societal pressure, the desire for recognition, wanting to leave a legacy, wanting to impress other, religious or
spiritual beliefs and more. No matter what the reason for a donation, donors need to be engaged, and nonprofits
need to sincerely say thank you and keep in touch with donors on a continuous basis.
a stable base of donors. With nearly nearly 3 out of 4 new donors leaving and never coming back,1 donor
retention can be challenging — but donor turnover can be prevented with sufficient engagement. Here are some ways
nonprofits can keep donors engaged from the first gift and beyond.
form letter, but how about writing a personal note on the letter, sending an additional handwritten note, sending a
personalized email or making a phone call to say thanks?
take a special one-on-one tour or meet grateful clients. Many nonprofits send birthday cards to their board members
and major donors and send holiday cards and/or small gifts to them at the end of the year as well.
Most important, be sincere and heartfelt in your thanks to your donors. Even a simple thank-you note can use
language that imparts a true sense of gratitude. At a minimum, make sure the “thank you” page after a submitted
donation form is customized and expresses gratitude for the gift.
naming opportunities within your organization for high-level donations. Naming opportunities can be modest (a small
plaque), or you can offer donors the ability to have an entire room, wing or program named after them. Take a look
at your organization’s past donors who have named areas or programs, and look at other nonprofits in your area and
your sector to see what naming opportunities they offer — many will list naming levels on their websites or in
their materials such as annual reports or campaign brochures.
Typically, these lists of donors are grouped by donation level (such as Under $500, $500 to $1,000, $1,001 to
$5,000 and so on) or by membership level (for instance, think of an aquarium using levels such as “minnows,”
“fish,” “whales,” etc).
media posts, if the donor agrees to it. If you want to thank a group of donors, consider highlighting the success
of a particular campaign via your newsletter, email blast or social media (“Thanks to all our incredibly generous
supporters, our #givingtuesday campaign raised over $10,000! Thank you to each and every one of you who made a
like they are an important part of your organization. Social media is one way to impart a sense of community to
your donors, who feel like part of a community when they join a Facebook group or engage with your nonprofit on
Twitter (for more information about the use of social media, see the chapter “Social Media for Nonprofits”).
them photos or posting them on social media after the events. Creating volunteer opportunities for your donors and
board members can also make them feel like a part of your organization’s community; they may even have the
opportunity to engage directly with clients. Make sure all your organization’s staff are always friendly, courteous
and professional when engaging with donors and board members, whether it’s in person, over the phone or via email.
newsletters (print and/or online), social media posts and annual reports are some of the ways to keep donors up to
date on your organization’s accomplishments and needs.
but once a year simply isn’t enough in most cases. Many fundraising professionals recommend you have at least one
“touch point” with your major donors at least once a quarter;2 some recommend you reach out to your
donors and prospects in some way at least once a month.
include. This can help you analyze the effectiveness of your newsletters’ content (for more information on software
you can use to help create robust newsletters and emails, see the chapter “Essential Software Your Nonprofit Needs to
Increase Donations”). Donors also enjoy
hearing stories about the people or causes their donations have helped. Make sure these stories are compelling, and
include photos if possible.
need to ask people for donations more than once a year. Some organizations ask their donors for their donations
quarterly or even more frequently than that.
donors prefer to give a gift at a different time of year or make multiple gifts throughout the year. A look at your
donors’ giving history and a carefully planned year-round fundraising strategy can help you decide how often to
solicit your donors.
them.”3 He suggests frequently using the word “you” rather than “we” when communicating with donors. For
example, a fundraising appeal should say “With your generosity, you helped construct a new building …” rather than
“Our capital campaign was a big success, and we thank everyone who donated.” Using the adjectives fair, kind,
compassionate, helpful, caring, friendly, generous, honest and hardworking have been shown to make donors feel
contributions have truly made a difference to your organization. You might even consider having an annual event to
thank donors or honor them. This is not a fundraising event, but strictly an event thanking everyone. It can be
simple (for instance, coffee and cookies, or wine and cheese), but your donors will feel appreciated.
become repeat donors, but they’ll also become ambassadors for your organization and encourage others to donate as