How to thank and retain year-end donors.

Jan 20, 2022

We hope you met all your goals and raised a lot of money that will help make the world a better place this appeal season. But your work isn’t done! And you can do even more if you make it a priority to retain year-end donors!

You already know making sure your current donors stick around is more sustainable than securing a bunch of one-off donations. But donors won’t give again if they don’t feel like their gift made a difference.

Donors need to understand that their support is appreciated by and essential for your nonprofit.

And saying thank you, the right way, after someone gives is crucial if you want to retain year-end donors.

So, here’s what you need to do.

Don't make donors wonder if you received their gift. Set up an automated thank you email!

1. Don’t dilly-dally!

It’s not enough to thank donors when you get around to it. You need to be timely with your thank you’s if you want to retain year-end donors.

This means reaching out with an automated thank you email once a transaction is processed. This email should include a receipt for the donor’s records and thank them for supporting your mission.

READ MORE: How better thank you’s can elevate your fundraising.

Download eBook: Donor Retention - Are you deserving of long term support?

2. Ask for feedback.

You can go a step further by sending a link to your new donor survey if this is the first time someone has given to your organization.

A survey gives you more information you can use to personalize future touches. And it’s a way to let donors know you care about them and want to accommodate their preferences! Long-term donors stick around because they understand an organization cares about more than what’s in their wallet.

So, start your new relationship off on the right foot!

Ask new donors what enticed them to give for the first time, what future communications they would like to receive, or if there is anything they think you can do better!

READ MORE: Why your nonprofit should be using donor surveys.

Say thank you! Then thank your donors again!

3. Be repetitive.

If you think your work is done after your automated thank you hit’s a donor’s inbox, you’re sadly mistaking!

Think about the last time someone really went out of their way to help you out. You probably felt like you had to return the favor somehow. Saying “hey, thanks!” once would just feel inadequate and rude!

So, if you want to retain year-end donors, treat them like a friend who went out of their way to lend you a hand.

Go the extra mile to show how appreciative you are. Reach out with a handwritten note, phone call, or personal video message and thank them again.

READ MORE: 3 ways nonprofits use donor data to improve results.

4. Show and tell.

Let’s stick with the mindset of treating your donor like a helpful friend. You don’t just want to tell them you’re thankful. You want to make sure you show them why you’re so grateful! And the same is true if you want to retain year-end donors.

So, give them some real examples of how their gift made a difference.

Let them know specific ways their gift of $X is having an immediate impact on the goals and values they share with your nonprofit.

And don’t just ask them to take your word for it! Use powerful pictures of your mission in action to help tell the story. Share stories and testimonials from the people who benefit from your work. And then update them about your progress in future communications!

READ MORE: How to show donors the impact of every donation.

It's not about what your nonprofit is accomplishing, it's about what the donor makes possible!

5. It’s not about your nonprofit.

It’s about the donor.

As fundraisers, we too often fall into the trap of talking about the amazing things our organization is accomplishing. Or all the great things that are happening because of our work.

But if you want to retain year-end donors, you need to understand that it’s not about you right now!

You will need to be donor-centric with your thank you’s to secure long-term support.

And remember, you’re not thanking your donors just for giving money. You’re thanking them for their role in making the world a better place!

READ MORE: How you can tell a more donor-centric story.

6. Invite them back.

Let’s clear up a common misconception in the world of fundraising. There is no set amount of time you need to wait before you ask for a second donation. And if you’ve put in the effort to go above and beyond with your thank you’s and related messages, donor’s won’t necessarily be turned off if you ask for another gift.

Some nonprofits make their donors feel like an ATM. But that only happens if you ask again and again, without other communications in between.

If you put in the effort to make every donor feel valued and invested in your mission, they may be eager to do more for the cause!

And this doesn’t have to just be another monetary donation. Signing up as a volunteer is another great sign a donor sees the value in your nonprofit’s work. And don’t ignore other signals, such as consistent clicks in your emails, filling out your survey, or following you on social media after a donation.

Remember, engagement precedes action!

READ MORE: Six strategies for securing a second gift.

Making this simple.

We can go on and on and come up with fun ways to thank donors all day. But sometimes, it’s best to just make things simple.

There are two main things to know if you want to retain year-end donors:

  1. You need to go above and beyond to make donors feel special with your thank you’s.
  2. If you’re successful in step 1, donors may be ready to give again sooner than you’d think.

Or, you can download our latest eBook by clicking here if you’d rather take a deep dive into how we approach donor retention!

DOWNLOAD: Donor retention - are you deserving of long-term support?

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