Donor management: Nonprofit tips for retaining donors

Nonprofits aren’t simply organizations with a mission. In many ways, they function as the pillars of a community, bringing together people in need with people who want to help and funneling resources toward a worthy cause. The people with those resources are often donors, and their continued support is paramount — both for serving the community and holding together the nonprofit organization itself.

Donor retention is an area of great concern within the charity sector. A 2018 study by the Fundraising Effectiveness Project found average retention rates to be just 45.5 percent in 2017. Donor management strategies are key to ensuring a continual flow of funds for your organization.

Many do-gooders at heart, especially those in charge of smaller organizations, might feel icky about the idea of “donor management” — but when done right, it can actually make your nonprofit more authentically engaging and of greater service to the world.

What is donor management?

In many ways, donor management is synonymous with data management. It’s all about recording and tracking donations, donor engagement, and details about who donors are and what they care about. When a donor gives generously to your nonprofit, that forges a relationship — donor management then tracks those details to create an even deeper partnership.

If you think about it, you probably have similar records (at least mentally) of your relationships with friends and family. You’re aware of your history together as well as their personal lives and preferences. Ideally, your organization will have a lot more donors than you do personal relationships. And since this is more akin to a business relationship, a database is not only justified but incredibly important.

Managing donor data

The information you keep about donors will depend on the type of nonprofit you run and your organization’s goals. However, there are some basic details you should always keep about each donor, such as

  • Name and contact information
  • Records of all donations and event attendance
  • Volunteer status
  • Personal interactions you and your team have had with them
  • What communications they receive from the organization
  • Whether or not they respond to or even open emails

Jotform has templates and tools designed to collect all of this data, including donation and donor information. You can customize donation receipts to match your nonprofit’s branding and deliver additional calls to action (CTAs).

To effectively use your database, conduct additional work to organize it. This is where donor segmentation comes in. This strategy for data management categorizes donors into different groups that will help you determine how to best approach them in the future. Examples of different segments include

  • Recurring donors
  • One-time donors
  • Volunteers
  • Event attendees who haven’t donated
  • Event attendees who have donated
  • Large donors

The characteristics that define these segments mean you might need to engage them in different ways. Recurring donors are committed to and interested in your organization or cause — so they’ll benefit most from pertinent updates about the good their donations are doing. Conversely, you’ll need to target one-time donors with communications designed to learn more about them and convert them into recurring donors.

All of this creates a deeper level of engagement with your donors, which makes it less likely they’ll tune out.

Using the data

Vast and well-organized data about your donors is only as useful as the way you strategize and take action with it.

Your segments will allow you to personalize communications by precise degrees. For example, one segment might be for donors who made their first donation at a charity event. You can further parse this data by the actual event where they first donated.

This will then allow you to send emails to your database with lines such as, “Ever since you made your first donation at [name of event]…” This level of specificity can go a long way in building relationships and driving deeper engagement. It reminds the donor how they began their relationship with your nonprofit and demonstrates that you care about that relationship.

Donor data and segmentation also provide an opportunity to escalate your CTAs. For example, if you have a segment for recurring donors who always donate $50 every single month as well as during a holiday or other milestone, you can thank them for their specific contribution level and comfortably ask them for a one-time donation of $75 instead for the special occasion.

If they’ve expressed interest in volunteering at an event or through one of your surveys, you can also add that CTA to any of your communications with them.

Donor management is critical for donor retention

At its core, donor management has nothing to do with finding sneaky marketing strategies to get more money from your base; it’s about keeping track of your donors so you can help them better serve the community.

For whatever reason — whether it was your organization or the cause itself — something inspired each and every one of your donors to provide that first gift. Giving to your nonprofit gave something to them as well, emotional or otherwise.

Donor management is ultimately a way to maximize what your donors are receiving so they feel good about continued giving.

This article is originally published on Oct 05, 2020, and updated on Jan 25, 2022.

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