Strengthening Donor Loyalty



In times of economic uncertainty, we usually turn to our most faithful supporters to help keep the financial stability of our organizations steady. As the likelihood of an economic recession grows, this year it will be even more essential for nonprofits to find and retain new donors. 


Sometimes, even despite best efforts – some donors just stop giving. Maybe they lose interest and drift away, or they find another organization that better resonates with their values. It’s inevitable that no one donor will give forever. But putting in the effort to build quality relationships will more likely result in them sticking around. Like any relationship in life, it’s important to express gratitude, show appreciation, and recognize your supporters for all they’ve done to help advance your mission. 


It’s first worth noting how donor retention compares to donor loyalty. Retention is more of a transactional, emotionless word. Shifting the narrative to focus on a word like loyal to describe an ideal donor humanizes them, and proves that they’re not just numbers, but real people who care about your cause. 


Striking a healthy balance of new and existing donors is a challenge for any nonprofit. Many are always on the acquisition hunt. But one of the best ways to find new donors is by first turning to your current ones. Who accompanies them to fundraising events? Who is sharing their social media posts that highlights the cause? Taking the time to research, meet, and engage prospective donors who have an existing connection through a current one is more likely to result in a donation. 


Once a new donor has made that first gift, then it’s time to focus on ensuring they stick around. There are tactical ways to engage those new supporters that can be essential for the success of your organization. After all, the more connected a donor feels to your mission, the more likely they are to give and keep on giving.


Here are some insights on how to build and maintain strong relationships with your current donors and engage new ones – resulting in long-term support for your organization. 


Distinguish Yourself 

What makes your organization stand out from the crowd? What makes it different from another that may serve a similar population? Why should donors give to you?


Some people group nonprofits organizations under their respective health care, education, environment, etc. sector. So, be sure to highlight the most unique aspects of what sets your mission or service model apart from the rest. Sometimes, it isn’t easy to find a strong distinction between your organization and others with a similar mission – but every nonprofit is unique! As a starting point, consider asking “What would happen to our community if we no longer existed?”


All Donors Matter

Building relationships with anyone who makes a donation is no easy feat, and takes time. Donors of every level want to feel connected to your organization. This need for a relationship extends to every interaction and touchpoint that happens between you and your supporters – no matter what financial level their gift is. After all, a donor who gives $150 a year could end up leaving a significant amount to your organization in their will.  


Educate your donors on the needs of the organization and show them that you’re using their gift in a way that makes them feel like they’re part of your story. By having consistent, open, and clear communication with donors of every level, you are reaffirming their emotional connection with your organization and its programs.  


Listen & Learn

A new study has indicated that donor loyalty can heavily depend on whether nonprofit organizations talk with their donors, and not just at them. Step into their shoes to better understand why they give. Most give for personal reasons, like being passionate about the cause or knowing someone who is being directly affected by your mission. Getting to know the why about a donor’s choice to give means you can cater to their values to encourage them to keep coming back. 


Have you ever tried sending out a survey asking for donor feedback or lapsed donors or even non-donors? By asking for opinions, you are showcasing that you value your donors’ input – and want to strengthen your relationship with them. Surveys can help improve processes and tailor experiences, reminding supporters that they are an important part of your cause and that you want to make their experience as positive and seamless as you possibly can. 


Shout Them Out

An easy way to make your supporters feel valued is to call them (on the phone!) and express your appreciation. If donors don’t receive a thank you after making a gift, they might not feel appreciated. A phone call is a personal touch that makes donors feel acknowledged in the role that they’re playing to help advance your mission. If a phone number isn’t available, consider a personalized email. Authentic and genuine “thank you’s” go a long way – and is the cornerstone of good donor stewardship. 


Another way to recognize donors is featuring certain donors in cultivation efforts such as newsletters, where you can highlight their background and motivations to give. If you have the capacity, you could even go a step further and create an online donor wall during specific campaigns throughout the year. This digital display celebrates those who have supported, no matter where they are located or how much they gave. 


Showcase Your Success

What exactly have your donors helped you accomplish? Regularly sharing impactful data is strategic content that can motivate supporters to make recurring donations, as they can see where and how their money is being used. 


If your organization features an annual report, consider listing the names of your donors to include them as a vital part of how you were able to make a difference in your community. Or, maybe your website features a testimonial video of how your nonprofit has made a difference in someone’s life. 


Fundraisers work incredibly hard to help their organizations flourish and make sure their beneficiaries are served. Donors are more passionate about making an impact than ever – and those who have indicated that they have an interest in your organization and are willing to support your mission are invaluable. Having loyal supporters of your organization is essential for an organization to thrive, if not sometimes even survive. With 96 donors lost for every 100 gained, it’s important to take measures to build strong relationships with those who are passionate about your cause. 

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