Three Practical Ways Your Tech Tools Can Help You Retain Donors


By Abby Jarvis
Nonprofit Education Manager
of Qgiv.

Did you see a dip in individual donations to your organization last year? If you did, you’re not alone! According to Giving USA’s Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2019, gifts from individuals decreased 1.1% (or 3.4%, if you adjust for inflation). Individual donations still accounted for about $292.09 billion dollars—still the third-highest dollar amount on record—but many nonprofits worry about what a decrease in individual donations may mean for their organization.

Experts are puzzling out what contributed to the decrease in individual giving. While they work on that task, it’s time for nonprofits to work on a different one—building systems that will keep individual donors engaged with our work and creating processes that help us retain the donors we have.

Most relationship-building and donor retention efforts will take place outside the actual donation process. But you can automate certain parts of your donation process in a way that sets donors up for future retention. Here’s how!

Build Your Donation Form with Retention in Mind

“How on earth can I retain donors with my donation form?” you might think. “They’re not even donors yet!”

And you’re right! But donor retention starts before someone gives their first gift.

First-time donors become repeat donors when they feel connected to your mission and feel that their gift makes a difference in the world. You can help them feel both of those things with the content on your donation form.

When you build your donation form, include the following elements that connect donors to your cause and show them the impact they’ll make with their gift:

  • A high-quality image of the people their gift will support (hint: using a photo of a happy individual or small group is more effective than using sad images or images of large groups)
  • A brief (think 2-3 sentences) statement about what giving to your organization can accomplish
  • Suggested donation amounts accompanied by impact statements that help donors visualize what their gift will achieve

By the time your donors get through your donation form, they should understand what your mission is, how they can make a difference, who they will help, and what their gift can achieve.

Want to make your donor experience extra special? Build separate donation forms for special programs, restrictions or funds, or events, then include links to those pages when you run campaigns for specific causes. You can add elements that will speak directly to donors’ desire to make a difference in specific areas, which will help with other retention efforts down the line.

Take Advantage of Your Confirmation Page

Whether they land on your year-round donation form or a specific campaign’s donation form, you can use your confirmation page to make your donors feel great about the gift they just made. Your donors are already going to see your confirmation page when they make their gift—why not make the most of it?

Add elements to your confirmation page that reinforce the messaging included on your donation form, like:

  • Another high-quality image of the people they just supported
  • A thank-you message that restates the impact they’ll make with their gift
  • An invitation to get involved other ways, like following you on Facebook, watching a video, or signing up for your newsletter.

Taking some time to build a donation confirmation page that delights your donors can pay off. It’s a valuable place to make a positive impression on your donors and invite them to get involved with your nonprofit.

Make the Most of Your Donation Receipts

Automated donation receipts don’t have to be boring! You’ll always want to include transactional information like donation details and any legal language as required by your state. But that doesn’t mean your entire receipt has to be purely transactional.

Your donors will automatically get a receipt after they make a gift—why not take advantage of it? Many of the elements you’ll want to include in your receipt are similar to the ones on your confirmation page, including:

  • Images and impact statements that reiterate the messaging on your donation and confirmation pages (they don’t have to be identical, but keep them in the same vein!)
  • Invitations to get more involved with your nonprofit, whether through simple actions (following on social media) or more personal ones (volunteering, touring your facility, etc)
  • A note about future communications that will show how you’ve spent their money (more on this later)

A good donation receipt will accomplish two things. One, of course, is sending the donor a summary of their transaction for their records. The other is making the donor feel good about giving and communicating how their gift will make a difference. It’s a valuable donor retention piece!

Report Your Donors’ Impact before Making Another Ask

Timing your next ask is hard, isn’t it? Here’s a good rule of thumb for asking donors for another gift: report their impact before you ask them for more money.

There’s a relatively simple way to do this. A couple of weeks after they give, send your donors an email update sharing how their gift made an impact. Be as specific as possible. Then—and only then!—should you move them into the email list you use for appeals.

Based on the tools at your disposal, this can be handled through either your CRM, your email service provider, or a combination of both. But waiting until after you report your donors’ impact to make an additional ask is important! You want your donors to feel like their first gift was used wisely before asking them to give again. Asking again too soon can make donors feel like ATMs instead of partners.

Add Personal Touches Where You Can

When you can, add personal touches to your donor experience. If a donor has given specifically to a particular program or restricted fund, include a note that references that detail in your email receipt, follow-up emails, and future asks. If your donor has dedicated their gift to a loved one, mention that in your follow-ups. Include a special note for donors that have made recurring gifts that thanks them for their loyalty and dedication to your cause.

The trick to making the most of automated confirmation pages, receipts, and future communications is making them feel as personal as possible. The more specific you can be about the details of their gift, the more personal your outreach will feel… and the more likely donors will be to give again in the future.

Personalized Automation Isn’t a Silver Bullet, but It’s a Valuable Tool

As individuals become less engaged with philanthropic giving, it’s critical that nonprofits explore new ways to engage and retain their donors. Much of that must be done at an organizational level! But some donor retention strategies can be as simple as reworking a donation page to appeal to donors or tweaking donation receipts to be inspiring instead of transactional.

Every nonprofit has a different set of tools at its disposal. But any effort to connect to donors by creating a personalized experience is a step toward building a more engaged donor base—and that’s a step in the right direction.

Author Bio: Abby Jarvis is the Nonprofit Education Manager for Qgiv, an online fundraising service provider. When she’s not working at Qgiv, Abby can usually be found working on her back yard, catching up on her favorite blogs, or binge-watching sci-fi shows on Netflix.