Donor Engagement: 5 Best Ways to Engage and Retain Donors

Your organization cannot survive without the generosity of your donors. In this post, learn how donor engagement can help your organization retain donors and increase impact.
Donor engagement
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Video transcript ↓

Ever wonder what keeps some organizations around for decades to come?

Truth be told, it’s the generosity of donors that keeps them successful. Because of that, it’s so important that your organization engages with your donors on a regular basis.

So in this video, I’ll show you how to maximize donor engagement so you can help your organization retain donors and increase the impact of your mission.

Ready to get started? I’m Joseph with Anedot, and let’s get into it.

What is donor engagement?

What is donor engagement

All right, so what is donor engagement?

Donor engagement simply refers to the strategy and tactics of engaging your donors for the purpose of donor retention, and ultimately for the purpose of building relationships.

Think of it like this. So, I’ve recently become a plant enthusiast. I have all sorts of houseplants that I really want to keep alive. In order for these plants to grow and thrive, I need to take care of them by watering them and giving them enough sunlight.

So, similar to plants, donors must be given care and attention, which results in cultivating strong and healthy relationships.

If you never, or rarely engage, your organization will struggle to retain donors and increase giving.

So now that we have a firm grasp on the importance of donor engagement, let’s break down the 5 ways you can engage your donors.

1. New donor nurturing

New donor nurturing for donor engagement

First up, is new donor nurturing. So with new donors, the stakes are high.

According to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project report in 2017, donor retention averaged only 44.7%.

In donor retention, the greatest defense is a good offense. And a great time to play “donor retention offense” is with new donor nurturing.

This can be as complex or as simple as you like. However, the most important part of new donor nurturing is simply planning the work and working the plan.

To get started with this, you can divide your donor nurturing strategy in three steps: first time donation, second time donation, and third time donation.

First time donation

So, when a donor makes their first time donation, thank the donor and send them a PDF or a web page that details your nonprofit’s goals for the year and how the donor plays a valuable part in accomplishing that mission.

Second time donation

For the second, thank them for their generosity, let them know of the impact their donation empowers, and send them a physical gift - like a branded tote bag, mug, hat, or some other small branded gift.

This has two benefits: One, this makes the donor feel appreciated in a tangible way.

And two, your organization’s logo on these small gifts increases awareness of your organization which can lead others to support your cause.

Third time donation

And finally, for third time donations, thank the donor once again and let them know they are in an exclusive supporter group that will receive early communications and special announcements as they are a vital part of the mission.

This simple three-step strategy will spur donor engagement as it encourages new donors to grow in commitment and relationship with your organization.

While there are certainly details to define within the strategy like donation amounts, recurring donations or non-recurring donations, or what physical gift to give, this is a simple way to engage and nurture new donors within your organization.

→ Learn how to use a monthly membership program to build your organization's monthly donations!

2. Impact communications

Impact communications for donor engagement

Next, a great way to boost donor engagement and deepen the donor relationship is to send regular impact communications.

So what are impact communications?

They are physical or digital communications that clearly associate donor giving to impact and success. Put simply, it’s showing the impact of the donor’s gifts with charts and graphics.

With impact communications, your donors will be more likely to increase giving, share the news with others in their network, and continue their financial support. Whether monthly or quarterly, impact communications should be frequent.

You can create a simple strategy for this by focusing on two audiences: Public audience, and donors and strategic partners.

With your public audience, engage them weekly with social media marketing posts and monthly through email.

With your donors and strategic partners, engage them monthly through email, quarterly through mailed report, and yearly through a digital and mailed annual report.

Alright, now let’s talk about one of the most important ways to engage with your donor base.

3. Thank you communications

Thank you communications for donor engagement

Even though we’ve already mentioned it before, it can’t be stated enough: showing gratitude is paramount when speaking to donors.

Think about this, they could have given their support to countless others, but they chose to support your organization and mission.

That should never be taken for granted. Even though you may add a “thank you” section to other donor communications, stand alone thank you’s will highlight just how much you appreciate them.

Now here’s some ideas on how you can express it.

You could send a monthly postcard or letter to donors, or depending on the gift size, you could send a digital gift card and message as a thank you.

Oh and don’t worry about including a lot of copy, charts, or requests in them.

Simply and genuinely tell your donors you see them, you are grateful for them, and you could not have done this without them.

→ Learn how to create an email list, how to make engaging email content, and more monthly membership program nonprofit email marketing best practices!

4. Stretch/challenge goals

Stretch/challenge goals for donor engagement

Here’s a question. Are you challenging your donors?

A great way to have them take another step in their donations is to challenge them with a stretch goal.

Stretch goals can create a deeper sense of partnership with donors while increasing giving.

Some examples of stretch goals for fundraising include:

  1. Bring a friend: Encourage your donors to reach out and have a friend make a first time donation.
  2. Become a recurring donor: You can encourage one-time donors to become recurring ones.
  3. Small dollar campaigns: With this, you can ask donors to make an additional small dollar weekly or monthly contribution.
  4. Double the donation: Post a challenge to double their recurring donation for a period of time, whether it’s for 6 months or a year.
  5. Matching: Encourage donors to make a large one time gift with a matching incentive.

Of course, these programs should be communicated with care and excellence.

Tying these goals to specific short to mid-term initiatives should be considered as you will be able to communicate the wins after it ends.

5. In-person events

In-person events for donor engagement

Finally, a great way to engage and grow in relationship with your donors is in-person events.

Whether a large fundraising gala or small intimate gathering, in-person events can create connections that last a lifetime.

Examples of in-person donor events include:

  1. VIP/top supporter event: At these events, you can honor your VIP and top supporters, which can encourage these top supporters towards even greater generosity.
  2. Advocate event: Here, you can celebrate donors who also give their time through volunteering and advocating for your organization.
  3. New donore event: You can create a fun event for new donors in the past quarter or year and thank them for choosing to support your organization.

Events are a huge opportunity for your donors to put a face to the organization and mission they love.

Regardless of the size of your donor base or budget, donor events can be an easy way to continue building relationships as you grow your donor base.

→ Learn about the benefits of a virtual fundraiser, important things to consider when hosting a virtual fundraiser, and more from our interview with Shannon Whitt!

Closing thoughts

Donor engagement ideas

Well, those are the 5 ways you can boost donor engagement and retain donors!

We hope these 5 tips will help you build relationships with your donors and keep them engaged with your organization.

Thanks for watching! If you got something out of this post or if you plan to implement any of these tips in your fundraising strategy, I would love to hear about it in the comments section of this YouTube video.

As always, be sure to leave a like as that helps the channel. Also, be sure to subscribe to Anedot on YouTube and click the notification bell for more videos like these.

Once again, my name is Joseph and we’ll see you on the next one!

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