5 Ways to Boost Donor Retention with Your Digital Strategy

September 22, 2021 | DNL OmniMedia
from our friends at DNL OmniMedia

As is the case with most nonprofits, one of your organization’s top objectives is to improve your donor retention rates. While it’s important to continually earn donations from new supporters, it’s your repeat donors who provide fundraising stability and long-term support.

Even though you have the goal of higher donor retention in mind, it can often be tricky to figure out how to encourage donors to stick around. Donor lapse is all too common—whether supporters decide to unsubscribe from your email newsletter, move away, or simply give once and never again, there are plenty of reasons for low donor retention.

Luckily, you can use your digital strategy to improve your donor retention rates by taking a more deliberate approach to donor data management, communications, and stewardship. Using your digital strategy, you can boost donor retention with these steps:

  1. Segment donors to focus outreach.
  2. Tailor donor communications based on data.
  3. Optimize your digital communication channels.
  4. Offer multiple ways to get involved.
  5. Express appreciation frequently.

These strategies will help you target supporters more specifically to make sure you’re reaching the right people with the right message. Let’s take a closer look!

Segment donors to focus outreach

One important aspect of better stewardship for donor retention is making sure you’re communicating relevant information that your supporters are likely to engage with. If you’re continually sending emails to all your supporters that should only be sent to certain supporter groups, such as just volunteers or just new donors, you risk alienating your audience.

This is where donor segmentation comes into play. According to DNL OmniMedia’s donor segmentation guide, this is the process of organizing the donors in your nonprofit’s database based on their shared characteristics. Segmentation allows your fundraising and marketing teams to learn more about groups within your audience and communicate in ways that resonate with each segment.

DNL OmniMedia recommends segmenting donors based on their:

  • Engagement history: You may have groups of supporters who are volunteers, donors, major donors, peer-to-peer fundraisers, or advocates. Creating segments based on engagement type allows you to deliver each group relevant information, such as sending upcoming volunteer opportunities to your committed volunteers or P2P fundraising information to your active fundraisers.
  • Gift type: You may have first-time donors, monthly donors, major donors, or year-end donors. Segmenting donors by gift type allows you to reference their past contributions to create more personalized messaging.
  • Demographics: Segments based on demographics, such as age, gender, and location, can help you share relevant opportunities with each supporter. For instance, you can send your younger supporters information via social media and create direct mail materials for your older audience.
  • Engagement level: You likely have a group of lapsed donors—those who gave in the past but haven’t for a while—as well as those who give more regularly. By segmenting these groups, you can create one strategy for bringing lapsed donors back into the fold and another for building relationships with regular supporters.

To make the most of donor segmentation, ensure you’re starting with a clean, updated database and integrated software solutions that provide a full picture of your organization’s supporters. This is drastically easier to do with a comprehensive CRM. As you develop your segmentation strategy, feel free to change your groups based on your organization’s shifting goals.

If you feel like you don’t have the proper foundation to successfully implement segmentation, it’s helpful to partner with a nonprofit consulting firm that specializes in data-driven fundraising.

Tailor donor communications based on data

Once you’ve created your supporter segments, it’s time to put that information to work! Use these segments to tailor communications with each group and build stronger relationships.

With proper data management, you will be able to:

  • Reference supporters’ history of involvement. This lets supporters know that you’re recognizing their dedication to your cause. For instance, it’s much more effective when you thank supporters who gave to your Giving Tuesday fundraiser for their specific contributions, rather than lumping them in with all of your donors and sending one generic “Thanks for your support!” message.
  • Send appropriate gift asks. Let’s say you create segments for donors who’ve contributed smaller, medium-sized, and large gifts for your organization. Using this distinction, you can send solicitations of $25 or less to the donors in the smaller gift segment, and save your $1,000+ asks for your major donors.
  • Communicating via supporters’ preferred communication channels. For example, you may have one segment of supporters that prefers communicating via email and has a history of engaging with your weekly newsletter. Going forward, you’ll know to focus your communications with this group on your email platform.

