Now’s the Time to Build Your End-of-Year Donor Retention Plan!

Donor Acquisition and Retention

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Are you working on your year-end fundraising campaign? If you are, we’re here to help you set up a donor retention process that will help you keep the donors you acquire this winter. You’re putting time and effort into your year-end campaign—use this process to make the most of your hard work by keeping your new donors engaged during 2021.

This process is simple but effective! Take these steps to build relationships with your donors and keep them involved over the coming year.

Step one: Make your donors feel amazing about donating

Giving to a nonprofit makes donors feel great. It’s science! Donating to a good cause makes donors’ brains release dopamine, the same feel-good chemical brains create when we hug our loved ones or do something we enjoy. Dopamine tells our brains we’re doing something we really love. If you can make donors feel amazing about supporting your nonprofit—thus releasing dopamine—they’re more likely to give again.

How do you make your donors feel amazing? We’re happy you asked! Try using these strategies:

  • Spend some time on your donation confirmation page. Add a photo or video that shows donors their impact and add a sentence or two that thanks them for their gift.
  • Revamp your receipt! Add images and content that reiterate the messaging on your shiny new confirmation page, then give donors another way to get involved. Try inviting them to follow you on social media, watch a video, or read an article on your website.
  • Send them a thank-you note (through the mail, not by email) or give them a quick call. Don’t ask them for another gift, just focus on introducing yourself and thanking them for their donation.

Step two: Get donor information into your CRM

Your donors’ data is the most valuable fundraising asset you have. The more complete and correct your donor data is, the more effectively you can ask them for support.

There are plenty of different ways to move your donors’ information into your CRM. If you’re a Qgiv client, you can use one of our many CRM integrations to automatically sync donor information to your other platforms. If you don’t have access to an integration, you could download your donor information and upload it to your donor management system. Or, if all else fails, you can manually load new information to your system.

Regardless of which method you use to update your CRM, do be sure to spot-check donor profiles to ensure everything is correct. Nothing can take the wind out of a great update or appeal letter like an incorrect salutation or a misspelled name!

Step three: Build a welcome email series for new donors

Unless you’ve attained a level of copy-writing skill that eludes mere mortals, no one new donor is familiar with all the ins and outs of your mission and programming. And, while they may have some idea how they make an impact by supporting you (they wouldn’t have donated if they didn’t!), they don’t know all the different ways they can help you change the world. How can you tell them more about your work and how they can get involved?

The answer is an email series. Set up a series of a few short, succinct emails that explain your nonprofit’s work and how donors can get involved. Here’s a secret formula that will help you build compelling emails:

  • Tell a short personal story about someone who benefitted from one of your programs
  • Use that story as a means of introducing that program to your donors
  • Briefly (this is key!) explain what the program involves
  • Invite donors to learn more about that program, then provide a link to a page on your site where they can go to learn more

These short emails are a great way to share more about your work in a digestible way. They’re also a way to get your donors used to hearing from you! If you tell good stories that entertain your donors, your donors will start anticipating (and appreciating!) your emails.

Step four: Prepare an update for after the holidays

Picture this: your daughter asks to borrow some money to pay for some school supplies and you give her $50. Next time she sees you, she asks you for another $50 without ever acknowledging the last gift you gave her. Wouldn’t you be a little irritated?

Now, picture the same scenario. After you gave her the first $50, your daughter lets you know that the $50 you gave her paid for the school supplies she needed, then gives you a quick update on how she’s doing in school and what classes she’s taking.

In which instance would you be willing to lend your daughter some more money?

Now think about your donors. Do they feel the same way? Sure, they get an auto-generated receipt that (hopefully) includes a thank-you message (psst: you can read more about how to build a great donation receipt right over here). But they may be leery of giving again unless they receive an authentic thank-you message and an update about what their money accomplished last time they gave. Don’t give them a reason to hesitate! Send year-end donors an update about what their money has accomplished. In your update, tell them:

  • What their money accomplished
  • How your clients or beneficiaries benefitted because of their gift
  • What needs they met

Pro tip: create an outline for your update while you’re putting together your year-end appeal. Your story will flow more easily that way! In your appeal, you’re presenting a problem your donors can solve. In the update, you’ll tell them how they solved the problem. It’s all the same story!

Remember to stay donor-centered. Don’t talk about what YOU did with their money. Instead, tell donors what THEY accomplished when they donated. It’s a subtle but important difference!

Step five: Start preparing for your next appeal

This doesn’t mean you have to start writing and outlining your next appeal. It means you should take a look at the donors that are coming into your database and plan for how you’ll reach out to them next. Keep an eye on these donors’ trends and patterns during your year-end campaign. They’ll help you create an even more effective appeal in the future:

  • How much do your donors tend to give per gift? Should you ask for a $30 gift next time? Or could you bump that appeal up for $50?
  • What programs and campaigns do your donors love? Can you focus your next appeal on a specific program to inspire donors to get involved?
  • What appeals were most effective during the end of the year? What elements from those appeals can you apply to your next appeal?

You can also look at different donor segments and keep an eye on their patterns, too. Look at trends like:

  • The number of recurring donors who renewed their gifts or gave above and beyond their monthly commitment
  • Which restrictions or programs first-time donors tended to support vs. the programs loyal donors supported
  • How direct-mail donors gave compared to online donors (amount, programs supported, etc.)

The better you understand your different segments of donors and how they supported you this season, the more effectively you can ask them for support after the new year.


You’re working hard on building a year-end campaign that will attract new donors. Don’t waste all that effort! Set up a donor retention process now that will help you keep your new supporters engaged and inspired after the new year.

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