Fact: The retention rate in the nonprofit sector is 32%, according to the Fundraising Effectiveness Report. So, on average, a nonprofit will keep less than a third of donors who make an initial gift. While our instinct is often to focus on recruitment and bringing new donors onboard, what if we turned our attention to the 68% of donors who come and go, as if through a revolving door?

During this global crisis, that approach may be more important than ever. While donor retention should always be a priority, it’s never been more crucial than it is right now to keep those who have already bought into your mission financially.​

First, let’s look at three top reasons why donors leave:

  1. They’re no longer able to afford to support you (especially relevant today).
  2. They were never told how their money was used.
  3. They were never asked or reminded to give again.

While you can’t control the first reason, you have total control over the other two, and it’s a great time to evaluate your efforts and ask yourself: Are we doing those things, or do we have room for improvement?

Here are four ideas for steps you can take to boost donor retention and instill brand loyalty in your current supporters.

1. When someone gives, respond.

Got a first-time donor? Say thank you within 48 hours via phone or email. In a test with board members who called to thank donors within 48 hours, the donors they called gave an average of 39% more than those not called. Also, those called gave 42% more even after 14 months. (according to Claire Axelrad, Clairification). Appreciation goes a long way.

2. Share donor impact stories and quantify support.

For example, “Because of your $500 gift, we are able to spay or neuter 10 cats.” Something specific like that brings value to your donor’s gift and helps them see how their money was spent. That’s so crucial because it clearly tells your supporter: “You are making a tangible difference.”

3. Involve them in other ways.

Don’t immediately make another ask right after they’ve donated, but do invite them to connect with your organization in other ways. This could include an invitation to an event, even if they’re all online right now, or to sign up for your newsletter, volunteer, join a team of brand evangelists, follow you on social media–anything to begin to build a relationship with your nonprofit beyond giving a gift. Establishing an emotional connection and a sense of loyalty is so important when it comes to retention.

4. Send a personalized, hand-written thank you letter.

Emails are great, newsletters can provide updates, but a personal note from a real person is bound to make an impact. Enlist your board members and your staff to put their pens to paper and start thanking your donors with a heartfelt message of gratitude.

One last tip: Let us do some of the heavy lifting for you. We have a brand new 2-week online event toolkit designed to engage your donors and breathe some life into your fundraising. It’s an affordable integrated marketing package that includes social media, email, direct mail and a customized landing page all designed to rally and motivate your donors when you need them most. And we can get it up and running in just 72 hours. You’re not in this alone; we have resources to support you and all hands on deck to help you reach your goals, even if it feels like an uphill battle.