Instead of speaking to all supporters en masse, you can instead use segmentation to tailor your messaging so that you offer something valuable to each individual. Supporters will be more likely to stay involved with your organization when they see that you’re putting in the work to get to know them better and appeal to their preferences.

Optimize your digital communication channels

Your communication channels are an essential aspect of your overall nonprofit digital and donor retention strategy. How you communicate with supporters can be just as important as what you say.

Strengthen your digital relationships with supporters by reaching them across multiple channels and showing them a variety of calls to action.

Consider these communication channels and how to leverage them to drive engagement:

  • Your organization’s website: This is likely the online hub for your current and prospective supporters to find information on how to get involved. Make sure your website is designed with user intent in mind and has obvious links to your online donation page, volunteer sign-up page, and other pertinent information visitors seek.
  • Email marketing: If your organization has an email newsletter, ensure you’re using it to share frequent updates on your projects and progress made toward your goals. Use engaging imagery and interactive links to draw recipients in and encourage them to learn more about your organization.
  • Social media platforms: Using popular platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, you can engage a wider audience in your mission. This is also a great channel to launch supporter recognition efforts. You can share photos from fundraising or volunteer events and highlight major donor contributions (with their permission, of course!)
  • Surveys: Engage supporters in a two-way conversation by asking for their feedback and opinions. Surveys are an effective way to gauge the success of various fundraising or volunteer efforts and solicit feedback for hosting better events in the future. When you listen to and implement supporters’ feedback, you demonstrate your willingness to work with them and develop a stronger relationship as a result.

Use each of your communication platforms to enhance one another for a more cohesive strategy. For example, you can promote blog posts from your organization’s website across your social media platforms or include social media widgets in your email newsletter. The more active you are with your engagement efforts, the more touchpoints you’ll create with your supporters, keeping your organization at the front of their minds.

Offer multiple ways to get involved

Using your segmentation strategies, you can connect volunteers with volunteer opportunities, donors with giving opportunities, and peer-to-peer fundraisers with fundraising opportunities. This strategy is effective because you’re allowing each supporter to get more involved in an area where they’ve already expressed interest.

However, be sure to also provide each of these supporters with the opportunity to grow and expand their involvement with your organization. For instance, since your volunteers have already contributed their time to your organization, they might also be interested in becoming advocates. In addition, your donors may be interested in getting involved in other ways besides just donating, such as volunteering or attending events.

As Recharity’s nonprofit fundraising strategy guide points out, not every supporter can make monetary donations. And, just because a donor has given in the past doesn’t mean they have the financial means to continuously contribute.

When you provide a plethora of ways to get involved, you show supporters that you value them for more than just their wallets. If supporters take you up on your offer and expand their engagement, you can build even stronger bonds that can last a lifetime.

Express appreciation frequently

A major element of donor stewardship is properly conveying the level of gratitude you have for the supporters who keep your organization running.

Ensure your thank-you messages are genuine and authentic by addressing supporters by their preferred names and referencing their specific contributions.

Be sure to also mention the impact of the supporter’s gift. Once a donor contributes, they want and deserve to be updated on what your organization does with their gifts. If a donor contributes and never hears from you again, they might end up feeling neglected or deceived. This mistrust feeds into lower donor retention.

To avoid this outcome, include statistics and real stories in your messages to convey the specific project or task you were able to accomplish or work toward with the help of supporter contributions.

And finally, express your appreciation through your actions. For instance, focus on improving the supporter experience from top to bottom with mobile-responsive resources, accessible web design, and frequent touchpoints that provide interesting, relevant information. Actions speak louder than words. If you prove your intentions through your actions, you’ll retain supporters much more easily.

Boosting donor retention isn’t an impossible task. It simply takes a strategic plan using databases and communication platforms you likely already have access to and experience using. By speaking to supporters in ways they connect with and tailoring your messages to their interests, you can boost donor engagement and, eventually, your retention rates.

Discover more donor retention strategies in the EveryAction guide to the Future of Fundraising, and learn more about DNL OmniMedia.