[Guest Post] 3 Tips for Turning One-Time Donors into Long-Time Donors with Prospect Research

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A fresh point of view is always welcome here at Qgiv. With that in mind, we like to include posts by guest contributors that talk about fundraising, donor relationships, and many other topics in the nonprofit sector. Today’s guest post about donor retention is by Ryan Woroniecki of DonorSearch.


How are your donor retention metrics? Do you worry that you’re not keeping enough of the donors you acquire?

With modern technology, nonprofits are lucky to have so many avenues to ask for donations and reach new supporters from text giving campaigns to donation tabs on social media. Nonprofits that want to account for this increase in acquisition channels and grow with that have to be able to effectively retain many of the donors from this influx.

From donors who have given a major gift to those who donated during the public phase of a capital campaign and everything in between, retention has always been and will always need to be a priority.

Put these three ideas into action to increase your donor retention.

1. Habitually acknowledge past involvement.

The first step in turning a one-time donor into a long-time donor is acknowledgment. Your gratitude can be a pivotal part of a donor’s decision to make a second gift. Of course, you likely have an acknowledgment process for immediately after a gift has been made. But what is you acknowledgment process when you make future appeals?

As you ask for a donation, make sure that you open your appeal by thanking your supporter for what they have already given. Donors aren’t cash registers! They deserve recognition for their support before you jump back into another ask.

If you’re going to acknowledge past giving (which you should!), you need to make sure you have a complete picture of a donor’s giving history. Whether you’re using a formal CRM or have staff dedicated to cultivating donor relationships, be careful to research your donor’s involvement, history, and giving patterns. You don’t want to ask them for a donation too soon after they’ve already made a gift, and you want to avoid asking for a major gift right after they’ve already made one.

2. Make sure you keep up-to-date contact details.

We don’t always gather a complete set of data on a donor — sometimes we don’t collect their phone number, email addresses, full names, or other pieces of information. Even if we do, contact details aren’t permanent! People move, get married and take their spouse’s name, or switch phone numbers.

Unfortunately, sending appeals to donors and using incorrect information can make a huge negative impression on a donor. At best, you can come off as sloppy — at worst, you can seem unappreciative or neglectful. You need accurate and up-to-date contact and personal data in order to successfully retain your donors! Account for any possible gaps and missing information with a prospect screening.

A prospect screening can fill in relevant details such as:

  • Full name: You can’t accomplish much without this.
  • Address: Make sure you aren’t receiving envelopes stamped return to sender.
  • Phone number: Don’t leave messages in the wrong voicemail boxes.
  • Email address: Take advantage of this cost-effective means of communication.
  • Spousal information: Make sure your donor’s name or marital status hasn’t changed.
  • Employer information: Learn more about your donors and potentially uncover matching gift possibilities.

Part of proper stewardship is making sure donors feel appreciated and understood. You can’t do that if you are calling a donor by the wrong name or never reaching them in the first place because you’re using an out-of-date telephone number.

Those are problems that can be readily solved by prospect screening.

3. Offer other opportunities for engagement.

As was mentioned earlier, part of your stewardship and retention policy has to involve treating donors like people, not like cash registers or ATMs.

Donors give because they care about your mission. They go out of their way to support you, so you need to make sure you give them opportunities to continue that relationship that aren’t strictly related to funding.

You could engage them through:

  • Participation in advocacy events.
  • Offering a seat on your board or junior board.
  • Spreading the word about volunteering activities.
  • Hosting appreciation luncheons.
  • And more!

If you’re using good prospect research practices and tracking your donors, you have a better idea of the kinds of engagement activities that would appeal to your various donors and the information needed to have more impactful conversations with those donors.

Remember, if your retention strategies are not as effective as you’d like, you have lots of other strategies you can use to keep your donors involved — these three ideas are just the beginning! If you need more detailed strategies, try attending a nonprofit conference to gain insights from your colleagues in the community. There are also tons of resources online, like this list of best practices aimed at helping nonprofits boost their donor retention.

Donor retention is of the utmost importance to your nonprofit! Retaining your donors is more financially efficient than attracting new ones; it’s crucial that your organization takes it seriously and diversifies its improvement tactics. These three tips are just the beginning.


Ryan Woroniecki is the Vice President of Strategic Partnerships at DonorSearch, a prospect research, screening, and analytics company that focuses on proven philanthropy. He has worked with hundreds of nonprofits and is a member of APRA-MD. When he isn’t working, he is an avid kickball player.

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