There’s a crisis brewing in the fundraising world. And it’s all about our donors, the ones who are deserting us. Donors can be fickle, and they’re fleeing our organizations in vast numbers these days.

Overall, the numbers are disappointing and stark. Research completed by Target Analytics® in 2015 shows that:

  •  Only 29% of first-time donors renewed their gifts
  • Roughly one out of every two donors renewed their gifts last year

It’s pretty hard to keep your revenue numbers up when this many people leave your cause each year.

Here’s the typical treadmill for many fundraising professionals: You work so very hard to bring in new donors, but your current ones are flying out the window.

Because you are consistently bringing new donors in, your overall donor numbers manage to stay the same. You are running, running, running just to keep the status quo.

Getting your donors to renew their gifts is the easiest way to raise money for any nonprofit.

These wonderful people have already given to you once. That means they know your organization; they like you; they understand your mission; and they once voted with their money that they wanted to join your bandwagon and boost your good work in the world.

Lavish love and attention on your current and former donors—and many of them will respond by sticking with you.

A sustainable funding base: the holy grail for nonprofits

Your goal is to develop a loyal cadre of donors who you can count on year after year. That’s where sustainable funding comes from— these wonderful, lovely, loyal supporters.

Creating a Donor Loyalty Program

What does it take for donors to renew their gifts? Here’s my list of easy ways to “touch” your donors. Hint: It’s all about the post-gift experience.

  1. Send them a thank-you very, very, very quickly. And it needs to be perfect. Show them you care with a prompt letter that is personalized and truly appreciative.
  2. Make your thank-yous personal, emotional, and even a bit gushy. Write to them like you are just thrilled to receive their money—which you are, of course.
  3. Thank your donors over and over. Thank them until they tell you to stop!
  4. Invite your donors to experiences. What about a series of tours or educational sessions exclusively for donors?
  5. Send your donors happy stories about your organization at work. Send your donors fabulous, emotional stories about how they are helping make important work happen.
  6. Give your donors credit for the work your organization is doing. This is what donor-centered really means. Remove your organization as the intermediary between your donor and the wonderful results you achieve.
  7. Ask your donors their opinion. It’s so easy to survey your donors. Find out why they gave and what they are interested in at your organization. Invite their feedback.
  8. Thank donors via social media. Hold a social media thank-you day featuring your donors on Facebook®, Pinterest®, Instagram®, or other social media networks.
  9. Ditch your donor appreciation event. Yawn! Instead, have a fun cookout, or throw porch party honoring your donors.
  10. Recognize long-time donors. Give them special acknowledgement based on how long they have been giving, not their gift amount.
  11. Celebrate holidays with your donors: Send them Valentines, Thanksgiving cards, April Fool’s Day notes…you get the idea. Have some fun!
  12. Send them videos of your work in the field. You could even stream live videos for them to make them feel close to the action.
  13. Hold a thank-athon for your donors. Pull in volunteers and people your organization serves for a massive thank-you night.
  14. Have your board members make thank-you phone calls. It’s a great way to introduce your board members to fundraising, and donors will give substantially more if they get a phone call thank-you!
  15. Ask your donors for their feedback. Bring donors together to share their experiences. I once facilitated a focus group for the North Carolina Symphony, and the donors loved it!
  16. Have board members hand write thank- you notes. Bring note cards to your next board meeting, and take a few minutes for them to pen personal notes.
  17. Tell donors over and over about all the wonderful things they are making possible. Remind them that they are the true heroes of your work.
  18. Host special donors-only events, like tours, briefings, conference calls, and yes, parties!
  19. Make personal thank-you visits. What an easy and nice way to connect deeply with an important donor
  20. Train and acknowledge the back office staff members who process gifts. They are part of your customer service team from fielding donor phone calls to keeping correct records.

The Bottom Line

Make donor loyalty a primary focus of your annual fundraising program, and you’ll be rewarded with happy, loyal donors who will support you year after year



Gail Perry, MBA, CFRE, is an international fundraising consultant, speaker, trainer and thought-leader. She is a leader in the new breed of fundraisers who are on the cutting edge of fundraising today. Her Fired-Up Fundraising approach, developed over the past 25 years as a nonprofit philanthropy expert, has helped organizations raise hundreds of millions in gifts.

Get nonprofit articles, best practice advice, fundraising ideas and invaluable industry reports and webinars delivered for free!