


Donor Retention Strategy #4: Share micro stories

What’s more powerful: a story about one million people in need, or a story about one?

The answer is one.

That’s because humans find it difficult to comprehend large numbers. One million people is a swamp. There are no names or faces or back stories, just a mass of people we cannot connect with.

But showcase a micro story by focusing solely on one person, and that’s easy for our brains to understand. We see them. We connect with them. We relate and empathise because that one person is humanised through the simple act of storytelling.

We’re not saying you should abandon what makes your organisation unique – its history and values, services and people are all worth mentioning and celebrating. What’s more important, however, are the singular case studies. The ability to talk directly to your supporters and to show them, in real time, how their money is being used to make an impact.

Finally, remember this: stories are boring if they only tell the good. It’s the bad that compels people to give. So don’t be afraid to dig deep and share the raw details. Being honest makes for a transparent entry point for your organisation.


Donor Retention Strategy #5: Boost the impact of your volunteers

Asking donors to volunteer is a great retention strategy.

For a start, it allows them to interact with your organisation and provide support in a whole new way. More importantly, by working closely with staff on projects or at fundraising events, donors will share interests, build relationships and strengthen bonds to your non-profit – and that will make them more likely to stick with you longer.

Already asked your donors to volunteer? Here are some other ways to make them feel appreciated for their hard work.


  • Play to their strengths.

Put donors in volunteering positions where they can use their skills and interests. For example, if you know a donor has a passion for photography, suggest they volunteer to take photos at an upcoming event. They will feel confident in their role, and you’ll gain a happy supporter with the right skills for the job.


  • Give and take.

Offer rewards or benefits for a donor’s time. For example, discounts on merchandise or early access to events are a few ways to keep them volunteering more than once.


  • Say thank you.

Host events tailored specifically for them, such as intimate dinners, award ceremonies or informal gatherings. This creates a space for open communication. It lets them know their time is appreciated and boosts both morale and long-term loyalty.


Donor Retention Strategy #6: Clean up your database 

There’s a secret weapon to help fundraisers build authentic, long-term relationships with donors: a Marketing Database.

In fact, it’s so important, we’ve written an entire blog about it.

The greatest benefit of a good database is the information it gives you about what your supporters want and need at every stage of their donor journey. This, in turn, is a valuable tool to build trust and loyalty, and ultimately turn your supporters into life-long givers.

First up, your database should record absolutely everything – from the moment someone makes their first donation, to an event they attend or a new program they sign up to. Then you need to understand your marketing strategy and map out each activity in your database. It takes a good deal of planning, but trust us when we say it is absolutely worth it.

Want to know more? Head of over to: Bedazzling Your Database: How and Why It’s So Important.


Retaining the donors you have is absolutely key to sustainable growth. Engage with them in creative ways and your non-profit can reap the rewards for years to come.