How a Donor Pipeline Can Help Attract and Retain Donors

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Growing your base of supporters is essential for growing revenue at your nonprofit organization. You can accomplish more when there’s a larger group of donors backing your nonprofit and making it happen. Ensure that you’re able to do your best work by setting up a donor pipeline: a structured way to attract, cultivate, and retain your donors. Not sure what your donor pipeline should look like? Read on for our tips to create your donor pipeline from scratch. 

What is a donor pipeline?

A donor pipeline, or donor funnel, in its simplest form is a structured way for nonprofits to convert more prospective donors into donors. There are several steps to the funnel that prospects go through to become donors.

What are the stages of the donor pipeline?

The prospect stage

First, they start as prospective donors. Prospective donors are folks who may not know anything about your nonprofit and its mission. They arrive at your website or your info booth at an event with the intention to learn more.  

The stewardship stage

Once you’ve given prospective donors more information and have gotten to know them, they move to the next step of the donor cultivation cycle. This is the stage when you start to steward the prospective donor by sending them more information and eventually asking for a gift or for more involvement. You’ll have received their contact information at this phase, so reach out via email, give them the occasional phone call, or send a piece of direct mail. If you have text marketing capabilities, text messages can be a great way to reach out to donors, but only if they’ve opted in to receive text messages from you. 

The donation stage

Hopefully your communication with prospective donors in the stewardship stage results in a donation. This puts these contacts in the donation stage of the donor pipeline. In this stage, the donor has decided your nonprofit is a worthy cause and they’re ready to contribute to the work that you do. Many think this is the end of the donor funnel, but they’re mistaken. The focus beyond this stage needs to be on donor retention

The retention stage

The goal of every nonprofit should be to convert one-time donors into repeat donors. You can accomplish this in a variety of ways, such as by promoting recurring gifts or creating a giving club. That said, the retention stage is the final step in the donor pipeline, and it is geared toward convincing your new one-time donors to stick around. How? By focusing on stewardship.  

In this stage, you need to share the impact donations have had on your mission to those who have made the difference. Properly thank your donors in this stage when you share the impact of their donations. Then, make another ask when it’s time for them to support your nonprofit’s efforts again. Making another ask is key. Without asking for more support, many donors will move on to other nonprofits, thinking their work for your organization is done. Instead, keep them in your pipeline by encouraging future gifts with well-timed asks. 

Final thoughts

The donor pipeline adds a much-needed structure to your donor cultivation efforts. By stewarding prospective donors through this pipeline, you’ll be able to create more donors and make it easier to retain them, thanks to a stewardship strategy that keeps more donors in the donor funnel.  

Remember, many of your prospective donors are going to find your nonprofit via its website or on social media. Make sure your website is informative and clearly illustrates the importance of the work you do. Focus early on capturing contact information and then use the donors’ contact info to stay in touch and eventually make an ask. When donors give, thank them and show the impact of their work to convince them to stay in the pipeline. This stewardship makes it more likely to convert a one-time donor into a repeat donor. 

Looking for online fundraising software that fits into your donor pipeline? Give Qgiv a try. 

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