Back to Blog

4 Retention Tips Every NPO Needs

4 Retention Tips Every NPO Needs

Did you know that three out of four new donors become disinterested, leave, and never come back? According to a recent study, retention rates have weakened steadily over the past decade, averaging below 50 percent. But you have the power to turn these numbers around.

But it’s not about donor acquisition and replacing lost donors with new ones. It costs five times as much to attract a new donor than is does to maintain the relationships you’ve already established. Cultivating these relationships will improve donor retention—and your bottom line.


So what can your NPO do to retain more donors?


Act fast when someone makes a donation


What do you do when someone makes a donation? If you’re answer is nothing, your donor pool is already gone.

Consider creating a welcome pack as a way to say thank you. This can include promotional items like t-shirts or products relevant to your mission, but it can also be informational.


A drip campaign, or a series of automated emails that are sent over a certain period of time after your donor signs up, can make them feel welcome and appreciated. It can also be a useful tool for showing them how their donation is being used and to introduce them to other ways of supporting your mission.


A welcome drip campaign may look something like this:

  • Day of donation: Thank you email
  • Week 2: Impact story
  • Week 3: Introduce other ways to get involved
  • Week 4: Invitation to "exclusive" event—like an upcoming webinar, podcast, or live event. The webinar can even be prerecorded and sent as a “gift” for their donation. If it’s a live event, you can give them VIP Tickets that entitle them to something free if they show up.

Instead of a thank you email, you may want to consider a phone call. In her book Donor-centered Fundraising, fundraiser Penelope Burk shows that a thank-you call to a newly acquired donor yields 40 percent more revenue in year two of the relationship.


The content of the emails and the frequency at which you send are totally up to you, but the need to thank your donors is not. And it’s not just because saying thank you is the nice thing to do; it cultivates a relationship with the donor by showing gratitude and actually gives you opportunities to expand your reach.


Don’t stop communicating


While it’s okay to slow down the frequency of your communication with donors to once or twice per month after their first month, don’t stop all together.


Continue to share impact stories. Introduce members of your team. Do everything you can to humanize your organization. If they’re not already a monthly recurring donor, you can use some of your email communication to motivate them to sign up.


Also take advantage of industry trends like #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving that happens on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving and uses social media to encourage people to get involved and give back during a time when holiday shopping is on the rise.


Work to understand why your donors are motivated to give


When you understand who your donors are and what drives them, your communications, stories, and asks will all have a lot more impact because they will connect with the person on a deeper level.


Building donor profiles is a great way to get to know your constituents better—as people, not constituents. This is a pretty meaty subject that we’ve covered in these blogs:

The ultimate goal of a donor profile is to understand the person who made the donation and why they made it so you can tap into that psychological driver and increase their support of and loyalty to your cause.


Through donor profiles, you may come to realize that you have a few different people you want to communicate with. Most commonly, new donors, active donors, and inactive donors. By segmenting constituents into these lists, you can send more targeted messages to each instead of including them in a “catch all” kind of email.


Ask what you can do better


Companies like SurveyMonkey and Typeform exist to make it easier for you to source information directly from the donors you want to retain. If you’ve tried everything and still see them leaving, consider using a survey to find out why.


You can send this in an email with a message asking for their feedback or you can implement the survey as an exit pop-up. When it looks like they’re about to leave your website, an exit pop-up will appear asking people for their feedback.


If you’ve segmented your email lists already (see tip #3), you can send this to existing donors only.  An exit pop-up on your site is more useful to source information from everyone who visits your site, not just existing donors.


Stop losing donors


Donor retention is just one facet of everything your nonprofit must do to be successful. For more tips, check out the rest of our blog and be sure to check out our all-in-one online fundraising solution. You can sign up for a free demo now.