9 Underutilized Emails that Improve Donor Retention | npENGAGE

9 Underutilized Emails that Improve Donor Retention

By on Jan 16, 2014


The 2014 Nonprofit Communications Trends Report was released last week and one of the more interesting findings was that donor retention remainsa lower priority.

As my colleague Frank Barry mentioned, most nonprofits stink at donor retention. Nearly 3 out of 4 new donors never make a second gift. Over the past 10 years, donor retention has fallen from 33% to 27%.

But…donor retention isn’t one of the top three communications goals for 2014, according to the report. Acquiring new donors, engaging our community and general brand awareness all rank ahead of retention.

And while only 34% of executive directors picked donor retention as a top 2014 goal, just 16% of nonprofit communications directors said the same.

Donor retention is often overlooked and, because of this, nonprofits aren’t using email as a key retention tool. That likely means more email “asks” this year (donations, event registrants, advocacy actions) and fewer retention emails, like reporting back to donors and building relationships.

The risk this poses is if most emails ask for something, people may start tuning out everything. To make “ask” emails more effective, constituents need to also see results consistently from your organization. They need know that progress is being made and feel the momentum.

Email can play a key role in this, but the focus on donor retention must be better. To help, here are:

9 Underutilized Emails to Improve Donor Retention

  1. Report back on someone’s donation

    One of the most underutilized, but most effective donor retention emails. It’s simply reporting back on the impact of someone’s gift, like The Wilderness Society and Charity Water do below:

    1 - WS Report back on donations
    1 - CW Report back on donations

  2. Revisit past major initiatives

    December often brings emails about this year’s accomplishments. Go back further. Revisit progress on major past initiatives, like these examples:

    2 - CI Revisit past major initiatives

    2 - ARC Revisit Pat Major Initiatives

  3. Celebrate your mission’s accomplishments

    Not only did Easter Seals share that a teenager with Down syndrome climbed Mount Everest, they took it a step further by asking people to sign a congratulatory ecard.

    3 - ES Celebrate your missions accomplishments

  4. Stories

    When’s the last time you shared a story via email that didn’t ask for money?

  5. New video to share

    Videos show your impact, stir emotions and are memorable. Don’t assume everyone will see it on Facebook – share it like Communities in Schools did:

    5 - CIS New nonprofit video to share

  6. Upcoming media coverage

    Let people know you’re being featured somewhere (TV, radio, magazine, etc.). It conveys the progress you’re making is newsworthy.

  7. Close the loop on urgent asks

    If you’ve presented an urgent problem – perhaps in December – close the loop by providing results. Credit supporters for what they’ve made possible.

  8. First-to-know announcement

    It reinforces the value of being on your email list. And if you wait to say it in your quarterly newsletter, it may be old news.

  9. Related news of the day

    When Jason Collins came out as the first gay active NBA player, HRC helped spread the word to their email list. Do the same with major news that impacts your mission.

    9 - HRC Related news of the day

There are a lot of choices out there when it comes to giving. If someone doesn’t feel their donation is making an impact, they may go elsewhere.

Want more donor retention advice? Check out our new eBook packed with advice from 13 npExperts!

npEXPERTS Donor Retention




Mike Snusz brings 18 years of fundraising experience to his role as a Senior Team Lead on Blackbaud’s Professional Services team. He leads a team of digital consultants and works with nonprofits to improve their digital fundraising, monthly giving, email marketing and peer-to-peer fundraising programs. Prior to Blackbaud, Mike managed the turnaround of the Ride For Roswell from 2003 to 2005 in his hometown of Buffalo, NY. When he’s not contemplating fundraising, Mike enjoys hide and seek, tag, and dance parties with his two kids.

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