6 Steps to Retaining Donor Generosity Beyond Year-End

Dec 28, 2022
Nhu Te
Senior Content Manager

Donor retention remains top of mind for nonprofits as they think about expanding their fundraising programs and growing online revenue. After all, it costs 50% to 100% more to acquire a donor than their initial donation — that’s in addition to the fact that it could take up to seven touchpoints before someone considers donating.

Even with so many organizations putting efforts into increasing their donor retention rate year after year, the overall industry retention rate has actually dropped 4.2%, according to the most recent report from The Fundraising Effectiveness Project.

With the year coming to an end, how can you capture the generosity of the donors you worked so hard to convert throughout your year-end campaign, and what can you do differently to keep these donors from lapsing? The key to unlocking their generosity is personalizing the experience, having the right messaging, and sending a consistent flow of diversified communication.

1. Understand why donors give

To steward donor relationships after they make their first gift, you have to understand why the donor chose to give in the first place and what your organization can do to get that donor to give again.

Donors want to know they are making a difference. It makes them feel secure in their decision to make a gift. A recent report from RKD Group found that donors with stronger relationships with nonprofits ranked knowing their donation is being put to good use (90%), knowing their donation has a great impact (90%), and feeling proud to be associated with the organization (90%) as top descriptors of their relationships.

However, to steward better relationships with donors, nonprofits need to continue communicating with donors and connect donors to their mission. The report found that factors that had the largest gap between donors with strong and weak relationships were feeling connected to the organization and good communication that goes both ways.

For a deeper dive into the report, watch our live session on year-end retention strategies for sustained online giving.

2. Personalize the donor experience

With people looking to share their generosity and give back this year-end season, it’s an opportunity to attract new website visitors and turn them into donors. While people want to know their donation is making a difference, they also value a donation process that is simplified, personalized, and optimized.

Just like how companies make each consumer’s shopping experience tailored specifically to their preferences — like Amazon’s product recommendations or Starbucks remembering your favorite drink — your nonprofit can also personalize the giving experience for each donor. And this makes all of the difference because personalization can increase the odds of someone donating to your year-end campaign. McKinsey reports that companies that excel at personalization are generating 40% more revenue.

Let’s see this in action.

When someone clicks the donate button on Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s website, they are immediately shown a checkout screen that includes year-end campaign-specific messaging, which tells the donor exactly what the organization is raising funds for and even incentivizes the donor with a matching-gift offer to contribute before December 31.

Within the checkout, the donor is also shown suggested donation amounts that are right-sized for them. Fundraise Up uses behavioral learnings from millions of donors to predict how much someone is likely to give, such as geographic location, time of day, device, and browser, which has been proven successful in the nonprofits we work with. In fact, for World Health International, 73% of donors made gifts using personalized ask amounts.

3. Thank the donor for their generosity

It’s standard best practice to thank every donor who makes a gift to your organization. It should be the first step in your stewardship process, and it should happen promptly after a donation is received.

There are several ways to say thank you — email, hand-written letter, even a short video. The most important thing is that whatever communication method you choose to thank your donor, make sure it’s personalized and addressed to that specific person.

We understand that your team is crunched for time, especially right after the busy year-end season. That’s why Fundraise Up automatically sends a thank-you email right after a donation is received. You also have the ability customize donation emails that include detailed information like the donor’s first name, the campaign they donated to, their donation amount, and the date of their donation.

We even attach a PDF receipt of the donation for them to keep for their records.

4. Keep them in the know about your work

Good stewardship means that you don’t stop communicating with donors after you send them their initial thank-you letter. Especially if they’re a first-time donor, they’ll appreciate the effort you put in to keep in touch with them. But that doesn’t mean that every communication they receive from you should be an ask.

When the new year rolls around and you’re launching your next cadence of campaigns, keep your donors in the loop about what your organization is up to. Plus, don’t forget to share what your nonprofit was able to achieve with their year-end gift. Post results of your year-end efforts on your campaign landing page and send an email to your year-end donors providing that update as well.

Take a look at this example from Rainforest Trust:

And if you happen to have a monthly newsletter, be sure to add your year-end donors to that list. It’s a great way for them to get to know your organization better, learn more about its mission, and feel good about the impact that they’ve helped your organization create with their year-end donation.

5. Let donors know how else they can offer their support year-round

Deepen your relationships with your year-end donors by providing them with other ways they can support your organization — like volunteering their time, attending an upcoming event, or fundraising for your upcoming campaign. Allowing donors to take their support beyond donating gets them more involved in your mission and keeps them connected to your community of supporters.

Not only should you have a section on your website that highlights all the different ways to support your organization, but you should also consider sending out an email to all first-time year-end donors to let them know how they can further support your organization.

Feeding Westchester has a dropdown menu on its website that includes several ways someone can get involved. Each option has its own landing page so that supporters can learn more about the ways to offer their support — one of which is starting a fundraiser.

Because donors already made a gift to your organization during year-end, you already know that your mission is meaningful to them. Why not encourage them to increase their support for your next campaign by starting a fundraiser? Fundraisers are simple to set up and let your supporters advocate for your cause to their network of family and friends.

We recommend creating a dedicated landing page for fundraisers so you can explain why they should start a fundraiser, what difference it would make, and what it would entail.

Need some inspiration? Feeding Westchester makes it easy on its supporters by outlining three simple steps to starting a fundraiser on its website.

It even gamifies participation by including interactive website elements like a fundraising thermometer and a top fundraisers leaderboard.

6. Ask donors to join your recurring giving program

Did you know that recurring donors give seven times as much as one-time donors? Plus, research finds that recurring donors are retained for more than two years on average.

In your follow-up communications with your year-end donors, consider segmenting out those who opted to give a one-time gift and sending them an email about your recurring giving program. The donate call to action within the email can be linked to your donation checkout. For specific campaigns, our nonprofits at Fundraise Up can set the default giving option to be recurring, making it even easier for donors to sign up as recurring supporters.

If you have a more robust recurring giving program, you can include a “learn more” call to action in your email so that donors can get more information about the program before they sign up.

As an example, The Greater Vancouver Food Bank has created an informational landing page on its website for its Full Heart Club monthly giving program. There, supporters can learn more about the impact of their monthly contributions and how flexible the plans are to manage.


With all the support you’re receiving this year-end, don’t forget to put in the work next year to convert these one-time donors into long-term supporters. Your efforts will pay off as you deepen these relationships, retain more supporters, and decrease your attrition rate.

If you’re interested in learning more ways Fundraise Up can optimize your donor experience, schedule a chat with one of our team members.

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