Monday Mixtape 030: Donor Retention Tips

Monday Mixtape 030: Donor Retention Tips

Here’s your Monday Mixtape, a weekly newsletter from CauseVox designed to jumpstart your week, challenge your thinking, and inspire you to keep at it.

Each week, we’ll hand-pick must-read articles, thinking, resources, and stories for nonprofit fundraisers and leaders and drop it in your inbox. Have suggestions or questions? Let us know at Enjoy this week’s Mixtape!

Are you losing donors?

The answer for every nonprofit is, “Yes!”

(If this is not the answer for you, and you have a miraculous 100% donor retention rate, please contact me immediately. I want to interview you.)

Donor retention is an ever-evolving puzzle and a constant challenge. It’s also absolutely necessary.

It takes a lot of time and money to acquire a new donor. Throw in the fact that most new donors are one-time givers, and it becomes clear that acquisition cannot be the heart of your fundraising strategy. It makes more sense to keep the donors you already have.

But how? How do we keep donors engaged, and interested, and giving?

This week, I’m looking at donor retention. These posts have tips, warnings, and strategies to help you help your donors stick around.

Here’s this week’s mix:

“I have learned to imagine an invisible sign around each person’s neck that says, ‘Make me feel important!” Mary Kay Ash, Founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics

Track #1:Top 10 Mistakes That Cause First-Time Donors to Leave by John Haydon at

Of all the donor types, first-time donors are the most elusive. Here and gone, they make a gift one time, and then we never see them again. Sadly, most first-time donors won’t make another gift to your organization.

In this post, John Haydon lists ten mistakes nonprofits make that send first-time donors packing. They include not saying thank you, bragging instead of inspiring, not personalizing communications, not targeting and segmenting communications, offering a terrible online experience, not asking why donors give, not sharing impact stories, not asking for the second gift, not sharing impact stories, not telling the donor what’s next, and not fixing your donor retention strategy.

Oof. That’s quite a list, but luckily, these mistakes are fairly easy to fix! By engaging your donors, centering your communications on them, focusing on impact, and asking them to stay involved, you’ll improve things a lot.

Track #2: How To Actually Calculate Donor Retention (The Right Way) & 8 Essential Tips For Effective Donor Retention by Tina Jepson at CauseVox

How do you calculate your donor retention rate? The simple answer is you divide the number of returning donors by the number of the previous year’s donors, resulting in a retention percentage. But donor retention is about more than one equation, as you’ll see in this post from Tina.

In addition to figuring out your overall retention baseline, she recommends a deeper dive into your data. To get the clearest picture, you’ll need to calculate both your first-time donor retention rate and returning donor retention rate, as well as your average annual gift, donor acquisition costs, and lifetime donor value.

Once you’ve done the initial math, you’ll be able to measure the impact of your donor retention strategy. It’s easy to get caught up in ideal scenarios, and chase a magic “good” retention rate, but it’s more effective to measure your organization against itself.

When you’re ready to strategize, Tina has eight recommendations to improve donor retention. These include personalizing the giving experience, inspiring donors with education, involving them in activities, activating them as peer-to-peer fundraisers, asking them to donate again, thanking them immediately and often, reporting on the results of their gifts, and surprising them.

I like this post because it combines the two aspects of donor retention that can seem disparate–numbers and action. Those “touchy-feely” and “donor love” activities really can translate into numbers, and those numbers can help you figure out which activities are best for your organization.


Weekly Wow: How Look What SHE Did! Uses Peer-to-Peer & Women’s History Month To Activate Their Community

Look What SHE Did!, a 501(c)3 organization committed to telling stories with amazing women, about amazing women, found that peer-to-peer fundraising was a phenomenal, effective means to rally a new community of supporters and fund their worthwhile efforts.

See how they used peer-to-peer to raise over $42k in one month.

Track #3: Donor Retention Strategies: 6 Next-Level Practices by Amy DaVita at Top Nonprofits

For many organizations, adopting basic donor retention best practices like personalization, inspiring storytelling, and making regular “asks,” will deliver better fundraising results. But what if you want to take things even further?

In this post, Amy looks at six “next level” donor retention strategies, including making the first giving experience good, giving donors opportunities to express their concerns and ideas, creating a donor membership program, hosting stewardship events, offering targeted volunteer opportunities, and reporting the results of their donations. She offers lots of concrete ideas for implementing these strategies, too.

I believe these strategies are great for fine-tuning and amplifying your retention strategy once you’ve got the basics in place. I wouldn’t jump right into membership programs and stewardship events without laying the groundwork of solid donor engagement, but once you have, they can really take things to the next level.

Track #4: Donor Management: A Guide To Effectively Managing Your Nonprofit’s Donors by Me 🙂

You’ll notice that personalizing and planning your contact with donors is a common thread in all of this week’s posts. That’s because it’s a key part of effective donor engagement, and most people agree on it. The way you do all this personalizing and contacting without spending all your time on it? A donor management strategy.

In this post, I nerd out big time over data, and talk about how you can use your database to help manage your relationships with donors. When you’ve got the data at your fingertips, you can improve your donor communications and boost retention with personalization, segmentation, and moves management.

I also share some best practices and offer tips on how to choose donor management tools. If you’re getting very sick of tracking donor interactions in a spreadsheet, but are overwhelmed at the thought of choosing software, I have some guiding principles for you.

Bonus Tracks:

My new donor retention song …

There’s no one perfect spaghetti sauce …

By the way…

CauseVox CRM Insights

Today, supporters are hyper-connected, live inside personal feeds, discover and support causes recommended by their friends, and desire to be a part of the change – not merely give to it.

So, this Wednesday, Rob Wu, CauseVox’s CEO, is hosting a live conversation to share how thousands of nonprofits – big and small – are growing communities of activated supporters with CauseVox. And, how you can too.

Your supporters believe in your mission and want to be part of it. Will you let them? He’ll show you how to next week.

Grab your spot here (this will fill up).

Thanks for reading!

– Megan

Sign up to have the Monday Mixtape delivered to your inbox.

P.S. Questions about this week’s mix? Suggestions for next week? Don’t leave me in the dark. Let me know by emailing me at

Simplify and grow your fundraising

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

    Easy-to-use Free to get started Cancel anytime