Roundtable discussion: donor retention strategies to help you unlock generosity

May 5th, 2021

In a year full of uncertainty, donors gave generously to the nonprofits and causes they passionately believe in. The unique and challenging era of the pandemic called new donors to step forward alongside sustaining givers.

Donor retention is the greatest barrier to increasing generosity for our missions. It is mission-critical that we build deep, personalized relationships with the donors from the last year.

During this roundtable discussion, nonprofit leaders explored the opportunities to close the distance between the donor and their impact, and better understand what these donors care most deeply about to further engage them as transformational partners in our mission.

Here’s what we learned.

1. Tell A Powerful, Authentic Story

“If you go back to sacred writings to the beginning of human history, the one thing that has been constant across civilizations and across time is our wonder at story. And the transmittal of information has come through storytelling. And so I feel very passionate about organizations who put that at the core of their mission, because they believe that stories tell us where we’ve been. They tell us who we are today, and they tell us where we’re going.” – Cherian Koshy 

By utilizing storytelling, you:  

  • Create connection between donors and the people behind your mission
  • Generate empathy and understanding for your cause 
  • Invite donors to see how their own personal story connects to your mission 
  • Provide donors to experience your mission, rather than be told about it 
  • Story turns passion, and passion connects donors to your mission

2. Ask Better Questions

“If you want advice, ask for money. If you want money, ask for advice.” – Patrick Kirby

Build authentic relationships with prospects and donors by asking for the input and advice alongside their support. Get their opinions, collect their passion, learn why they give, and ask the right questions that allow you to better understand what motivates them.

Even go to your past donors and highly engaged supporters and solicit their feedback on your fundraising pitch to other donors. Involve them in the process to create a meaningful exchange.

We can learn more about donors through questions and behavior:

  • Authentically asking donors how they are doing in their lives
  • Create opportunities for donors to see themselves in your mission
  • Be direct and ask, “Is now a good time for you to give?”
  • Look at online behavior to understand a donor’s motivations. What emails do they open and read? Where do they spend the most time on your website? Are they more responsive to calls or texts?

3. Develop A Word Of Mouth Advocacy Strategy

Third party endorsements are exponentially more important than first party solicitation. Having people that are passionate about your cause get in front of other people to tell your story on your behalf is transformational to your retention strategy.

We live in a world where word of mouth advocacy is the number one way people make a decision. Think about the reviews you read on Amazon before buying a product or the Yelp reviews that help you choose a new restaurant.

This methodology is under utilized in the nonprofit sector.

4. What You Can Learn Looking At Giving History

Honor your every donor, not just the top 5-10% of givers. Every donor’s gift means the world to them. The passion and value behind a $100,000 gift and a $100 gift are the same from the donor’s point of view.

Matt Gerken recommends you “look in your donor database, pick out your top 100 major donors for all the people in the top level of your major donor club and look at what their first donation was when it occurred. If you haven’t thought down this trail before you will be shocked. This person who gave the lead gift to our campaign gave a $100 check a decade ago. And that’s how it started.”

How you can honor all donors:

  • Send a personal handwritten thank you note to every donor
  • Pick up the phone and call donors
  • Record a personal video and call out a donor by name thanking them and sharing the impact they made

Tune into this conversation to learn about the strategies you can utilize today to increase donor retention.

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Leading Nonprofits Trust Virtuous to Grow Generosity

Get More Actionable Insights

Virtuous gathered in-the-trench nonprofit leaders and go-forward-minded industry insiders to share how nonprofits thrived in 2020 and how they can plan to fuel growth in 2021. Leaders shared hopeful statistics, transformative strategic insights, and creative learnings to help the sector refocus and push their missions forward.

This is what they said.