How to Bring Your Donors Back to You

6 minute read

Around 70% of businesses say that it’s cheaper to retain a customer than it is to acquire one. As with so many parallels between the business and non-profit world, it’s far easier to maintain existing donors than it is to cultivate new ones. In spite of this truth, however, commercial businesses retain around 94% of their customers, while non-profits only retain 16% of their donors from year to year. According to a recent study by Bloomerang, out of 2,377 non-profits polled, only 65 of them had a donor retention rate over 70%.

So, while it is in fact easier to maintain an existing donor than it is to cultivate a new one, clearly non-profits and charities are not doing so. Why? Clearly there was something about your organisation that resonated with donors strongly enough to give in the first place, so if they gave once, why wouldn’t they give again? There are reasons why donors who give once might not give again, but there are also things you can do to combat those reasons and keep your donors giving again and again – and giving even more. Here are 5 smart tips for keeping your donors giving and even getting them to give more generously.

How to Bring Your Donors Back to You

1. Say thank you

It cannot be overstated enough the importance of simply saying thank you and acknowledging a donor’s contributions. Whether it’s volunteer hours spent accomplishing a task or at an event, a gift-in-kind donation or a generous cash donation, all donated time, services, money or efforts should be tracked and acknowledged in some way. All in all, sending out a thank you card, letter, note or e-mail is probably one of the simplest and easiest things to do and yet again and again it is the one thing that falls through the cracks for too many non-profits. If you aren’t gifted with words, here are 5 thank you letters donors will love. In addition to writing a letter or sending a thank you card, here are some other great ways to say thanks to your donors.

  • Get some inexpensive gift cards donated and send those out with thank you cards for volunteer workers
  • Send flowers, a bottle of wine or a box of fruit to major donors after a major donation
  • Host an annual volunteer/ donor appreciation dinner
  • Have a plaque made acknowledging the contributions of major supporters or donors and hang it in a prominent place in your office



2. Share your victories

Have you had a great victory lately or breakthrough in legal issues surrounding your cause? Let your donors know. Has someone your charity helps reached a major milestone lately? Let your donors know. The work of charities and nonprofits is never-ending because most charities and nonprofits deal with issues that are never going to be fully solved. But there are definite milestones and victories you celebrate. You have to, or else you would quit and give up – and so will your donors if you don’t let them know about those major milestones and victories.

3. Connect them with the people they are helping

People don’t actually give to “causes” they give to people who are in need. Whether it’s a video of the people of the village in Africa that just got a new well, a child that just got a new prosthetic or a homeless person that just got a meal or a new pair of shoes, let your donors see the people they are helping. Even better is if you can bring some of the individuals your charity is helping together with the donors. Whether it’s at the appreciation dinner or a fund-raising event, do your best to connect those that benefit from your charity with the donors that are supporting them.

How to Bring Your Donors Back to You

4. Value your donors

As easy as it is to dash off a thank you card and pop it in the mail, too many nonprofits fail in even that basic area, let alone in actually valuing their donors. Truly valuing your donors involves getting comfortable with one very basic truth: donors give out of their own self-interest. Period. Donors give because it makes them feel good or it eases their conscience in some way or makes them feel they are doing more than they actually are. Some give for no other reason than they get a tax write-off.

News flash: your donors are human and human generosity is almost always motivated by personal gain of some kind. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It doesn’t matter why your donors give, it’s only important that they do. But regardless of why they give, everyone wants to be valued and feel like they are special. Most nonprofits are started because they see someone in need. They often reach out to donors because donors have something you need (money) to help someone you see with what you perceive to be a greater need. Like food, clothing, water, shelter or medical care.

But just because your donors have money to give doesn’t mean they don’t also have a need. All people want to feel valued and your donors are no exception. Make your donors feel valued and they will open up their wallets and empty their pocketbooks again and again.


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5. Be loyal to your donors and they will be loyal to you

Having one donor is great, but having 10 is better, right? Wrong. Every moment that you spend cultivating new donors is a moment you are not cultivating a relationship with existing donors. While there is nothing wrong with attempting to get new donors, remember where we started: Commercial businesses retain 94% of their customers while non-profits only retain 16% of their donors. If you say thank you and maintain good communication with your current donors, you will have a far easier time getting a donor that gave £1,000 last year to give £5,000 this year than to keep that donor and get four more donors to give £1,000.

Maintaining your donor base obviously takes some careful and concentrated effort, but it is well worth it. Many people are bombarded on every side with requests for donations and out of all the available charities, something made them choose yours. The likelihood is high that if you can find out what caused them to give in the first place, you can encourage them to give again. Finding out, however, involves building and establishing a relationship with your donors. If you take the time to do so, you may find raising money isn’t so hard after all.

Helen Cartwright

Helen Cartwright is a passionate blogger, who excels in the Digital Marketing and Technology niche. When not wired in marketing strategies she ghost-write for a variety of authors who have their work published on leading online media channels such as The Huffington Post and

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