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Allyson Kapin 4 min read

The Great Mysteries of Donor Retention

All nonprofits struggle with donor retention. It's a buzz word, it's a motivation, and it's a burden. We're reaching the fundraising season where asks are being tailored and success stories are being drafted.

You might think that your donors are a mystery. I'm going to let you in on a little secret: your donors should never be a mystery.

Here's a challenge for you. Get to know your donors, and let them really get to know your organization. Think about it like donor dating. (Donor love is how Blackbaud npExperts frame the subject, and we dug into the second part of their recent report for this blog post.)

36% of donors give more generously to charities that communicate measurable accomplishments.

How to be a good communicator and "date" your donors:

  • Don't just communicate with facts and stats. Donors respond to stories with emotion that offer drama, emotion, and human connection. Show them just how passionate you are about your cause and get them on board by telling stories. Stories are what put the statistics in context.
  • Pass the talking stick. Make sure you're giving a voice to a diverse array of people at your organization. Give a couple of dedicated volunteers, program staff members, or clients with success stories the mic. Have them write their stories up, and share them with your donors.
  • Meet your donors where they're at. Some of your donors are extremely connected to email and mobile, but others still appreciate that newsletter delivered by the postal service. Some people like both. Make sure that you email your donors, but also mail them letters, especially if they are responsive to mail. However, if they aren't don't waste your money and paper. 
  • Engage your board members. Engaging your board members in the retention process is critical. Get your board members to understand the importance of donors, and then have them support you. Your board members can call your donors to thank them personally. They can also reach out to their personal networks to recruit new donors. If your organization has a big gala or benefit auction, have your board members donate their time and services. Chances are your board members have prestigious reputations. I know that some of your donors would love to seek out their advice and would pay for it all while supporting your organization.

With holidays, year-end fundraisers, and Giving Tuesday approaching, this is a lot to consider. We want you to succeed. What are your tried and true methods for donor retention?


Allyson Kapin

Allyson has been named one of "Top Tech Titans" by the Washingtonian, one of the Most Influential Women In Tech by Fast Company, and one of the top 30 women entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter by Forbes for her leadership role in technology and social media. As Founding Partner of Rad Campaign, she leads the firm's client and online strategic services. For over a decade Allyson has helped non-profit organizations and political campaigns create dynamic and award-winning websites and online marketing and recruitment campaigns. She works side-by-side with her clients to meet their web needs and maximize their online effectiveness to create real world impact.