The Oak Life Journal
Jul | Aug 2022
One director's experience in Guatemala
By Cameron Talbot • 7 min read
Congratulations! You just received a new donation! Nothing beats that feeling. You’re already calculating to which fund that precious gift belongs, and how far you can stretch it. But your next question should be—how can you ensure that that new donor sticks around to become part of your organization’s long-term support group?
If you’re like most orphanages or related ministries, you probably don’t have a full-time fundraiser on staff. This means that you, or a fellow administrator, worked hard to bring in that money, in addition to all of your regular responsibilities. So, donor retention may feel like an overwhelming, albeit important, side objective that you may or may not have time for.
But the truth is, donor retention translates to security. We all know this. You need a dedicated sector of regular, subscribed givers that have demonstrated their loyalty to your cause. Building up that core support sets the fundraising tone for the rest of the year; but how do we gather and keep that core alive, especially when time is limited? Hopefully you’re already running an active social media presence and sending out regular newsletters. But what else can you do?
To answer that question, here are 3 (reasonably simple and quick) steps to donor retention:
1. Make it Monthly
The first and most basic step is to make monthly giving as attractive as possible. One-time donations are wonderful surprises; monthly donations are reliable. And as the world moves towards faster and easier, stream-lined processes, nonprofits are receiving a range of benefits. A notable one lies within online, monthly subscriptions.
With this method, gifts will come out of the donor’s bank account automatically, and they don’t have to do anything extra. Not even write the check or lick the envelope. Once a donor has filled out your form to give, let’s say, $100/month, it actually requires more energy on their part to cancel that giving channel, than to just let it continue passively.
Of course, nearly everyone knows this information. Sometimes, the trouble is just the application. Most of us don’t have the luxury to pay top-dollar to a web designer to implement complex forms and coding that’s connected to our organization’s bank account.
So, how to fix this? Our first choice is DonorBox.org!
Donorbox is an online service built specifically for nonprofits and organizations like yours. Once you have filled out the necessary information, they offer a simple form-builder that will help you create a beautiful portal for your donors. Their forms automatically work with Stripe (credit card processor) or Paypal.
Need help setting this up on your website? You can find a cheap, independent contractor to help you out on Fivver. While we probably wouldn’t solicit their help for building an entire website, this particular task is reasonably simple for a contractor in coding.
So, don’t have a monthly subscription form up on your website yet? Go check out these methods and see if they’re right for you!
2. Be Transparent
If you haven’t already noticed, the nature of charitable giving is changing. And it’s not all bad, it just requires some flexibility on our part! One of these changes is the call for greater transparency and visible, quantitative results.
Truly, this is an important shift and probably should have happened a long time ago. The essence of this new giving philosophy is accountability. Donors want to see exactly what’s going on within your organization, to the point of feeling personally involved. Where does the money go? What quantitative impact is being made? What has been accomplished with my gift?
Part of this comes from the move to online giving. With an influx of giving opportunities (endless organizations to choose from!), donors have a greater desire to know that they’ve placed their financial investment into an effective and honest organization!
So for us as nonprofit and orphanage leaders, this means offering as much information as we can, sharing every victory story we can, and thanking donors personally for making these impacts a reality.
In addition, we know that monthly support is necessary for the daily expenses of having such a big family—food, utilities, staff, etc. But whenever possible, show your donors that you have completed or are working on a project with a clear beginning and end. This could mean a new building or feature on your orphanage’s property. It could be fulfilling a one-time need with the kids, such as braces for their teeth. Whatever it may be, your donors will appreciate the opportunity to see a specific, quantitative accomplishment.
Be as transparent as possible with your donors, and you will build a culture of loyalty.
3. Help Them Feel the Change
Lastly, you want your generous givers to have something they can see and touch. People will only invest into a concept they’ve merely read about in newsletters for so long. When you come face-to-face with the need, however, it impresses the urgency upon you in a lasting way. For us, the directors or administrators, this means we need to develop some kind of tangible contact.
Of course, nothing compares to an in-person encounter. The chance to discuss the need, have an interpersonal moment and build a relationship is invaluable. With donors close enough for this to be possible, we try to make this an annual occurrence.
But some donors are just too far away for a personal visit. What then?
This is where we can be creative. A classic example is to mail a picture for your donor’s fridge. But you can think even further outside the box and make an impression. Send a bumper sticker, or have your kids draw “thank you” pictures. Or, campaign by selling coffee mugs with your logo on them in your next newsletter. They will be reminded of your organization every morning with their brew. Know that you may incur some expense along the way, but donor retention and loyalty is always worth it in the long run.
The truth is, we’re all on the lookout for new ways to attract and keep our sponsors. And at the end of the day, absolutely nothing works better than developing relationships. Our donor’s are incredible people who want to be a part of who we are and what we do. Meeting them there, and getting to know them as well, even if just a little, can build a lasting donor-organization friendship.
Know another great way to ensure donor retention? Comment below!