Donor retention should be a top concern at nonprofits of all sizes. But often, retention takes a backseat to acquisition as nonprofits focus on growth. And it’s a problem across the nonprofit sector. According to the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ 2018 report, only about half of new donors are retained by nonprofits. From their report, “for every 100 donors gained, 99 were lost through attrition.” That’s a big deal. Especially when you consider that it costs nonprofits more to acquire a new donor than retain an existing one.

In this post, we’ll take the donor retention puzzle and break it down into easy, actionable steps you can take today to start improving your nonprofit’s donor retention rate.

Donor Retention, Explained

At its core, donor retention is a simple mathematical equation. It’s the number of donors that give one year who come back to give the following year. So, if you had 500 donors in 2017, you’d look to find how many of those donors returned to make a gift in 2018. Then, you divide your 2018 returning donors by your total number of donors from 2017. That’s your donor retention rate.

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For Mightycause Advanced subscribers, we do the math for you on your analytics page.

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But, in practice, donor retention is more than just math. This formula can help you figure out where your nonprofit is with donor retention. But knowing your donor retention rate by itself won’t help you improve — you need to understand why people give, why they choose to give again, and what prevents them from coming back to make a second gift.

Donor Retention Tips

There’s lots of information out there about donor retention. The factors to consider, how to build a stronger donor retention strategy … and we’ve covered those things here on this blog in the past. With these donor retention tips, we want to leave you with some quick wins to help get your donor retention on track. Because it’s all well and good to talk about donor retention in the abstract, but the key to making it work is finding practical ways to better engage donors.

Donor Retention Tip #1: Crunch the Numbers

The first step in focusing on donor retention is understanding where you’re at. So, you’ll need to calculate your donor retention rate, pull your data, and take stock of where your nonprofit currently is with donor retention. But, don’t stop there! Find out how many recurring donors you have, too.

Mightycause has revamped our donation reporting to make this easier than ever.

We’ve added new ways to filter your donation report. You can now pull a report based on the month, year, week, and more.

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You can also search for donations by type, which easily allows you to find recurring donations, refunded donations, and more.

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And you can filter your report by page type, to hone in on the best sources of donations on Mightycause.

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Use your donations reporting tools to get a full picture of where your nonprofit is right now. Knowledge is power — and a great place to start when you’re looking to make a change to your nonprofit’s practices!

Donor Retention Tip #2: Take Control of the Donation Process

The donation process itself is paramount in whether donors return. Not only can a good, convenient experience increase the odds of a donor returning … but it’s your chance to collect the information you need to follow up with that donor.

Mightycause has a tool called Donor Experience that allows you to customize the donation process. Have you checked your Donor Experience settings lately? Do you know what information you’re collecting from donors? Are you getting what you need to follow up? If it’s been awhile, or you’ve never checked your Donor Experience settings, there’s no time like the present!

donation report screen

Essential Donor Experience Settings

Donor Experience isn’t just one tool — it’s many. Here are the tools you should pay close attention to, and customize if possible.

Custom Donation Suggestions

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We suggest ensuring that these are turned on and customized. This is a critical point in the donation process — where donors decide how much to give. They can also decide whether to give on a recurring basis on this screen. So, use the space to make your case for giving in amounts that are meaningful to your nonprofit. You can also use these options to suggest monthly amounts, and describe what those amounts can help your nonprofit do.

Data Collection

By default, Mightycause will collect the name and email address of each donor. But if your nonprofit needs more to follow up with them, data collection is where you’ll ensure you get that information! You can collect an address (which is important if you send thank you letters or a welcome packet), a phone number (that you can use to call the donor up and thank them for their contribution), and basic demographic information.

You can preview your checkout process when you’re done. Remember that each piece of information you collect adds a step, so think about what is most meaningful for your nonprofit to have when choosing what data to collect!

Donor Retention Tip #3: Improve Your Thank You

How critical is a thank you? Well, it can be the deciding factor in whether donors come back to give to your nonprofit again. And it’s not just the quality of the thank you that’s important, it’s how quickly donors receive it.

Thank You Tools on Mightycause

You have tools to thank your donors located in your Donor Experience, under “Post Checkout.” The first is your thank you page. This is a page that displays right after a donor completes their donation, and it is a critical touchpoint.

thank you page screenshot

We recommend customizing this as much as possible. Use this page to thank your donor, and reiterate what your nonprofit does. Adding content like photos or videos can help the story of your nonprofit’s work resonate more deeply with donors. And you can add a CTA button to your thank you page, to direct them where you want at a key moment.

Some good ideas for your CTA button are: your website, your Facebook page, your blog, somewhere they are learn more about what you do, a survey to find out how their experience was (which we’ll discuss more in the next tip).

You can also add a customized message to donors that’s emailed to them automatically after they complete their donation. This is another important touchpoint with donors. So, customize this message, thank your donors, and automate donor acknowledgement.

Donor Retention Tip #4: Get Feedback

One of the biggest donor retention tips we can give you is to solicit feedback from your donors. It works in two important ways.

  1. It’s a great way to engage a donor after their donation is made. Asking for feedback is an excellent “non-ask” follow-up. You’re continuing the conversation with the donor in a meaningful way, keeping them involved, without jumping to another monetary ask. Furthermore, it tells your donors that they are important and you care what they think.
  2. Donor feedback will help your nonprofit improve. Getting honest feedback from donors about their experience can help you improve the experience for everyone. Talking to donors can help your nonprofit identify barriers to donating you may not have thought of and help you optimize your donation process.

So, start soliciting feedback today! You can start by building a survey with a free form-builder application (like Typeform) and sticking a link on your thank you page, and in your follow-up emails to donors. Require that donors leave their phone number on the survey so you can hop on the phone and discuss their feedback with them directly.

Get information like how the donor found your nonprofit, where they found the link to donate, and how the process was. You can also start learning more about your donors’ motivations by asking about what issues they care the most about or which programs of your nonprofit’s they’re most excited about supporting.

Donor Retention Tip #5: Take Your Thank Yous Offline

So, Mightycause helps you automate your digital thank yous. But don’t stop there! A swift, personal thank you is essential to retaining donors. If a donor is new, have one of your staff members send them a quick, personalize email. Or, if you collected the donor’s phone number, have a staff member or volunteer call them to thank them for their support.

These are simple tactics, but they work. Automated messages are great, but they simply cannot replace the power of a connection with a human being. Your thank you is your opportunity to start building a relationship with a donor, so view your thank you as the bridge to the next donation in order to start improving donor retention.

Close the Loop

As part of your donor follow-up, make sure to get back in touch after you’ve said your thank yous to show your impact. What did their donation help you accomplish? If you were fundraising for a specific goal, did you reach your goal?

Closing the loop and showing your impact is a key part of making the donation experience satisfying for donors — and an important way to continue the conversation about your nonprofit’s work.

Make Donor Retention a Priority at Your Nonprofit

These quick tips can help you make progress and help you improve your donor retention. But donor retention is an ongoing process. To see more donors return, you’ll need to have a comprehensive plan for keeping donors engaged, regularly evaluate how you’re doing, and make adjustments as needed.

So often, nonprofits focus on donor acquisition over donor retention. And that’s a huge mistake. While donor acquisition is important, it’s even more important (not to mention cost-effective) to focus on keeping the donors you’ve already got engaged. If you make donor retention a priority at your nonprofit, and utilize the tools Mightycause has made available to you to engage donors, you’ll see greater returns and more loyal donors.

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