You may have heard the saying and it’s definitely true: donor retention rateIt’s easier to keep a current donor than to find a new one.

Actually, you need to do both. You need to keep as many donors as you can and constantly work to bring in new ones. That means keeping your donor retention rate as high as possible.

So, how do you keep your current donors? How do you build loyalty so that they want to give to you no matter what else is happening in their lives?

Simple – love on them.

Donor Love

Way too many people who are raising money for nonprofits see donors as checkbooks. They ask for donations when they need money, and other than that, don’t think much about their donors.

Oh, sure, they throw the occasional newsletter at their donors, but it’s thrown together at the last minute, not sent consistently, and honestly, not done with much thought about making it donor friendly.

Donors can feel icky pretty fast when you don’t value them. They’ll pick up that vibe and leave your donor family quicker than a duck on a June bug, squashing your donor retention rate.

So, I hope you’re seeing already that the very first thing you need to do is shift how you see your donors.

Your donors are your partners. They’re your friends. They can be advocates and ambassadors. They can be your biggest support not just in money but also in encouragement, enthusiasm, and connections.

They want to see you succeed. They want to be part of the winning team. They want to help make a difference.

You getting this?

Keeping them around is pretty simple. Help them feel like part of your family. Include them in the good stuff as well as the bad. Treat them as part of your team and they’ll act like it.

One really simple thing you can do is to inspire your donors every chance you get.

Donor Inspiration = Higher Donor Retention Rate

Donor Retention rateTo inspire someone is to influence them or fill them with a particular thought or feeling.

Imagine if you could purposefully influence your donors to feel compassion for the lives you’re trying to change, and feel motivation to whip out their wallet to partner with you to make it happen.

That’s a lot different than guilting someone into writing a check. Or begging them to give.

Inspiration is the magic that most nonprofits are missing.

It’s hard to inspire donors when you’re busy, overwhelmed or too focused on internal problems.

You have to make time for delivering inspiration. You have to understand your donors well enough to know what will inspire them. You have to plan for it. You have to make it a priority.

To create loyal donors, you need to provide regular inspiration. You can’t create a video once a year and expect that to move your people to give big all year long.

If you want to take your donor retention rate seriously, be prepared to drip out something inspiring to your supporters at least once each month. It could be a story, a video, a testimonial or something else, but regular connections with their heartstrings will keep donors engaged.

When people are inspired, they stick around. They stay interested. They keep giving.

When people aren’t feeling donor love from your organization, they go away. When they believe their gift doesn’t matter or they think they’re just a number among your many supporters, they’ll drift away.

One way you can help them feel the love is with something I call warm touches.

Warm Touches

A warm touch is an interaction with a donor that leaves them feeling good about your nonprofit.

It’s relevant and interesting to them. (So it can’t be all about your nonprofit or what YOU think is important for them to know.)

It’s thoughtful. It might even be a surprise.

If it makes them smile, it’s a warm touch. If they like it so much they share it with others, it’s a really warm touch!

Warm touches help keep people connected to your mission. They deepen the relationship and build trust.

Here are some good examples of warm touches:

  • Thank-you phone call. Regardless of who makes the call, taking the time to personally thank a donor is powerful. Not many nonprofits do it, so you can easily stand out from the pack.
  • Video update. Shoot a short video to give donors an update on a specific case, especially if you used a particular story to ask them to give. If you’re planning to share this video with lots of donors, just imagine talking to one of them. Visualize one person and shoot the video for them. It’ll make it warmer and more connecting.
  • Hand-written note. A personalized, hand-written note is a wonderful warm touch. Hardly anyone does this anymore and you’ll really stand out, especially if your donors are Baby Boomers (that generation tends to value hand-written notes).

There are many more ideas out there. Spend a little time getting creative and you can come up with ideas of your own.

Here are a few warm touches I’ve received lately that really hit the target.

Valentine’s Day card. This came from my local Habitat for Humanity and was a ‘thank you’ for being a monthly donor. I love that it’s signed by the entire staff!  You’ll see it was homemade and clearly not expensive. What gets me is that they took the time to make it and send it.

donor retention rate

donor retention rate

Thank-you video. This came from a client after I suggested she do this for important donors. I love that she practiced on me! What makes this so powerful is that she personalized it by saying my name in the video. Clearly, this took a little thought and some time (and a puppy!). I was thrilled that I was special enough to warrant my own video!!

donor retention rate

By the way, I’ve had several clients doing these videos lately, and they’re all getting amazing feedback from their clients. If you aren’t already doing this, you need to. Just saying.

Special event gift. This one literally happened last night! I was attending an event for a client, and they had a special gift waiting for me at the table. I love that they know this is my favorite wine and had it open and ready for me. Notice the personalized note attached to the bottle. You better believe I felt like the most special guest in the place! It was incredibly thoughtful, and I noticed that no one else had a bottle of wine waiting for them.

I love that it was thoughtful and I love that it was personalized. It made me feel extra special, which caused me to spend generously at the silent auction. 😉

donor retention rate

Hand-written note. I’m a monthly donor to Planned Pethood of Georgia and I recently got a sweet note card from them with a car magnet inside. I love seeing envelopes in the mailbox with hand-written addresses – I know there’s something good inside!

donor retention rate

So, there I’ve given you 4 good examples of warm touches that made me as a donor and supporter feel really good about these organizations. Now, I’m more committed than ever to keep giving to them.

I recommend that you do some brainstorming about warm touches you can give your best donors. Start with your top 10 donors and think about something you can do in the next 60 days to really wow them individually. Then think about something you can do (maybe a video) to inspire the rest of your donors.

Be prepared to use these practices consistently over the next 6 months to a year, then watch your donor retention rate climb!