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How To Rock Valentine's Day To Build Donor Loyalty

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How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

Let this favorite love poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning be your template for sending a little valentine to your supporters this February 14th!

Valentine’s Day offers the perfect opportunity for donor stewardship!

And you’ve still got time to send a little love your donors’ way. In fact, in this article, I’m going to count out eight fun valentines you can deliver to show your supporters the love.

Why might this be something for you to consider, amidst all the other “to-do’s” on your plate?

If you don’t do a lot more donor-loving, you’re going to do a lot more donor losing.

In fact, there must be “50 Ways to Leave Your Donor” – so don’t make that your pick of poetry!

Stick with the classics. How about something just this simple:

Roses are red

Violets are blue

You love our cause

And we love you too!

First, let’s look at why a Valentine’s Day card should be part of your donor love and loyalty strategy

By now you no doubt know all about the abysmal state of donor retention. Every year the Fundraising Effectiveness Project reports the latest bad news. Over the past decade, donor retention rates have consistently averaged below 50%. When you take into account people who move or die, for every 100 donors gained last year, 99 were lost to attrition! That’s simply not a sustainable funding model.

You don’t have to live with these “on average” results. Make this your year to commit to being “above average.” Begin with a greater focus on retention over acquisition. Both are important, of course. Yet it costs much more to acquire a new donor than to keep an existing one. Don’t be one of those organizations whose donors only hear from you when you want something from them.

You can do something to paint a rosier picture – dare I suggest a pretty Valentine’s Day pink?

Who Gets a Valentine?

Ideally everyone. i always remember Penelope Burk’s exhortation to “Treat every donor like a major donor.” She wrote the groundbreaking Donor-Centered Fundraising and knows more than a thing or two about keeping donors happy and loyal.

That being said, sometimes you don’t have the bandwidth or resources to thank everybody. If that’s the case, pick a segment or two that makes sense for you. For example:

  • Major donors
  • Monthly donors
  • Donors who’ve given faithfully for five years or more
  • Donors who increased their giving last year
  • First-time donors of $100+
  • Donors who also volunteer
  • Board and committee members

Of course, personal is always better. So if it’s a choice between sending out the equivalent of a generic Hallmark Card, to which you affix no personal note, to everyone vs. sending something that really stands out to a handful of supporters, I’d probably opt for the latter. [Next year you can plan ahead, and maybe expand your holiday greeting program.]

Okay. While you’re thinking about picking your Valentine-worthy donors for this year, let’s pick your strategy.

Here are some ideas.

8 Fun Valentines to Send to Donors

1. A Hand-Made Old-Fashioned Paper Card

homemade valentine's day cards

Channel your inner second-grader and cut out a big colorful construction paper heart; write a warm hand-written message (e.g., “We all love you, will you be our Valentine?” or “You have the biggest heart. XO”), and insert your Valentine into a colorful envelope that will get noticed in your donor’s mailbox. Shanon Doolittle shows you how to do it in this Movie Mondays video. If you happen to have clients who benefit from your donor’s gifts (e.g., actual second-graders, or even animals!), consider asking them to help make these valentines. Again, you don’t have to do this with every donor, but pick those for whom it will matter.

2. A Donor Thankathon

Host a ‘feel good party’ for your volunteers, staff, and donors by bringing folks together for a Valentine’s Day “Thankathon.” Ask board members, students, staff in different departments, or whoever wants to volunteer to come together to phone or write to a subset of your donors to let them know how much they are loved. Conduct a quick training beforehand to help folks feel confident with what they should say or scribble. Your message can be super simple (suitable for leaving a brief message if you don’t reach someone): “I’m Claire, calling from ABC Nonprofit, just to let you know we’re thinking of you fondly today because you have such a big heart. Your support means so much. Happy Valentine’s Day!” Give valentines to your volunteers while you’re at it – you know, heart-shaped cookies, pink punch, chocolate kisses, and maybe some festive red, white and pink balloons with love notes attached. Have fun!

3. “I Just Called/Texted to Say I Love You”

If you don’t have time to organize a group thankathon, you can still make a bunch of spontaneous holiday calls yourself (or with a team of your staff) to a targeted group of supporters. Do it on February 14th, of course! [If you have younger donors or folks who’ve given you permission to contact them this way, you can text them.] 

4. A Shared Video to Show Your Love


Create a YouTube or Vimeo video to send your special donors some love. Charity: Water created a bunch of amazing, super-fun, and super-personal YouTube videos on the occasion of their fifth birthday. Plus here’s one they did on Valentine’s Day on Vimeo. The Boys and Girls Club of Maury County sent this awesome email plus a YouTube video valentine. Borrow from them, keeping in mind it doesn’t have to be slick. There’s no homier holiday than Valentine’s Day, so get out that smartphone and, if nothing else, record yourself blowing a kiss!

