retention wheel barrel leaves dreamstimefree_33177Donors take time and money to acquire. Of course, nothing good comes easy, but then why do so many nonprofits let these new donors go so easily?

A whopping 73% of donors give to a nonprofit once and then vanish. Gone. Poof! Like white doves concealed by a magician’s deceptive smokescreen.

The best approach is for nonprofits to never let their donors get away in the first place.

Donor retention is the process by which nonprofits keep existing donors engaged and giving charitably year after year.

Not only is it less expensive to fundraise from existing donors, but building long, continuing relationships with donors is what leads people down the path to giving the types of large donations that can help your organization the most.

Reason #1: Build relationships that matter

People don’t just donate to your nonprofit. They also volunteer, serve on your board, spread the word about your organization to friends and family, and participate in other activities that can benefit your nonprofit as much, if not more, than a single donation.

Dedicated participation with your nonprofit rarely just happens. Your organization needs to make a concerted effort to reach out to donors and show them how much they matter.

Donors rarely give twice if they don’t feel aptly appreciated.

Not only will strong relationships improve donor retention, but giving trends indicate that donors who give more than once tend to increase their donations over time. This means that your organization likely will raise more money from existing donors than it would from first-time donors.

Reason #2: Receive bigger donations

I’ve alluded to how retention can lead to bigger donations, and now we’ll dig into the meat of the matter.

Major gifts, generally regarded as donations of $5,000+, are the backbone of most fundraising campaigns. They’re the big donations that help campaigns to reach and exceed their goals. Receiving more major gifts typically entails retaining donors for a long time.

Eventually, once the proper relationship has been built, donors decide to give bigger gifts.

The other type of donation that effective retention can facilitate is planned giving. Planned giving is when a donor gives to a nonprofit in a will, and these donations tend to be the largest gifts that donors ever give.

Consider that 78% of planned giving donors give 15 or more gifts to the nonprofit during their lifetimes. ( prospect & research statistics may require Captcha verification to access.) These gifts aren’t necessarily big. Retaining even your lowest-level donors can pay off, as you never know who might feel the loyalty to give in a big way in the end.

Learn about charitable giving trends that affect how nonprofits should approach fundraising. 

Reason #3: Give fundraisers necessary knowledge

Knowledge is power, and the power to fundraise better goes hand-in-hand with giving fundraisers the data they need to both retain donors and raise more money from those donors.

Donor information can help nonprofits to:

  • Personalize donor outreach
  • Focus on the right donors
  • Contact donors at appropriate times
  • And more!

For example, knowing a donor’s place of employment may give you insight into whether their company offers a matching gift program. When you retain donors who work at companies that offer matching gift programs, your nonprofit stands to gain twice as much money from every donation. That’s double the money, and double the help for your cause.

Learn how prospect research can help your nonprofit learn valuable information about your donor population.

Reason #4: Build awareness for your cause

In the relationship section, I mentioned that something donors can do for your nonprofit is free word-of-mouth promotion. There’s nothing quite like a friend telling a friend that your nonprofit rocks to get someone interested in donating.

It’s typically the donors with whom you have longstanding relationships that promote your nonprofit to friends and family.

The more donors you have in a certain community, the more likely it is that people will talk about your organization and spread the word about the great work you do.

People talk about their favorite music. They gossip about their favorite TV shows. Your organization can encourage donors to tell their friends about their favorite nonprofit, too.

Effective retention is the key to cultivating a population of devoted donors that will give your organization free word-of-mouth promotion and may help your organization overcome common first-time donor fundraising obstacles.

Retention is an essential component of a successful fundraising campaign. While new donors bring new hope, consistent donors deliver the necessary dollars and big donations to keep your nonprofit around and helping the world for a long time to come.

Gretchen Barry is the Director of Marketing and Communications for NonProfitEasy and a guest contributor to Innovairre Communications, which supports more than 500 nonprofit organizations around the world. For more information about donor retention strategies, register today for Innovairre’s free webinar on May 28, or contact us at Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.