How To Retain Donors On A Low Marketing Budget – Part 1


Posted on

May 25, 2018

How To Retain Donors On A Low Marketing Budget – Part 1

One of the best ways to increase donations is to retain donors for longer.

This is particularly true in retaining subscription based donors.

But how can you keep donors and get them to support your mission for longer?

This article will answer this key question and provide you ideas on how to retain donors.

We have split up this article into two parts.

Part 1 will focus on general principles and strategies while Part 2 will provide specific donor retention tactics.


Donor Retention Strategy #1 – Target The Right People

The first step is to know who your donors really are.

It’s a major mistake to try and target everyone.

Not everyone will respond or connect with your cause.

And trying to reach these “non-responders” will eat up your marketing budget.

The Number 1 expense in any marketing campaign is “waste circulation.” This is where your marketing message reaches people who aren’t likely to respond.

The more you can reduce waste circulation, the more cost-effective your campaign will be.

So who are your real target audience of donors?

  •   Look at your current list and find the 20% of donors that account for approximately 80% of your donations
  •   From this segment, you need to find out their exact demographics:
    •   How old are they?
    •   Gender?
    •   Ethnic background?
    •   Marital status?
    •   Children or no children?
    •   Occupation?
  •   You also need to determine this segment’s qualitative reasons on why they connect with your cause:
    •   Why do they donate to your organisation and not someone else’s?
    •   How did they find out about your NFP?
    •   Why do they continue to support you?
    •   Of the people who stop donating, what caused them to discontinue?

You can find out this information by getting in touch with this specific segment of people.

Survey or interview them face to face, over the phone, through mail or by email.

Each of these methods varies in costs (face to face being most expensive, email being the least).

However, face to face communication is also the MOST effective, while email is the least effective.

We recommend investing the resources to obtain this information by phone or direct mail. It is well worth the resources to get this step CORRECT.

Otherwise, the amount of waste circulation (because you don’t know who your audience is) will destroy your campaign’s budget.

The main reason we need to understand this 20% of your audience is so you can connect with them on a deeper level.

Once you understand who you should be talking to, you can craft your messages specifically to resonate with the 20% of people who donate the most to your organisation.

You don’t want to be wasting your time going after the 80% that only represent 20% of your total donations.

We cannot stress the importance of knowing your donor-base well enough.

Remember, the Number 1 killer of any campaign is waste circulation.

Knowing the 20% of donors that represent 80% of your donations will help you craft your donor retention strategy effectively.

As a bonus, when you are building campaigns to gain new donors, you’ll know the exact demographics of who you need to target (it makes sense to only go after people who fit the profile of the 20%).

how to retain donors

Donor Retention Strategy #2 – Build A Relationship With Them Through Authenticity

Once you understand your target audience with the steps outlined in Strategy #1, it’s time to build a lasting relationship with them.

One of the key ways to do this is to be authentic. This means you should speak as a singular person (“I” not “we”) in most cases.

If you provide regular newsletters and other forms of communication, you should communicate as yourself.

It’s difficult for most people to connect to organisations – but it’s easy for them to connect to a real person.

So tell them (if you haven’t already) your story and how you got involved with your non-profit organisation.

Also talk about your life in short paragraphs to give some insight into you as a person.

You should also talk about any characteristics you have that would resonate with your target audience.

For example, if your research revealed most of your donor-base have young children and you yourself have children – you should talk about this.

Telling them your experience with your own children is extremely relevant (even if it doesn’t relate directly to your cause).

This is because they will be able to connect to you on a deeper level.

All of these aspects will increase donor retention because they can relate to you.

The key insight to take away is this: the donors may have supported your organisation for your cause… but they will STAY because they like you.

It’s the relationship between you (as a person) and your donors that will increase donor retention.

Of course, the cause is important.

But people value relationships more than organisations, which is why you should focus on the personal connection.

And when you’ve built trust and a great relationship with your donors… you can ask for larger or more frequent contributions with the reasons why (i.e. your mission or cause).

Because they trust and like you, they are far more likely to respond and help your organisation.

donor retention

Donor Retention Strategy #3 – Communicate Regularly So They Expect To Hear From You On A Specific Date

Regular communication is key to getting increased response rates.

If people don’t open and read your communication messages (e.g. newsletters), they won’t be able to connect with you.

If they don’t connect with you, a relationship can’t be built – resulting in lower donor retention.

Furthermore, having a regular cycle of messages trains your readers to expect you at a certain time.

This increases response rates because opening your messages becomes a habit for them.

But the only way to achieve this is to keep to a regular schedule.

So if you do monthly newsletters (hopefully you do), make sure they arrive on the same day, every month.

donor retention strategies

Donor Retention Strategy #4 – Build A Great Donor Welcome And Thank You Package

The “Welcome” and “Thank You” package for donors should wow them and genuinely surprise them.

Think about how you can convey your feelings of gratefulness to your donors.

If you’re on a tight budget, it may be writing a personalised, handwritten “thank you” postcard.

Handwritten “thank you” notes speak volumes louder than generic printed letters or emails.

This is because it requires a lot more effort to handwrite notes – and your donors know this.

They can deduce how sincere you are by determining how much effort you have put in to thank them.

If possible, gift them something useful they can keep around the house with your logo on it.

This serves as a constant reminder about your organisation and your cause, in your donors’ everyday lives.

Donor Retention Strategy #5 – Learn Copywriting Skills (Or Have Someone On Your Team Learn)

Copywriting is the skill of persuasion in print (usually getting sales in business – but the same skill set can be applied to non-profit organisations).

The idea behind good copywriting isn’t using “magic” words to persuade people.

Instead, it is the process of “assembling” the right things to say to the right people.

This brings us back again, to the importance of Strategy #1.

If you don’t understand your target audience, it is impossible to write good copy (copy is the words written by a copywriter).

Learning how to write copy is one of the best investments you can make for your marketing and communication campaigns.

This is because it makes all of your marketing communications more effective and brings in better results (i.e. more donations, increased donor retention).

It’s also much cheaper to learn copywriting, rather than trying to hire a great copywriter (they’re usually very expensive).

Teaching copywriting is beyond the scope of this article, but here are some resources you can use:

Hopefully these resources will help you on your journey (or your staff’s) in learning copywriting.

In part two of this article, we will explore the specific donor retention tactics that will help keep your donors in supporting your cause.



Need help building your online presence with donors?

Get in touch with us.

Web 105 specialises in helping non profit organisations and building strong online presences that draw donors to your website.


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