January 11, 2016

3 Smart Ways to Retain, Renew, and Upgrade Donors

For this month’s Connect theme, a number of speakers are previewing the great breakout sessions they are preparing for the 2016 Nonprofit Technology Conference in San Jose, CA March 23-25. Following is a preview of one of over 100 breakout sessions.

"You've been generous; thank you"

Donations are crucial to the operations of all nonprofit organizations. Unfortunately for nonprofits, donation numbers have continued to drop in recent years. According to a survey of nonprofits in 2014, for every $100 in new donations, these organizations lost $95 in lapsed or reduced donations. Although that is still a 5% gain, these figures are disappointing to say the least.

Along with losses in this area, nonprofits are also feeling the impact of a reduction in recurring donations. In the survey, charities stated that the percentage of 2013 donors that made repeat gifts to their organizations in 2014 was only 43%; meaning that more donors leave than stay.

Is there anything an organization can do to counteract these growing issues with donors? Have no fear! There are various ways for organizations to retain and engage their donors and we’ve listed some tips below:

There’s Hope: How to retain donors

It’s one thing to attract new donors to your organization. However, it can be a more difficult task retaining these new supporters in the longer term. Here are a few ways you can increase your donor retention:

  • Show them how they’ve helped you: One of the best ways to retain and engage donors is by showing them the positive impact they have had on your organization and your beneficiaries. A recent study found that nonprofits can greatly affect how they retain and gain donors by constantly sharing quality content with them. Whether through infographics, blogs, or a “year in review” email, you should try to keep your donors in the loop on what wonderful things your nonprofit is doing with their donations.
  • Link the donation to the project: Donors also like to see the direct link between their donation and your project. Breaking down your projects or programs into elements that donors can sponsor can help them to better visualize this link. For example, instead of requesting a donation of $100 towards your meal program, request a donation of $100 to provide meals for a family of 4 for a week. By telling a story about their donation, you help them to feel more connected to your cause.
  • “A simple ‘thank you’ would be nice”: This one seems obvious, and most organization do send an email or letter to recognize a donation. But how can you take it to the next level? Call them! That’s right, with a good ole telephone. In Penelope Burk’s book, she reports that 95% of donors would appreciate a thank-you call within 2 days of donating; and 85% said such a thank you call would influence them to give again. By simply reaching out to donors in the most personal form of telecommunication, you have the potential to exponentially increase your organization’s donor retention.

Renew the Loyalty of Past Donors

In recent years, many donors have taken a “one and done” approach to nonprofit giving. The idea of donor loyalty seems to be on its way out. Some organizations are fearful of this trend, when there is no real need to be! There are many things you can do to renew the spirit of donors, and here we’ve listed steps you can take to turn your “past supporters” into current supporters:

  • Reconnect: When reconnecting, it’s important to maintain a sense of openness and honesty. This can be done by using a more personalized form of communication e.g. phone call. In this step, the goal should be to acquire honest feedback from the individual while also showing your willingness to understand why they’ve had a lapse in donations.
  • Give an update: Let them know what you’ve been up to since their last contact with the organization. By letting them know the great things the organization is accomplishing and planning to achieve in the future, you can reacquaint them with the reasons they started donating in the first place.
  • Tell them you miss them: The key to this step is sounding sincere, without showing signs of desperation. The caller must state that they miss their contributions to the organization, and should remind them of the positive impact the donor made in the past. In doing so, the donor’s spirit will be reinvigorated by remembering the great feeling they had when they contributed to your organization’s mission.
  • Invite and ask: Once renewing their sense of philanthropy, seal the deal by inviting the donor back to join in the organization’s mission. After making an invitation, finish the conversation with the ask. Not necessarily a monetary ask, but something like a volunteering opportunity or an event invitation. This will allow you to renew the donor’s sense of trust, and restore your relationship for future interactions.

How to Encourage Donors to Increase Donations and Engagement

After clearing the initial hurdle of acquiring a new donor, an organization must make continual effort to engage these individuals and encourage more donations. In the modern era, organizations now have the ability to utilize new technologies to develop stronger relationships with their donors. Here are some ways for you to increase donations and engagement in 2016:

  • Use data to be strategic: Every time someone makes a donation make sure to gather and store as much data as possible on that donation. What time of the year was it? Was it because of a specific campaign? Are they connected to other donors? (eg. Family members) Was it a memorial or tribute? Was it around their birthday or another holiday? Once you have all this information, you can then use it to better time and craft your future communications with them. You can use past donation amounts to ensure you send requests that are in line with what they feel comfortable donating. You can time the request so that it happens when they are most likely to give, based on their previous behavior. You can mention specific events such as their birthday or holiday they celebrated with a donation in the past to encourage them to donate again. By tailoring your communication to the specific individual, you show them that they matter.
  • Treat likes, followers, and social media engagements like gold: In the social age, nonprofits should place high value on engagement through sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, etc. Simple thank you messages to new followers and likers, acknowledgement of shares and retweets, and personal messages are various ways you can increase donor engagement, while showing appreciation and gratitude to your donors.
  • Thanks (again): Not only is calling donors and thanking them a great way of retaining them, but it can also make them give more! Penelope Burke reports that 84% of donors that received punctual thank you calls said that they would definitely or probably give a larger gift in the future. Obvious, but powerful; say thank you and increase your donations.

Although there have been decreases in donation numbers for nonprofits, it’s not an uphill battle! There are many things organizations can do to react to these growing issues and increase donor engagement and retention. By continuing to innovate and look for ingenious ways to engage and retain, nonprofits will still be able to gain the necessary funding to support their missions in the future.

Want more ideas on how you can use your donor data to increase donations and engagement? Check out our free eBook, How Your Data Can Change the World: 5 nonprofit tips for using better data to do more good.

Feature photo credit: Jon Ashcroft

(Image hyperlink to http://altusdynamics.hs-sites.com/use-your-data-to-change-the-world)

Melissa Alvares
A graduate of the Science & Business program at The University of Waterloo, Melissa started her career in technology as a Co-op student at Microsoft and since then she’s accumulated over 13 years of marketing experience in the IT industry. Before joining Altus she worked creating digital, print and event marketing campaigns for brands such as IBM, Cisco, VMware and HP. During her time at Softchoice, she was responsible for developing their “Green IT” strategy which won Softchoice Top Green IT solution provider and Melissa herself was named one of “Top 25 IT Newsmakers” and “Top 25 Women in the IT Channel” for the project. Melissa is an avid Ultimate Frisbee player, new mom and has a passion for adventure travel that has included climbing to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, white-water rafting down the Ganges in India, mountain biking down the world’s most dangerous road in Bolivia, scuba-diving in Thailand and many more crazy things that she’ll now never let her kids do. Melissa truly believes that technology can change the world for the better, and loves that she gets to see that in action every day at Altus. She’s been involved in building computer labs and teaching technology skills in rural Rwanda and Uganda, and locally is a regular volunteer at the Daily Bread Food Bank and mentoring new immigrants through the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC). She recently launched the social media campaign “I’m what happens” to bring awareness to the contributions and success of refugees. Melissa will be speaking at NTEN16 during the session “Relationship Building 101: How to Make Your Constituents Fall In Love With You”
Interest Categories: Fundraising
Tags: donor management, fundraising strategy