4 Donor Retention Strategies to Build Deeper Connections

A magnet attracting donors, with the title text.

A regular flow of revenue can help your organization deepen its impact and advance its mission. However, between donor acquisition and retention, your nonprofit has multiple options to bring in more donations for your mission. So, how do you know what to focus on? 

While acquiring new donors is an important part of any fundraising strategy, investing the bulk of your time, energy, and resources into retention can make a huge difference. A strong donor stewardship strategy can help you turn casual supporters into loyal donors, eager to give larger and more frequent gifts over time.

If you’re like most nonprofits, your organization’s retention rate likely sits at around 40%. To grow your retention rate and boost your donors’ connection to your nonprofit, use these tried and true best practices:

With a high donor retention rate, your nonprofit won’t have to stress about constantly finding new donors whenever you launch a new campaign. Let’s dive into how you can experience financial stability and secure a bright future for your mission.

Leverage sustainer tools

To grow your donor retention rate, you need to successfully prompt donors to give again. However, simply communicating a vague “Please donate again!” message is ineffective and likely to be skipped as donors scan their dozens of daily emails or texts. Instead, you need to craft highly personalized solicitations and reach donors at the right time with the right messaging.

Jackson River recommends leveraging a fundraising platform with automated sustainer tools to deliver personalized messages that resonate with donors and inspire action. Let’s take a closer look at the sustainer features you should add to your fundraising toolkit:

  • Sustainer upsells: Convert one-time donors to monthly donors as part of the donation process, increasing their involvement in your mission and earning your organization more revenue over time.
  • Sustainer upgrades: Suggest a predefined upgrade amount for existing sustainers that they can accept with one click.
  • Native integration with a top CRM like Salesforce: Reduce your administrative burden and use donor data insights to automatically power highly relevant donation appeals that prompt increases in giving amount and frequency. A fundraising solution with Salesforce donation processing empowers your nonprofit to spend less time chasing after donors to give and more time to focus on what matters: setting the building blocks for strong relationships.

Individually reaching out to all of your supporters to give can be taxing, inefficient, and, depending on your nonprofit’s size, nearly impossible. The right technology will empower your nonprofit to send tailored solicitations when your donors are most likely to act on them, making it simple to grow your recurring giving program over time.

Create donor stewardship activities

Aly Sterling Philanthropy defines donor stewardship as strategic efforts designed to deepen relationships with supporters over time through systematic outreach. To successfully steward donors to the next giving level, you need a variety of donor engagement tactics that connect supporters emotionally to your mission.

Some donor stewardship activities include offering:

  • A tour of your facilities
  • A one-on-one meeting with leadership
  • An exclusive donor club, with accompanying events
  • An invite to an educational luncheon or dinner
  • A day-in-the-life experience shadowing a staff or volunteer
  • Surveys to voice suggestions for improvements

As you get to know your donors, you can create donor stewardship activities that align with their interests and are likely to excite them. For example, let’s say you’re a marine conservation organization and a first-time donor has expressed interest in your sea turtle rehabilitation program. Invite that donor to watch your next release of rehabilitated turtles back into the wild. This way, they can see how their donation is truly making an impact!

Plan peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns

Peer-to-peer fundraising motivates supporters to take on a more involved role in your mission, empowering them to raise funds for your cause. As a result, they’ll feel more connected to your organization. Once you’ve recruited peer-to-peer fundraisers, equip them with all the tools and best practices they’ll need to hit the ground running.

To smoothly manage your peer-to-peer fundraising and make it simple for supporters to get involved, look for a fundraising platform that offers these key capabilities:

  • Website builder: Easily create a visually appealing and user-friendly campaign page that inspires donations.
  • Personalized peer-to-peer fundraising pages: Allow supporters to generate their individual fundraising pages and add personal touches like pictures and the story behind why they’re supporting your mission.
  • Embedded donation forms: Rather than directing donors to another giving page and potentially losing them in the process, embed a donation form right into your campaign page and your supporters’ fundraising pages.
  • Automated emails: Send off highly engaging emails that motivate your peer-to-peer volunteers and prompt giving among your supporters. Acknowledge important milestones, like hitting the halfway point on their personal goals, to support your recognition efforts.
  • Text engagement: Reach your team of volunteers more directly and create segments so you can send donation requests to all types of donors.
  • Social media integrations: Share your fundraising pages widely on social media to amplify your reach.
  • Digital advocacy tools: Spread petitions, raise awareness of the problem your nonprofit seeks to address, and effectively boost revenue with built-in advocacy features.

A fundraising application with a seamless CRM integration like Salesforce will also enable you to track supporters’ peer-to-peer activity. For instance, if supporters haven’t had any activity on their peer-to-peer campaigns in a month, your nonprofit should be able to send an automated email series to reengage peer-to-peer fundraisers in the action.

Backed by a Salesforce donation application, you’ll be in great shape to inspire deeper relationships, grow your donor networks, and set up a predictable donation pipeline.

Express donor appreciation

Donor appreciation helps supporters feel valued and recognized by your organization. As soon as supporters give, send them an automated thank-you note that explains the impact of their gift. Be sure to include a personalized greeting and offer opportunities for your donors to engage more deeply with your mission, such as volunteering at your next event.

Along with sending a thank-you note, you should practice donor appreciation in a variety of ways to strengthen your supporter relationships. For example, you might:


This chart depicts six ways that you can show appreciation to your donors, repeated below.

  • Create a donor recognition wall
  • Spotlight supporters in your email newsletter
  • Offer branded gifts
  • Shout-out supporters on social media
  • Send customized eCards on birthdays
  • Host a donor appreciation event, such as a luncheon

Donors might like to be thanked in different ways, so consider surveying your supporters to learn their preferences. For instance, some supporters might prefer a public shoutout, while others would rather be thanked in private. A strong donor retention strategy is rooted in consistent and meaningful donor appreciation, so be sure to constantly highlight your gratitude for donors’ support.

Wrapping Up

With a high donor retention rate, your nonprofit will have a reliable pipeline of donors who are eager to champion your cause and push forward your goals year-round. To achieve this, leverage a fundraising solution with powerful tools to automate donation requests, streamline the peer-to-peer fundraising process, and support your overarching strategic plan.