The month of December is your last chance to retain donors for the year. Donor retention is an important metric of your nonprofit’s fundraising effectiveness… and it’s also something nonprofits regularly struggle with. According to the 2021 M+R Benchmarks Report, overall online donor retention was 36%, with some categories of nonprofits sinking even lower than that. So, what can you do to make sure your organization is retaining donors? And how can you make a final donor retention push for this year?

In this post, we’ll lay out three action items that will help improve your donor retention before the start of the new year.

How to Calculate Donor Retention

Donor retention is a pretty simple metric. It’s the number of donors from one year (for instance, 2021) compared to the number of donors who gave again the following year (2022). But if you don’t want to do that math, no worries! On Mightycause, we do it for you.

year end donor retention: overview screen with donor retention calculated

On your nonprofit’s Overview screen, you’ll find a few quick metrics for your nonprofit, including donor retention. You can also plug in any metrics you want to track there on an ongoing basis.

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Finding Unretained Donors

Mightycause makes this wildly simple for you, too. All you need to do to pull the names and information of donors that have yet to be retained for this year is pull up your Retention report. Once you export your spreadsheet, you can sort the data, plug it into your email marketing program of choice, or start reaching out personally!

Donor Retention Has Never Been Easier

1. Plan a Blast Email to Unretained Donors

The simplest thing you can possibly do to improve donor retention before the end of the year is to send out a blast email in the final week.

Grab your list. Plug it into your email marketing program. And build a simple email asking your unretained donors from the past year to come back and support your nonprofit again this year. Here’s a template you can use:

Hi [Donor First Name],

It’s been a great year for [Organization Name], and we couldn’t have done any of it without your generous support from last year. This year, we [Insert Accomplishments].

We still have so much work to do, though. In the new year, we hope to [Insert Goals]. And to get started on these ambitious projects, we need your support. We know we can count on you to help when it counts, and I’m writing to ask you if you will make a donation of [Suggested Amount Based on Last Year Donation] to [Organization Name] before our fundraising deadline of midnight on December 31st.

Thank you so much for your ongoing support of our mission, and with your donation, we look forward to achieving even more for [Cause]!



We’ve got even more email templates available for download to help you find some year-end inspiration!

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Email for December 31st

Something you can plan on doing as a last-ditch effort to get donations from your unretained donors is have an email built and ready to go on December 31st. About midday, pull your list of unretained donors from your Donor Retention Report, plug it into your email marketing program, and hit send.

Adding some additional urgent language (such as “last chance to give before the midnight deadline!”) can help inspire them to action.

2. Do Personal Outreach

Blast emails will only get you so far. The average person receives over 100 emails per day. And lots of those emails won’t be read. That’s where personal outreach can make a huge difference.

It’s easy to forget about the power of connecting personally with a donor in the digital age. But it does make a difference! Here are a few ways you can make personal outreach doable and effective.

Phone Banking

So, the term “phone bank” may conjure images of the rows of telephones ringing off the hook that were answered by volunteers during a telethon. But phone banking is actually pretty simple in this day and age, especially as the pandemic has slowed and many are now working remotely and moving towards more flexible schedules!

  1. Compile your list of donors who will get phone calls. Depending on the size of your list, you may want to reserve phone calls to people who gave in larger amounts. Sort your donor data in a way that makes sense for your nonprofit’s size and capacity for making phone calls!
  2. Write a phone script. The good news is most people will let call from numbers they don’t recognize go right to voicemail, so include a quick script for voicemail messages. For phone calls, write a script for a quick introduction (“Hi, I’m [NAME] and I’m a [VOLUNTEER] at [NONPROFIT]. I don’t want to take too much of your time today but I wanted to ask if you’d be willing to make another donation to [NONPROFIT] before December 31st, like you did this past year.”) Include a few talking points about your accomplishments and how donations are use for callers.
  3. Organize your callers. This is a great job for volunteers or even for your board to get involved with. Split your list up and assign donors for each person to call. (A shared Google Sheet would also work!) Then, send them their list of donors, and their script, and ask them to start calling!

This is something people can easily do from the comfort of their own homes, and it’ll make a huge difference in the number of donors you retain.

Personal Emails

You’d want to approach this similarly to phone banking, by splitting up your list and providing a script. Dividing and conquering means that a team of 3-4 people can make a huge dent in a big list in just an hour or two. So, even if you’re busy (and we’re sure you’re are), this is an effort that’s well worth the time spent on it.

3. Send a Note in the Mail

The top source of year-end donations is direct mail marketing. We’re not recommending that you start using direct mail marketing if you don’t already have that in place, but you can certainly use that data point to find a creative way to retain donors! Why not send them a holiday card thanking them for their past support and telling them you’re hoping you can count on their support again this year?

This doesn’t need to be an expensive endeavor, or a particularly time-consuming one. Again, dividing and conquering can make this process roll along at a much faster pace!

If you have blank note cards already available at your nonprofit, use those! Generic holiday cards from a stationary or greeting card store work just fine, too. Have your staff write handwritten notes in the cards, put the donors’ names and addresses on the envelope, and send them off in the mail.

The reason this tactic can work is that the reason many donors lapse is simply because the nonprofit either failed to thank them for their donation, or failed to engage them. By combining both in a personal card from your nonprofit to them, you’re offering an olive branch and righting both of those wrongs. It can be just the prompt donors need to come back and make another donation.

What to Write

Brevity is the soul of wit, and it’s also going to make writing in a bunch of cards a lot easier! Keep it simple. Thank the donor for their support last year, and name a few key things you accomplished in the past year that wouldn’t have been possible without their support. Then, include a line that asks them to help you out again in the new year, with short instructions about how to donate. (Such as your website, your Mightycause profile, etc.)

Start this process sooner rather than later! The postal service usually experiences delays in December due to volume and this year these delays have seen an increase. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to utilize this approach.

Donor Attrition: Why Nonprofits Lose Donors (And How to Bring Them Back)

Whether you follow one or all three of these steps to improve year-end donor retention, there needs to be an effort to prevent donors from lapsing in the month of December. These donors have already given once, so it’s highly likely they’ll be willing to give again! In most cases, it’s just a matter of asking, and making sure that you’re asking in a personal, authentic way.

Need End-of-Year Fundraising Ideas & Tips?

We’ve got an ebook for that! It’s free to download and contains end-of-year fundraising ideas, best practices, and tips for engaging donors.

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Want to learn more?

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