Nonprofit Donor Retention: Engaging New Donors Year-Round

Meredith Gray • Sep 23, 2022
woman holding up a love sign

The busy year-end season is quickly approaching! Nonprofits expect to see an uptick in donation numbers and donor retention rates. If you don’t put in time, attention, and resources to retain those new donors, you’ll leave valuable relationships and support on the table.

After all, if you give a small online donation to a nonprofit on Giving Tuesday and then never hear from them again, aside from receiving a quick thank-you email and a handful of additional donation appeals in the coming year, you’re unlikely to be highly motivated to give again. No effort was put into deepening the relationship, so why would it stay at the top of the donor’s mind?

But, with intention and effort put into donor retention, you’ll see some amazing results over the years and boost your overall fundraising efficiency. It’s time to update your fundraising strategy to lessen the burden of costly acquisition campaigns. Here’s how you can engage your new donors and turn them into loyal supporters over time.

donor stewardship

Retain Your Donors with this Donor Stewardship Matrix

1. Start by actively tracking your donor retention metrics.

You can’t improve what you don’t measure! According to AccuData, your first order of business is ensuring that you’re following data hygiene best practices. 

A huge number of Giving Tuesday donors gave to nonprofits in both 2021 and 2020 (an impressive 26% as of 2022). Your own retention rates might be below or even above this figure, but you need a baseline to start measuring performance and iterating strategies. If you’re not tracking this metric to see how your own numbers compare, start this year to see your strengths and how you can improve.

Record donor retention metrics across campaigns and from year to year. Ensure that your donation tools are integrated with your CRM so that you can:

  • Automatically create and update comprehensive donor profiles. Having up-to-date and detailed information about your donors is the best way to strategically contact them and get to know them. They’re more likely to give again if you have a relationship deeper than a surface-level, transactional one. Ensure your CRM automatically updates donor profiles if you receive new information about them and deletes duplicates. Set aside time to conduct periodic outreach to fix any anomalies in your records. Plus, keeping thorough records is especially necessary for researching your prospects, which is an important long-term fundraising strategy.
  • Tag incoming donations with the associated campaign and source. Work in your CRM to categorize where your gifts are going, who’s donating, and through which channels. Staying organized is the best way to determine which campaigns are succeeding and which need more attention, as well as which marketing outlets are yielding the best results with different donor segments.
  • Use integrations for accomplishing analytics tasks. User-friendly and donor-facing tools should be integrated whenever possible, including on your donation page, forms on your website, other giving methods like text-to-give, and any advocacy tools you might use.

With proper database maintenance, your CRM will help you adapt your donor retention strategies to your donor trends so you know which campaigns need more attention.

2. Plan new campaigns with retention in mind from the start.

As you plan new campaigns and marketing strategies in the coming year, think ahead to how you’ll intentionally target previous donors. Donor retention is a highly feasible fundraising strategy, so you should put resources towards strengthening it. Engaging these donors should be a top priority in most campaigns, aside from those you might launch specifically to reach new audiences. 

Additionally, you should study segmentation techniques and take a fresh look at how you approach segmentation before each campaign. Target previous donors with special communication streams, offers, and even small events. These separate communications will make your donors feel specifically catered to, making it more likely that they’ll trust your organization and make a donation.

3. Offer diverse ways to engage year-round.

No matter which segment of your audience you’re targeting, your organization should consistently offer new ways for your supporters to get involved beyond just donating. After all, if you have more ways to give, you’re providing necessary flexibility to your donors that may be burnt out by financial donations. If you have donor retention in mind, you should create new initiatives that appeal to them and encourage them to give through these campaigns. Here are some examples of giving options besides donating money.

  • Peer-to-peer fundraising. A great example of a fun, non-traditional donation option is peer-to-peer fundraising. You can launch an initiative that encourages repeat donors to get in the driver’s seat and represent your nonprofit. This will not only ignite your repeat donors’ enthusiasm for your organization, but it will broadcast your nonprofit to their networks and increase new donor acquisition. 
  • Volunteering. Money isn’t the only thing your supporters can contribute! Asking your repeat donors to volunteer their time is another valuable way to get their support. It’s also helpful to engage donors that might not have the flexibility in their budget to give financially but still want to help out however they can. You might even be able to organize a corporate volunteering outing with the right partnership!
  • Matching gifts. This giving opportunity can effortlessly amplify your supporter’s donation with the click of a button! Encourage your returning donors to give by magnifying their impact. This will inspire donors employed by companies who match gifts to donate because it’s easy to make a huge difference to your organization.

Targeting your returning donors with these strategies will get them excited to give to your nonprofit once more.

4. Have a specialized retention communication strategy.

When communicating with previous donors, maintaining and growing engagement is the name of the game. You shouldn’t go at it willy-nilly, or you could lose focus and confuse your audience. Instead, work with your team to create campaign-specific and generalized email streams aimed at retained donors. Here are some content ideas to include in your communications to boost engagement:

  • Impact stories resulting from gifts from retained donors
  • Volunteer opportunities
  • Newsletter with current events and signup opportunities
  • Merch deals for previous donors
  • Special events, such as webinars and panel discussions
  • Partner promotions
  • Satisfaction surveys
  • Q&As with organization leadership or beneficiaries

Don’t make every touchpoint about requesting a transaction or their time – remember that the overarching goal is to keep them involved and connected to your mission. Also remember to prioritize previous donor outreach on multiple channels – drive social media engagement, send direct mail, and promote text-to-give opportunities, just to name a few.

5. Recognize and appreciate your retained donors!

Appreciation should be an integral component of your overall engagement efforts. Make sure previous donors understand how much you value their continued support in the present.

There are many more ways to show your appreciation besides an automated thank-you email. In fact, your donors will appreciate out-of-the-box ideas and personalized appreciation efforts. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Small gifts, like branded merchandise
  • Personalized thank-you messages on handwritten cards
  • Invitations to special events, like a donor cookout or a private lunch with your organization’s leadership
  • First priority to sign up for unique opportunities and events
  • Chance to share their donor journey to your online community through a guest-author blog post
  • A special feature on your social media
  • Virtual and in-person donor wall

The impact of gifts should also anchor your recognition and appreciation communication. You’re thanking your donors both for their financial gifts and the impact that their gifts had on your mission. Make these messages straightforward and supported by data. 

For example, if your donor gave to your year-end food drive last year, include some impact data about how many meals their donation provided. Putting their financial gift into a tangible form might encourage them to consider donating again, as they can visualize their effect.


Ultimately, maximizing your organization’s retention rate is an integral part of streamlining your fundraising efforts. 

You’re already at an advantage, as these supporters had a reason for donating to you in the past. Now, you just need to remind them of why they should give to your nonprofit again and how their gift will go a long way toward bettering their community. Tailor your messaging towards retained donors, and they’ll be sure to remember exactly why they love your nonprofit.