4 strategies for an effective donor appreciation program

Acquiring new donors for your nonprofit should be an essential part of your organization's fundraising strategy; however, donor retention is perhaps even more important to ensuring your organization thrives.

In recent years, the fundraising world has shifted its priorities from donor acquisition to donor retention. In fact, the Nonprofit Marketing Guide 2015 Nonprofit Communications Trends Report shows 53 percent of the nonprofits polled placed donor retention as a top fundraising priority for their organization this year.

It is no wonder organizations are shifting their fundraising focus. More than 60 percent of first-time donors only donate once. This pattern is costly to nonprofits, because the investment required to get a donor to give to an organization is often more than the single donation itself.

In order for nonprofit organizations to have an effective fundraising strategy, they must also have a donor appreciation program in place that facilitates donor retention and repeat gift.

Here are four strategies for creating an effective donor appreciation program:

Note: There is no "magic bullet" for cultivating donors. Each nonprofit is different, and each of these strategies will work better in different situations. They are meant to be used as general best practices that can be adjusted for your organization's unique situation.

1. Thank donors in unique ways
It may seem obvious, but finding unique ways to thank your donors should be an integral part of your online fundraising tools. Go beyond the automated "thank you" email that donors receive within five minutes of their donations. Find unique ways to thank donors so they feel they are recognized and differentiated among other donors. A few strategies for thanking donors include:

  • Send thank you notes from constituents or establishments that directly benefited from the donor's donation.
  • Address the donor by name and reference the amount he or she donated. While these may seem like a commonly known best practice, Ironpaper reported that according to the Online Marketing Scorecard, 79 percent of fundraising emails do not personalize the "to:" line with a first and last name.
  • Invite further action within the note, but do not solicit another donation right away. Mention volunteer opportunities and conferences, and invite donors to engage with your organization through social media.
  • Send thank you notes that are timely. Share recent successes or organizational news. This will show that each thank you note is custom to the time and donor.

2. Leverage online video to stay in touch
Don't abandon your donors once they've given to your organization in person or through an online donation form. Donors want to know how their money is used and they want to feel recognized. According to the Money for Good II Report, 63 percent of donors want to know how their money will be used. Nonprofits can more effectively retain donors by sharing news about how donors' money impacted the organization's cause and keeping donors informed of news and issues surrounding the nonprofit's mission.

Newsletters, emails, text messages and social media updates are all effective ways to keep in touch with your donors. One strategy that may be especially effective, though, is sharing online video with donors. There is no arguing the impact online video has on donor retention. A study conducted by Google underscored this notion, revealing 81 percent of donors said their perception of impact is the most important factor determining their decisions about donations, and 75 percent named online video as a tool for researching impact.

Nonprofits can retain donors by showing them the impact of their donations and the organization as a whole by sharing online video content.

3. Empower donors to get involved
People donate to nonprofit organizations and causes because they want to be involved in impacting society in a positive way. While it is important to solicit repeat donations far after the first donation, it is also extremely valuable to find other ways to get your donors involved.


For example, you could:

  • Ask them to volunteer,
  • Invite them to share expertise at a conference or event,
  • Create a donor advisory board,
  • Form a membership program for your loyal donors.

These are all effective ways to encourage long-term donor investment into your organization.

4. Reach donors through mobile
Despite the rising trend of mobile adoption and consumer preference for shopping, donating and communication through mobile, Ironpaper also reported that 84% of nonprofit donation landing pages are not optimized for mobile.

In order to effectively retain donors, nonprofits must communicate with them using mobile strategies and have mobile optimized sites in order to increase repeat donations, including an easily accessible, responsive online donation form.

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