Donor Retention. Why it matters and what you need to do



Author —Auteur — Michelle Bell

The importance of donor retention is not new. Every site, conference and article in the non-profit sector touts the importance of nurturing the donors that you have. So do we. So what now? Let’s go a little deeper – and really understand why it matters and more importantly, what you can do about it.

Let’s take this topic from the theoretical to a plan with purpose.

1 – Be Data Driven

Strategy –

Don’t treat everyone the same. Know who to talk to, and what to talk to them about. Make it as personalized as you can.

Where to Start?

Look at your data and find the segments and behaviours you can activate. Remember, the goal of segments is to tailor products, services and communications. The other main goal is to prioritize. Focusing on all segments simultaneously is almost as dangerous as treating them all the same.

How Can we Help?

No data? We can help map your data plan. 

Data with no segments – great, let’s dig into analysis. 

Segments with no soul – let’s flesh them out so you can action them.

2 – Focus on Donor Experience

Strategy –

Give them a good experience at all touchpoints. Start with a customer journey map and go from there.

Where to Start?

The trick is to understand all touchpoints. Most organizations stop at the transactional moment and don’t recognize the importance of the pre and post events. 

The other trick is to know which touchpoints are most important and have an honest view of how you are delivering. Cliche as it may seem, you are only as strong as your weakest link, and the links run longer than you think.

How Can we Help?

We can help you map the journey. 

We have fresh eyes and see the moments you may not realize even exist, and can help you measure the importance and performance of each.

3 – Celebrate & Thank the Donor

Strategy –

Our brains are naturally wired for story. You can’t buy attention – you have to earn it through engaging storytelling.

Where to Start?

Just as the right ingredients don’t guarantee a great outcome without a recipe, elements of your organization don’t amount to a great story without the right framework. 

One essential part of your story is your hero…this is often a source of debate, tension and confusion within impact organizations. Our natural instinct is to celebrate the impact and the mission. While this is essential, it is even more important to recognize your donors as the hero in your storyline that make the impact possible.


How Can we Help?

We are storytellers. We help take your ingredients and turn them into stores that engage your audiences.


4 – Have a Goal

Strategy –

Know what you are asking for, and build the right strategy to do it. Do you want monthly giving? Major gifts?

Where to Start?

Know what you need, and what you don’t. What does the organization need most? What is a must vs. nice to have? When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.


How Can we Help?

Know what you need, and what you don’t. What does the organization need most? What is a must vs. nice to have? When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.

5 – Be Better than the Competition

Strategy –

There are many impact organizations targeting the same people.

Donors don’t stop giving, they just give somewhere else. Make sure your experience is better than the competition so people stay.

Where to Start?

People who give, tend to keep giving. When a donor stops giving to one charity, odds are they have started giving somewhere else instead?

Why? It usually comes down to two things. One, someone else made the giving experience more fulfilling. Two, someone made it easier. 

Going back to the touchpoints – is each step good, great, better than other options?


How Can we Help?

Competitive analysis that is thorough, unbiased and served honestly.

It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we see donations as one-time transactions and treat them as such, so they will be. If we treat every donation as a touch-point in a donor journey, you will set the path for long term engagement. 

As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, we need to move from the theoretical and conceptual and strategies and tactics in place. With the right systems in place to measure, track and guide communications this can be an easy and extremely rewarding investment for any organization. Call us. We can help get you there. 


Michelle Bell

Chief Marketing Officer

Michelle has over 18 years of experience in marketing and operations. She has worked in traditional brand management for global consumer packaged good brands. In addition, she has worked in marketing and business strategy for the public sector, including Canada 150 for the Royal Canadian Mint.

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