By Sarah B Lange under Fundraising, Individual Donors on June 17, 2021

Today’s blog is about individual donors.

Yes, again!


Because in 2019, individual donors contributed $352.87 BILLION to US nonprofits!

AND giving increased 10.6% last year – during a pandemic!

(As soon as the Giving USA numbers are out for 2020, I’ll share them with you!)

This means that the #1 way to increase your revenue is by strengthening and expanding your individual donor program!

Think you need an “in” with Bill Gates or Elon Musk to bring in the bucks? Think again!

More than 80% of those billions was given away donors making less than $60,000/year!

This means we’re surrounded by generous people, who give away proportionately more of their income than the wealthy.

They may or may not jive with our mission, but the good news is, we don’t have to look very far to find people who care about our cause!

The last few posts have focused on how to get more people to say YES to providing support to your organization. Today’s post is about how to KEEP those donors once you’ve got them.

The best way to keep your donors is by building relationships. Dating 100 or 1,000 people simultaneously is impossible (which is why your board should be helping!), so you’re going to have to create a systemic donor journey to keep people engaged.

What does a donor journey look like? Well, you have to decide what journey YOU want to take them on, based on your mission, values and bandwidth. Not sure what to include? Think about how you want them to feel, and what steps you’d like them to take as a donor (hint: there are lots of other ways to engage your donors above and beyond their donations, and many of them are yearning to do more!). Surveying your current donors to find out what they’re enjoying and where they’d like more is a great place to start investigating!


Meanwhile, here are SEVEN strategies you can put to use right now:

  1. When someone donates online, send them immediately to a thank you page, where you can affirm their decision to give with a message from your board chair. If this is a video, that much better!
  2. Send an automatic follow-up email, thanking them again for donating, and inviting them to use social media to let others know they just donated to the cause (63% of people donate to organizations their friends and family support!). Give them #hashtags to use in their post.
  3. Invite them to sign up for your newsletter and follow you on social media so they can see their gift in action!
  4. Encourage them to share your posts with their family and friends (#hashtags).
  5. Institute a welcome “drip” campaign – this is a series of weekly emails, sent once/week over the course of 6-8 weeks, featuring different aspects of your work with a Call To Action (CTA). The more people take action (even if it’s just clicking a button!), the more deeply it cements the connection between their positive feelings and your organization. (You don’t have to understand the neuro science behind this, just do it! ;)These can include client success stories, a deeper explanation of the problem you’re trying to solve (infographics work well!), a summary of recent accomplishments, a link to a white paper, OpEd or your case study they can download, a petition they can sign, etc.). CTAs can include downloading, liking, commenting, sharing, etc.

    Each email should focus on how THEY, as a donor, are making all of this possible. Make your donor the center and hero of the story!

  6. Create a welcome packet that you can send to each new donor. For most of your donors, you can deliver this digitally, but some of your donors (namely: Boomers!) are going to want a paper version.And please don’t balk at the expense – you didn’t go to all this trouble to land this new donor, only to have them donate once. That is not a sustainable strategy! It’s going to cost you more money than you can initially make to acquire a new donor; in fact, you aren’t likely to make back your investment for 18 months, and you won’t make it back at all if you don’t retain that donor!

    Invest in collateral materials that will engage your donor and strengthen the relationship they have with your organization (another hint: Boomers are the wealthiest generation the US has seen and are looking to make an impact with their philanthropy as they age out of the workforce)!

  7. Send stewardship reports. Twice a year (June and December are best), send out a brief letter from your Executive Director or board chair, outlining all the amazing things that your donors have made possible during the past 6 months. This can be a simple, bulleted list. Don’t enclosed an envelope and don’t ask for a donation; just tell them about all the incredible change they’ve made happen. I guarantee no one else is doing this, and you will most likely see a bunch of donations flow in response!

Very few nonprofits employ any of these tactics, so adopting even one or two will help your organization stand head and shoulders above the crowd (there are 1.5 million nonprofits in the US) and will facilitate longer-lasting, deeper relationship with your donors. Deeper relationships lead to bigger gifts and an increases in a donor’s lifetime value!

If you’ve got any questions about how to put these strategies to work or how to take your individual donor program to the next level, get in touch. I’m here to help!


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