Top Four Strategies To Attract and Retain Donors

advice fundraising more donors thanking Sep 20, 2021

Top Four Strategies To Attract and Retain Donors

It is the goal of every organization to attract and retain donors. There are several strategies organizations can employ to make sure new friends feel welcomed, donors feel appreciated, and nobody falls through the cracks. Here are the top four engagement strategies I recommend all nonprofits use to maximize giving.


1. Celebrate Milestones

Donors love and continue to support organizations that celebrate their giving. You cannot throw the same giant celebration every time someone gives, or it would not be as special. To celebrate milestones, create special campaigns for when your donors achieve a specific goal or threshold. Here are some examples:

  • First-Time Gift: Your organization must do something special for first-time donors. Within 24-48 business hours of someone making their first gift, be sure to celebrate the donor in a special way.
  • Total Lifetime Giving: If someone’s giving exceeded a certain amount (say $100,000 in their lifetime) it’s a good time to send them an extra-special thank you. The thresholds should be set based on your organization’s reality.
  • Years of Involvement/Giving: Just like Total Lifetime Giving celebrates a dollar amount, it can be equally powerful to celebrate years or numbers of gifts. Celebrating a donor who has given 5 years in a row, celebrating a donor’s 100th gift, thanking a donor for their 50th monthly gift, are all examples or extra engagements that will make your donors feel as awesome as they truly are.
  • Other examples of milestones worth celebrating are:
    • Year-To-Date Giving Milestones (number of gifts or dollar amounts)
    • Volunteering or Board Member Milestones (Years or months involved)
    • Impact Milestones (# of meals given, students sponsored, etc.)
    • In-kind Milestones (# of cans donated, pounds of food given)


2. 90 Day Onboarding

The 90 Day Onboarding™ is my proprietary engagement strategy, but organizations can always make their own version. This strategy plans the first 90 days of interaction you have with a new contact. Note that I said “contact” and not "donor." Sometimes they are the same, but not always. The idea behind this strategy is three-fold.

  1. First Impressions: You’ve heard it said “you only get one first impression” – so make it awesome. We want to wow new contacts and let them know why your organization is so worthy of their attention and support.
  2. On the Same Page: If you employ this strategy, you can be relatively certain that most people in your database understand the basics of your mission. Having a basis of understanding helps your future communications be more powerful.
  3. 5-9 Touchpoints Before a Purchase: In sales, it is widely accepted that people need to be “touched” 5-9 times before making a purchase. The same is true before giving. The 90 Day Onboarding plans out your touchpoints so people can be asked when they are more likely to give.


4. Event Follow-Up

If you went through all the effort of having an event, be sure you follow up with everyone afterward. Level up your follow-ups by making them specific to the donor’s behavior. For example, registered and did not come, came but did not donate, came and donated, etc.

Following up promptly after an event shows that you’re organized, that you care about the person and their presence/involvement matter to your organization. (Because it does!) Solicit feedback, send a video or replay, list the highlights, outline how the funds raised will be used, and illustrate the impact of each gift.

It’s especially important to follow up after fundraising events. If someone intended to donate the night of the event but did not, they are unlikely to go through the process of making a gift unless you make it easy for them or remind them.


4. Lapsed Donors

Last, but certainly not least, is a lapsed donor outreach strategy. Lapsed donors are either LYBNT or SYBNT. That is, they either gave Last Year But Not This or Some Year But Not This. Being disciplined about reaching out to donors and following up with them when they go at least a year without giving is a great way to recapture donors who may have otherwise left and learn about why some donors choose not to give to your organization anymore. It’s unfortunately common for organizations to lose 80+ percent of first-time givers before they make their second gift. Yikes! Don’t let this be your organization!



Organizations that employ these four strategies will always (yes, ALWAYS) find that they are attracting more net-new donors, retaining donors, and have higher donor satisfaction (resulting in increased giving).