How to Keep Your Donors for Life | npENGAGE

How to Keep Your Donors for Life

By on Apr 9, 2014


Three out of four first time donors will never make a second gift. In the nonprofit world, most donors are a one night stand.


Because the very act of becoming a donor fundamentally changes us and our expectations, but the nonprofits we support don’t keep up with our new expectations and treat us differently. Being treated like an interested observer won’t make you happy if you expect to be treated like an investor.

Imagine investing your hard earned cash with an investment advisor.

Let’s pretend you wire transferred the funds to him but he shows no acknowledgement of receiving them. After confirming with your bank that the wire transfer did indeed go through, you hear from your investment advisor. His firm won an award. The next communication you get from him is an announcement he is expanding his team and a “get to you know you” bio of his latest hire is shared with you. Still no word on how your investment is performing. You get another communication piece from him: 5 tips for planning your retirement. How will you ever retire if you have no idea how your new nest egg is performing? You finally hear from him. He has a new fund he wants you to consider for investment. You are so infuriated you withdraw your funds and start looking for another advisor.

We treat our donors like this often. According to Penelope Burke (via npENGAGE Magazine), over-solicitiation isn’t defined as too many appeals but asking for another gift before ever communicating how the original gift made an impact.


Three out of four first time donors will never make a second gift. In the nonprofit world, most donors are a one night stand…

What’s the solution?

Create a baseline plan to make every donor feel heroic with simple business rules to ensure you thank and report back to all your donors before soliciting another gift. Your baseline plan should include meaningful thank you notes, thank you phone calls from board members, and program updates. On top of these fundamentals, practice random acts of thankfulness: calling or writing the donor to share your appreciation on Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day, and the anniversary of their gift.

Shower all your donors with this love and attention, remember: 75% of first time donors admit they are under giving with their first gift. My colleague dedicated an entire white paper to this very topic: donors don’t know what kind of special love and attention is waiting for them at higher gift levels.

Remember, the best way to build a meaningful relationship with your donors is to be meaningful to them!

npEXPERTS Donor Retention

By Rachel Muir, Vice President of Training at Pursuant – a Dallas based full-service fundraising agency dedicated to helping the world’s leading nonprofit organizations. Rachel leads fundraisers in monthly workshops to dramatically improve individual fundraising skills and results.


When she was just 26 years old, Rachel Muir founded Girlstart, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering girls in math, science, engineering and technology. She was told as a child that girls are not good at math and science. One day, a major light bulb went off over her head and she decided to do something. She jumped in and started Girlstart in the living room of her apartment with $500 and a credit card.  Several years later she had raised over 10 million dollars and was featured on Oprah, CNN, and the Today show.  She veered away from the typical ED or CEO titles, and her business cards said, Rachel Muir, Girlstart, Fearless Leader.

A winner of Oprah Winfrey’s Use Your Life award, Rachel is a three time finalist for Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award, was named “Outstanding Fundraising Executive of the Year” by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, and one of Fast Company Magazines “Fast 50″ Champions of Innovation.

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