Top 4 Donor Retention Strategies To Keep Donors For Life

Natalia Chung
Natalia Chung

People love to give in the hype of a big moment, but once the buzz dies down, your organization may experience the dreaded “donor drop out.”

However, to help keep donors around, you’ll want to have donor retention strategies in place.

In 2017, the median donor retention rate was only 45.3% for all non-profits. That means you’ll likely lose over half of your donor base during the year and work twice as hard to get new ones and keep current ones.

There are lots of reasons why donors don’t give second gifts. Often, it has to do with two major things: communication and engagement. You can turn your first-time donors into lifelong donors by following a few key donor retention strategies:

 Download CauseVox’s Donor Engagement & Retention Playbook:

1. Thank Your Donors Within 48 Hours

According to GuideStar, thanking your donors within 48 hours will make them 400% more likely to give again. 

Your chances of a repeat donation are even more likely when you send an automated donation receipt with a thank-you message. A receipt lets your donor know their gift was well-received. It also helps donors keep track of their finances and they can use the official confirmation to claim a deduction on their taxes.  Automate your donation gift receipts with CauseVox Donation Pages.

When you thank someone with your automated receipt, it can also offset a little something called “buyer’s remorse”. That drop that typically follows a high after spending. 

When thanking your donor, making sure to include:

  • An impact statement — how did their donation impact your organization?
  • An email signature from an actual person — not just “the team”
  • A donate button — but not a hard donation ask

However, make sure your donor thank you doesn’t sound like an auto-reply, even if it is. If you have the time to send a personalized note, do it. Here are the best practices you should follow and a great example.

And always, always ALWAYS triple check to make sure you spelled the donor’s name correctly before you hit ‘send’ on a personalized message. 

A simple “thank you” goes a long way. They’ll be able to carry that gratitude into their next donation.

2. Ask for the 2nd Donation Within 90 Days

Bad news: First-time donors have a 23% retention rate, meaning you’re likely losing the vast majority of new donors.

However, 64% of returning donors are retained.

This tells us that one of the best donor retention strategies out there is to get a second gift from your donors – and studies tell us the sooner you’re able to get them to make a second gift, the better.

It’s not selfish to ask for the next gift soon after the first. In fact, it’s better to stay top of mind as much as possible. According to Bloomerang, donors who give a second gift within the first three months of their first give nearly twice as much over a five-year period.

You have an opportunity during this “honeymoon phase” to overwhelm your donor with gratitude — really make them feel the love. Consider your next email and donation ask an extension of your 48-hour follow up. 

Make sure your second ask is specific. You want to focus on an individual, action, or event, not general goals or outcomes. This will make your donors feel that their dollars are going directly to something that will have an actionable outcome. Many people donate because they want to see their impact. Show them where their dollars will go. Here’s an example:

Hey [Name],

We were all overwhelmed by the generosity of your last gift. Because of you, we were able to help Angelia send her daughter, Myra to school for a whole year! Here is a picture of her in her brand new uniform.

Myra, her brother Junto, and many kids just like them around the world need an education to get good jobs, feed their families, and end the needless cycle of poverty that has plagued their communities. We’d love to ask if you could pitch in just $15 for backpacks we can send to them for the first day of school this year. 

Thank you so much again for being a part of our family as we work to ensure every child gets to go to school all around the world.


The time you invest in getting a second gift from your donors will come back to you ten-fold. Trust us. It’s worth it.

3. Launch A Recurring Giving Campaign

When you ask a returning donor for another donation, it’s a great time to ask first-time donors to become recurring monthly donors. The dollar amount looks modest, but it really adds up over time.

In 2015, the Fundraising Effectiveness Project found recurring donors have a 90% retention rate as opposed to 46% for one-time donors. That means your recurring donation ask is crucial to conversion rate and ultimately your annual fundraising goals.

 Learn how to integrate a recurring giving campaign into your fundraising calendar.

Recurring giving keeps donors involved with your organization, updated on what’s happening on a constant basis, and ensures they maintain a long-term personal and financial investment in the cause. The constant reminder of where their dollars are going gives them a reason to keep giving.


Mortgage Professionals Providing Hope (MPPH) is an excellent example of a successful recurring gift campaign. Director Jake Vermillion was able to use CauseVox to showcase their giving, display what they’re doing outside their job to create a more human connection to the work, and invite others to partner with them on causes they believe in to maximize their impact. 

Jake also customized his donation page to automatically default to recurring donations, which made it more likely that he would covert recurring donors.  

Additionally, you can simply drive more recurring donations through your donation page on your website by making recurring giving the first option, as opposed to a one-time gift. This simple switch can help you change donor mindsets from short-term to longterm giving, and help you double retention and drive predictable fundraising growth.


Learn how you can use CauseVox to easily implement recurring giving and double your donor retention.

4. Create An Email Nurture Series

An email nurture series is one of the top donor retention strategies to connect with first-time donors and build a lasting relationship with your donors. 

According to a study by the Charities Aid Foundation, 68% of donors agree that knowing how their gift made an impact is important to them.

Additionally, experts have agreed it takes between 7-12 touches for a donor to decide to make another donation.

One type of way to meet these donors’ needs is through a welcome series. This is where you introduce your new donors to your organization, communicate impact, get them even more involved in your work, and convert them into lifelong super advocates. 

Make sure each email in your welcome series has a clear ask that requires more engagement at each stage. For example:

  • Email 1: Like us on Facebook (click of a button)
  • Email 2: Share this post (two clicks of a button)
  • Email 3: Subscribe to our newsletter (fill out a short form)
  • Email 4: Make another donation/sign up to be a recurring donor (monetary commitment)

You will easily be able to track who is opening and clicking on these emails to narrow down who is more likely to take the next action. Here is a great example of how to do this well.

When you get a donation for the first time, it’s important to know where they come from, so you know how to keep them coming back. Our Donor Engagement & Retention Playbook is a 60-day step-by-step guide that ensures you are properly cultivating your donors to ensure they’re donors for life.

Retain More Donors With Less Effort on CauseVox

Need a solution to help you implement these donor retention strategies?

CauseVox is a digital fundraising platform for nonprofits that helps you raise more with less effort through our fundraising software.

Typical fundraising software is clunky, complex, and contract-bound, but CauseVox actually tidies up your digital fundraising. Run donation pages, crowdfunding, and peer to peer fundraising in less time, without hassle.

Simplify and grow your fundraising

It honestly felt like using CauseVox expanded our team by another member.

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