5. Post a Valentine’s Card on Your Website

This is a simple way to share some love with everyone. Post a Valentine’s Day card, ideally with a photo showing your donor’s impact, on your website. Share it with your supporters via your e-newsletter, blog, and/or social media. Here are examples from the Monterey Bay AquariumNatural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)the Humane SocietyAmnesty International, and Second Harvest Food Bank. You could also do a simple shout-out without a photo (I know some of you feel you don’t have anything compelling to share; don’t let that stop you!).

6. A Tweet for my Sweet

Tweet out a Valentine’s message or post a card to Facebook. Make it visual. Here are examples from Nonprofit Center and The Children’s Village and you can find a number of other Valentine tweets here [they aren’t all appropriate, as some are meant for nonprofit insiders, but you’ll find some good ones from which you can derive inspiration]. And there are a bazillion examples suitable for tweets, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, emails, and more here.

7. Email Your Love

Send a Valentine’s Day card via email. The SF-Marin Food Bank created their own visual with a nod to their mission. That’s the ideal. But if time is getting away from you, you can always grab one from some of the free online card services like 123 greetingsAmerican greetings, or Blue Mountain [I’m not endorsing any particular service]. It’s the thought that counts. Next year you can make your own.

8. Flowers and Chocolates?

build donor loyalty

It’s a great day to hand-deliver a token gift from the heart. I think the cookies above would be great from an aquarium! One year One Justice in San Francisco wrapped up some inexpensive chocolates in pretty bows, added a note of gratitude, and delivered them to law firm partners with whom they worked. It was a brisk skyscraper-to-skyscraper walk around the financial district that garnered lots of positive feedback! I like to bake, so sometimes I gave select donors homemade cookies. I knew a development director elsewhere who likes to can, so she brought little jars of jam. The goal is not to spend a lot of money, but to show someone they’re in your thoughts. If you work for an organization that operates a café, or has performances or offers tours you can include a coupon with your notes and greeting cards. If you want gifts, it’s nice to also give them.

Don’t Forget Monthly Donors

You probably already know that it’s a good idea to send more love your donors’ way (at least if you want to improve retention). But how often are you planning to reach out to monthly donors? 

If you haven’t thought about sending a monthly note of appreciation in response to their monthly gift, you should consider it. 

Of course, I don’t mean you should position your ask precisely like this. It’s not exactly a transactional quid pro quo. But you do owe donors something in return for their giving. After all, philanthropy rests on a value-for-value exchange.

With that in mind, here are a few ways that you can build stronger relationships with your donors by engaging with them on a monthly basis. 

Create a monthly giving campaign. 

Nonprofits with strong monthly giving programs in place are better positioned to carry out their missions for years to come because they can count on a certain amount of donations coming in. 

If you don’t have a campaign in place, here are some ways you can acknowledge their monthly gifts. 

1. Welcome them

Come up with a creative way to reward donors when they sign up for your monthly giving program. It doesn’t have to be expensive (in fact, it shouldn’t be), but it should be related to your cause in some way. 

For example, you could send everyone:

  • A print of a drawing created by a client 
  • An inspiring photo showing your mission in action
  • A video of your staff saying thank you

2. Matching gifts

Ask a local business, foundation, donor, or board member to put up a challenge grant in order to match monthly donor gift commitments.

If they’re matched dollar for dollar, a donor who pledges $50/month would then be securing your nonprofit $1,200 each year instead of $600

When you reach out each month and share how much they’re impacting your mission, they’ll feel even better that they’ve doubled their impact—all without making a larger donation.

3. Digital cards 

If you want to grow your community, a good place to start is with your donors’ friends and family members. 

So, when they make a monthly gift, reach out to the person they listed on their behalf with information on what the donor’s gift will accomplish.

This is an easy twist on asking for a tribute gift, which is a terrific strategy to broaden awareness of your cause. 

As with other gifts, you have to ask in order to succeed. So make the ask of your donors and have a plan in place to reward them monthly. You’ll build stronger relationships, retain more donors, and do more good in the years to come.

There are 364 other days each year on which you can fundraise

Use the occasion of Valentine’s Day to kick off your commitment to building a systematic, thoughtful donor retention plan this year [Download your free Donor Love & Loyalty Plan].

You’ll be amazed at how a little love can go a long way.

Valentine’s Day is a terrible day to waste!

Want some additional inspiration? Check out my Pinterest boards: Gratitude – Nonprofits Say Thanks and Zee Happy Valentine’s Day.

donor love and loyalty

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