Getting Donors to Stay Longer & Make Bigger Gifts Sooner: June Fundraising Lab Recap

Donor Acquisition and Retention

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Thanks so much to everyone who joined us for our virtual Fundraising Lab on June 4, 2020!

Attendees enjoyed Rachel Muir’s presentation on Donor Retention: Getting Donors to Stay Longer & Make Bigger Gifts Sooner, learned tips on building a better appeal, saw how a few Qgiv clients transitioned to virtual events, and participated in a live Q&A session with the Fundraising Lab speakers.

Donor Retention: Getting Donors to Stay Longer & Make Bigger Gifts Sooner

Rachel Muir, CFRE, shared tips and tricks on how to keep your donors giving and potentially increase their donation amount. Donor retention is something that is always on the minds of nonprofit professionals. Rachel shared with us that only 23% of first-time donors make a second gift. What causes them not to make a second gift? Is there something that nonprofits can do to encourage that second gift? 

The number one reason that donors stop giving is over-solicitation. This is when the donor is being asked to give again before they knew their first gift had an impact.

How do you fix this? Communication! Donors want to know how their gift is making an impact and contributing to the cause. The most important piece of communication a donor receives is the thank you letter/email. Here are some tips to spruce up your thank you:

  • Make sure to thank them and let them know the impact/contribution they made
  • Tell the donor that they are an important part of the organization, and reflect on what a generous person they are
  • Use donor-centered language (You language)
  • Include a super short story (with photo if possible) of how the need was met

How to Build a Better Appeal

Abby Jarvis, Qgiv’s Nonprofit Education Manager, explained step-by-step how to craft a better appeal letter, from what people look at first in the letter to how to catch people’s attention with the envelope!

How donors skim an appeal

  1. Pictures
  2. Salutation
  3. Johnson Box & Post Script
  4. Signature
  5. Body of the letter


  • Choose powerful images
  • People are going to feel more connected to a picture of a person or animal looking happy and healthy than sad or sick


  • Don’t “Dear Friend” your donors
  • Try to use a salutation that matches the person’s interest if you don’t have their name. For example, use something like “Dear Animal Justice Warrior.”

Johnson Box & Post Script

  • 79-90% of readers look here first!
  • Great place to make an ask


  • Use someone besides the CEO to sign, like a volunteer or board member. If it is the CEO’s signature, try to include a personal note.
  • Be creative with the signature! For example, if your appeal is for an animal shelter, have the signature be from an adoptable pet

Body of the Appeal

  • Make it easy to scan
  • Make sure that it’s donor-centered. It should contain more “You” language than org-centered language.
  • Read the letter out loud! This is a good way to ensure it flows and makes sense.

Virtual Fundraising: Examples and Q&A

Jennifer Mansfield, Qgiv’s Vice President of Customer Experience, shared tips and client examples on how to pivot your in-person event to a virtual event. She shared four main areas that nonprofits can transition to:

  1. Tangible Gifts
    Virtual food pantries & peer-to-peer storefronts, Amazon Wish lists
  2. Increasing Personal Connections
    Calls, video meetings, Facebook Live events, gift campaigns, other ways to help; Amazon SMILE program
  3. Reinventing Volunteer Opportunities
    YouTube classes, tech volunteers, content, leading virtual activities
  4. Reimagined Live Events
    Virtual Dunk Tanks, 5Ks, egg hunt, and more

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