Mastering the basics is always a good strategy for improving results. For retaining donors, the three most recognized prerequisites are:

  • Thoughtful and timely recognition;
  • Clear and compelling definition of how donations will be spent;
  • A compelling impact story about how gifts make a difference and advance mission.

These are the Big Three, the big “Kahuna” to reel in on your fishing line of donor loyalty. Boys hug

Yet relationships are not always straightforward. They require time to grow and only develop when intentions are genuine. Both sides need a sincere interest in each other. Furthermore, “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.”1 Donor relationships thrive on recognition and genuine emotions. Isn’t this true for our friendships, too?

 In that regard, here are some additional answers to the quest for donor loyalty. Even if you’ve done well executing on the basics, pay attention to these suggested nuances for stronger relationship growth.

Know a donor’s history with accuracy. Make sure the Ask string and communication is appropriate with the life stage of this donor. Use your CRM to track interactions and automate processes so the right actions occur for each and every donor.

Segment messaging and content. There’s nothing worse than receiving information that doesn’t match your interests, such as sending dog lovers information about cats. As Kivi Leroux Miller, author of The Nonprofit Marketing Guide, said in a recent workshop, “Phenomenal content will draw people to your organization!”

Respond with the right channels. Although donors might use multiple channels dependent upon the situation, they usually have a preferred channel (including offline options for older generations). Absolutely remember to include Social Media as a channel, since, it continues to expand exponentially (Twitter Followers experienced a 264 percent increase!2).

Ask! If you don’t know which channel donors prefer, or what other interests they have in your cause, ask them! And ask early – right at the beginning of the relationship so you can get things straight. Remember, if you ask, you must respond with the right actions! So make sure you can deliver on your promises. If you cater to preferences from the beginning, supporters will notice.

Create Memories! Life is busy for everyone. When creating events and designing communications, make the interaction fun and interesting. We only have so much “bandwidth”. Creative outreach will keep donor attentions satisfied.

Share Community. Consider what being a member of your nonprofit community might mean to a supporter. Everyone likes to feel included and a part of something bigger than they can achieve individually. Utilize social media to expand the network and make supporters feel included.

Pink roseI hope that you’ll review and “noodle” these suggestions for retaining donors. Consider what else is possible to cultivate these dear relationships. In all cases, like friendship, cherish your donors, big and small, and the same will come back to you and your organization.



Amy S. Quinn is a published author and freelance writer focused on innovation in the nonprofit sector.


1Pg 155, quote of William James, Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi;

22013 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study”; M+R Strategic Services and NTEN