Improve Online Donor Retention with these 5 Proven Follow Up Techniques | npENGAGE

Improve Online Donor Retention with these 5 Proven Follow Up Techniques

By on May 22, 2012


Online donors are a generous group. In fact, online donors are worth a lot more than offline donors.

Typically they’re first-time donors who shell out nearly double the amount that offline first-time donors do – to the tune of $62 versus $32 on average, according to our 2011 Multichannel Fundraising Report.

The downside is that online donors are often one-hit wonders.

Unless you can convert them to offline (that’s right, OFFLINE) giving channels.

Here are five irresistible follow-up techniques to help you convert and retain (i.e. Donor Retention) this very valuable group of online donors, who in the aggregate have much higher cumulative value over the long term than traditional mail-acquired donors.

1) Deliver Instant Gratification

Remember that online donors live in “internet time,” which is to say they prefer the online channel because it is immediate in both execution and delivery.

Find a way to feed that need for immediate gratification. Send an email or social media response, whichever directly corresponds to the channel used for giving, which both acknowledges the gift and shows an immediate effect.

For example, you may send an animation showing how their donation actually moved your nonprofit closer to its goal, or had a direct effect on the cause in some other way. Make full use of multimedia and be creative. Leave the donor feeling satisfied that his or her  gift made a real difference.

2) Tie Offline Contact Directly to Online Gifts

One of the allures of online activity is the sense of anonymity.

However, one of the best ways to retain donors and increase giving is to establish a personal connection with the donor. You need to transition the online donor from detachment and relative anonymity to a feeling of belonging and investment in the cause.

> TipTake a look at eTapestry – Online fundraising software that can help you gain more donors online and cultivate them to become long term offline supporters.

Begin the process of making offline contact and creating personal connection with online donors by sending a piece of direct mail mentioning the online gift, and reiterating the effect it had.

The multichannel acknowledgement drives home the idea that the donor is personally important to the cause, and is a welcomed and valued member of the community.

Download the complete Multichannel Fundraising Report to learn more about how the industry is changing, the turn to online fundraising and the need for a multichannel approach.

3) Always Make it Personal

While it is relatively common to use a donor’s name in all follow-up contact – and use attachment phrases, such as “because of your gift, [insert donor name], this happened” – it is not yet common practice for nonprofits to truly customize donor responses and gift requests.

Instead, many nonprofits simply drop donor names into boilerplate letters and direct mail pieces.

While you will get some gifts using this technique, you will get more by tailoring gift requests to the donor’s specific motivation for giving. For example, while one donor may give to a cause because she lost a family member to a disease, another may be an environmentalist concerned with diseases caused by pollution or a one-time weather disaster.

By knowing the motivations of each, you can send gift requests for multiple efforts, i.e. detailed programs, that will successfully appeal to that particular donor.

4) Track Time and Ask on Cue

Nonprofits, particularly the successful ones, routinely track donors, but rarely note the timing of gifts.  Yet when a donation is made often correlates with when giving is possible, or more palatable, for individual donors.

If you note that a donor tends to give on the first of the month – or any set day of the month – this may correspond to paydays. If a donor just got paid, it’s psychologically easier for him or her to give, so asking for a recurring donation then will likely net you a bigger donation or recurring gift.

Similarly, if a donor makes an annual gift, look to see if there is a trend in the time of year it’s made. Perhaps this correlates with the anniversary of a specific event in the donor’s life, or simply when a certificate of deposit or other investment pays out annually.

In any case, timing your request appropriately will net you a much higher take, as will allowing the donor to pick the date for automatic debit donations.

5) Go For the Long Term Instead of the Upgrade

When online-acquired donors move offline in subsequent years of giving, it does have some negative effect on their value in the renewal year. The higher the donor’s original gift level, the less they upgrade… However, these lower gift amounts are far outweighed by the higher retention of online acquired donors provided by the direct mail channel.

Tailor your follow-up gift requests accordingly and offer a guilt-free list of donation choices that will help this incredibly generous group of donors give regularly.

Click here to download the free 2011 Multichannel Fundraising Report and learn more about donor retention.


2011 Multichannel Fundraising Report

Download the complete Multichannel Fundraising Report to learn more about how the industry is changing, the turn to online fundraising and the need for a multichannel approach.

Download the 2011 Internet and Multichannel Fundraising Report Now!



Frank Barry, formerly worked at Blackbaud helping nonprofits use the Internet for digital communication, social media, and fundraising. He’s worked with a diverse group of organizations including LIVESTRONG, United Methodist Church, American Heart Association, Big Brothers Big Sisters, ChildFund Int’l, InTouch Ministries, Heifer Int’l, University of Notre Dame and University of Richmond. Along with writing for industry publications like Mashable and Social Media Today, Frank facilitates discussions, presents solo sessions and organizes panels for industry conferences such as NTC, SXSW, BBCon and numerous others. When he’s out and about he enjoys talking to interesting people about how they are changing the world – check out his interviews. Say Hi on Twitter – @franswaa or Google+

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