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3 Ways Understanding Engagement Can Help Retain Donors

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As a nonprofit, it’s time to face a harsh reality: some of your donors will fade away, never to return! But why, oh why, don’t they come back?

It’s difficult to find out why they aren’t engaging with your organization anymore when they once showed interest. When trying to retain any of your organization’s supporters, you first must shift your focus from us (your organization) to them (your donors) – putting yourself directly in their shoes.

Step one: Try to understand where your donors currently are by segmenting them into these four groups:

  • Super Engaged: Donors who LOVE your organization and give multiple times per year; whether it be fundraising for your organization or volunteering at your events.
  • Somewhat Engaged: Donors who open your emails and click-through. They might make a few contributions each year or attend an event occasionally.
  • Fading Away: Supporters who haven’t engaged with your organization for 6 months to a year. I’m not just talking just financial contributions – I’m also talking about interactions with your organization like opening an email newsletter or volunteering at one of your events.
  • Long Gone: Supporters who haven’t engaged with your organization in well over a year.

A great exercise for you and your staff is to look at each group and try to figure out:

  • What can we learn from our Long Gone group?
  • Can we re-engage the Long Gone group somehow?
  • How do we inspire those who are Fading Away so they become somewhat engaged?
  • How do we inspire those who are Somewhat Engaged so they become Super engaged?

The answer to the last three questions lies within the Super Engaged group.

Put the spotlight on this group by featuring them in stories and having them tell your story. Why? Because the stories your supporters tell can significantly impact your nonprofit’s story and bring it to a personal level that’s more digestible person-to-person.

See how Bloomerang measures donor engagement >>

Step two: Take initiative to understand why your supporters care about you

Ask your Super Engaged group: Why do you care about our organization?

IDEA: Host a sharing luncheon with some of your Super Engaged supporters. Invite them to share their favorite experience at your organization, or ask what has had the most impact on them.

Listen closely and take notes. Be sure to ask them if they’re okay with you sharing their stories with the rest of the world. Because these shared stories can become the amazing material you use to re-engage those other groups we segmented (Somewhat Engaged, Fading Away and Long Gone), as well as reach new supporters!

Step three: Never stop thanking them

A gift acknowledgement is often the first step towards engagement.

After all, who doesn’t want to feel appreciated?

It’s imperative to send a timely, sincere and personalized thank you to every single donor no matter the size of the donation. And no, your donation receipt email that has a brief “Thank You” message on top doesn’t count.

Showing appreciation internally to your fellow staff members and board, in addition to your outside supporters, can have quite the ripple effect too! If they feel appreciated, their actions will reflect that in interactions with supporters.

IDEA: For the next Thank You email you send, try one of these…

  • Adding a photo of you and your staff smiling with a huge “Thank You” sign
  • Adding a photo of the project that their gift is helping fund
  • Use a service like Vine or Instagram and create a personalized Donor Thank You

By the way, an acknowledgement email or receipt is a great place to link to a donor survey.

By understanding how your donors become engaged, you can being to take steps to raise the engagement levels of those donors who are in danger of lapsing.

How do you engage your donors? Let me know in the comments below!

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