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8 Tips for Retaining Online Donors

8 Tips for Retaining Online Donors

Online donations, just like charitable giving in general, are on the rise. Last year alone, individuals donated over $250 billion to nonprofit causes. Your organization may already be getting a significant piece of that giving pie, but what are you doing to keep your donors hanging around?

While donor acquisition should be part of your nonprofit's strategy, donor retention should be regarded with equal, if not more, importance. Many donors will give once to an organization and never donate again. There are many ways to retain your donors, but when it comes to online givers, you may have to tweak your strategies.

Luckily, we've compiled a list of the top eight ways your nonprofit can succeed in the online donor retention game.

The sphere of online donations is constantly changing. In order to keep up, use these eight tips in conjunction with one another for top results. 

1. Be grateful - immediately!

One of the main reasons that people find online donating so appealing is the ease and efficiency of the whole process. A donor can access a nonprofit's online donation form or give through an online portal like IMPACTism's, fill out their information, and click "Donate." In the time it takes to brew a pot of coffee, a donor can give to an organization and feel that sense of philanthropic pride often associated with charitable giving

With that speed in the donation side of the experience, there comes an expectation that acknowledgements should happen just as quickly. Your nonprofit's response time when thanking online donors should match the speed at which you receive their contributions.

Your online donation process should always feature an acknowledgement or thank you page directly after a donation has been submitted.

When you let donors know that you appreciate their online donation immediately after they've made it, they're more likely to feel a sense of pride and accomplishment, which could lead to more donations in the future. 

2. Sharing is caring

On your thank you page, give donors an option to share their contribution with friends and family via email and social media outlets. Not only can you potentially acquire new donors by letting online contributors share their donations with their followers on Facebook and Twitter, but you also help those donors feel more connected to your organization.

Similarly, your nonprofit can use social media to give shout outs to online donors who are supporting your cause with their contributions. While you shouldn't publish donation amounts, you can put the spotlight on donors who have given online and thank them publicly for donating to your organization.

When you offer donors the chance to share their donations with their online community, you begin the process of fostering a positive relationship with them. You also have the potential to acquire new donors who are part of your donors' networks.

Additionally, when donors are publicly thanked and praised for their contributions, they feel a connection with your organization that can result in more donations in the future.

3. Say thanks and keep the conversation going

While you should already be showing your appreciation via an acknowledgement page, you should follow up and thank donors a few days afterwards as well.

Send supporters a short email that thanks them for their donation and includes:

  • A link to your organization's website.
  • Links to your social media pages.
  • Information about current projects or events.

Give donors ways to learn more about your organization. The more they know, the more likely they'll be to identify with your cause and mission.

Personally identitying with a cause is one of the biggest reasons that donors continue to give to organizations. Increase the chances that your online supporters connect with your mission by saying thank you and keeping them in the loop.

Think of "Thank You" as the beginning of your donor relationship, not the end.

4. Before you ask for more money, ask for time

It's not wise to ask an online donor to open her wallet again two weeks after she's made her first contribution. Not only will she view your organization as greedy and impersonal, but she's also unlikely to give again or tell her friends and family about your nonprofit.

Instead of asking for another donation, ask supporters to lend you their time. Not only can gaining new volunteers help you get more work done, it also gives individuals the opportunity to learn more about your organization firsthand.

Additionally, you'll be able to put a face to your online donors. When someone makes a contribution on the internet, they remain somewhat anonymous. Volunteering is a way to meet these donors in person and build real life, not just virtual connections. It's much easier to forget a few clicks on the internet than it is to forget a conversation you've had while working alongside an organization's gifts officer. 

When donors feel connected to your nonprofit's mission, they are more inclined to give money later on and more likely to continue volunteering. 

Make sure you're still personally thanking your volunteers after an event or project is completed. People like feeling appreciated and the more valued they feel, the more prone to giving they'll be.  

5. Go mobile

Online donors choose to give on the internet for many different reasons. Part of the appeal of online donating is that it's easier and quicker than mailing a check or making a donation over the phone. 

You may be wondering how you can make this process even more efficient and accessible. 

The answer is simple. Put the online donation process in the palms of your donors' hands!

You can boost donor retention through mobile giving by offering it as one of many ways to give. When donors know that they can donate on their laptops, desktops, and phones, as well as more traditional methods like mailing in checks and making donations over the phone, they feel comfortable making contributions down the line. 

6. Use direct mail as a supplement, not as a replacement

Direct mail is a great way to keep up with donors after they've made a contribution. Possible materials to send donors in the weeks and months after their online donation include:

  • Postcards
  • Pamphlets
  • Welcome packets
  • Thank you cards
  • Reminders for events and fundraisers

However, while you should be using multiple channels of communication to talk to your donors, remember that online donors usually prefer electronic or digital updates rather than physical ones.

Instead of using direct mail as your only means of communication, use it as a way for online donors to receive special updates that they'll need to remember. Not only will donors have tangible reminders of an event, but you will have established another way to communicate with them, boosting donor retention.

7. Track donor patterns and make appeals accordingly

Once a donor has made an online contribution, all of their information should be recorded and tracked over time. When you know giving patterns, you're able to make your appeals to donors at the right times.

For instance, let's say Debbie Donor makes her online contributions at the beginning of each month. These donations are likely being made in conjunction with a pay period. 

Your organization can take advantage of these patterns and retain more donors by scheduling your appeals slightly before these donation times. 

8. Make personal and authentic appeals

Once you've encouraged your online donors to become volunteers and educated them about your organization through a variety of communication channels, it's time to make your next appeal!

Ideally, you should be making at least four donation appeals within a year of the initial contribution. Space them out and keep the wording different each time.

Make your appeals direct and clear. Ambiguous and vague language will get you nowhere. Include information about the projects that donors' previous donations have helped fund and let them know what future contributions will go toward.

The more explicit and forthright you can be with donors, the better the result. 

Additionally, remember that your donors are people, not ATMs. Don't expect to secure future donations if you don't personalize your appeals and make your donors feel appreciated and special in the present.

Donor retention isn't rocket science. While it does take deliberate action and a combination of the above strategies, it's not an impossible feat. When it comes to online donors, remember that retention is especially important considering the increase in online donations over the years. Even though online donations make donors seem more anonymous and unreachable, the key to donor retention is personal and authentic communication at every step of the process.