Without the regular contributions of passionate supporters, nonprofits wouldn’t be able to achieve their goals. However, receiving regular donations means cultivating relationships with existing donors and creating a strong donor retention strategy.

Retaining donors is a serious concern for many nonprofits, and according to a recent study, only 46% of donors have given to the same organization two years in a row. That means there’s likely room to amp up your retention strategy, leading to a lot more donations down the line.

From fundraising events to social media outreach, there are several ways organizations go about improving their donor retention. One of the best ways to boost retention is with email marketing. Using the right strategies, your organization can level up your outreach to keep donors interested in supporting your cause.

In this post, we’ll show you five ways you can improve donor retention using email marketing.


1. Use CRM software to personalize your outreach.

One of the cardinal rules of email marketing is to make your messages personal and targeted. What’s more, personalizing your emails can help boost donor retention.
When donors feel like your organization knows them personally, they’re much more likely to feel that your organization appreciates their support.

Using email marketing software is a great first step in ensuring that your emails are personalized. Organizations can take their personalization one step further by utilizing their nonprofit CRM or donor database software.

Let’s face it: your CRM holds a lot of information about your donors. Everything from their name and preferred contact information to their giving history and interests is conveniently stored in your donor profiles.

Put this information to use by segmenting your email outreach so that donors only receive emails that are relevant to them.

For example, if you have a group of donors who like outdoor activities and staying fit, they should be the first people you invite to participate in your walkathons and marathons.

Alternatively, first-time donors should receive more information about the history, mission, and past achievements of your organization whereas recurring donors are likely already familiar with that information.

Moreover, using both your email marketing and CRM software can help you evaluate what types of messages are most effective.

Organizations can gain a better understanding of what emails lead to more donations and event registrations by tracking metrics like:

  • Click-through rate
  • Total donations raised per email
  • Behavioral tracking using heat maps and recordings

Takeaway: Segmenting your donors based on giving history, interests, and location ensures that they receive emails that have information valuable to them. As a result, donors are more likely to read your emails and stay involved in supporting your nonprofit.


2. Write emails that are donor-centric.

A common mistake that many organizations make when writing emails is focusing on the achievements your organization has made rather than focusing on how their donors’ contributions made those achievements possible.

In other words, whether you’re writing an end-of-year appeal or sending a newsletter, no matter what type of email you’re sending it’s important to show your donors you wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything without their support.

The key to keeping your emails donor-centric is to:

  • Personalize your letter. Like we mentioned in the previous section personalization can have a huge effect on a donor’s motivation to contribute. Make sure that all your emails address the recipient by name.
  • Use the word “you” more often in your message. Using a recent email, tally up the number of times you use the words “you” and “we.” The language in your email should be focused on your donors because it shows that you appreciate their support.
  • Appeal to the donor in your opening paragraph. A vital step in encouraging donors to contribute is by creating a connection that appeals to the donor’s passions. If your school is trying to raise money, reach out to alumni and let them know that contributing will help provide new students with the same enjoyable experience they had.

In addition to the tips mentioned above, your organization should make a point to mention the support and contributions donors have already made. This shows that you’re aware of all the help your donors have given.

Takeaway: Focusing on your donors shows them that you value their support and not just their money. And when donors feel truly appreciated, they’re more likely to stick around.


3. Update donors about fundraising opportunities.

One of the challenges of retaining donors is that your supporters aren’t always aware of all the fundraising events and campaigns your organization is hosting.

By sending donors emails that keep them up-to-date on all the fundraising and volunteer opportunities your organization has, the more opportunities your donors have to get involved.

Plus, boosting donor engagement is a proven way to improve your donor retention. The more involved your donors are, the more connections they’ll build with people working at your organization.

As such, donors will become more passionate about your cause, especially if they’re volunteering, attending events, and seeing your organization in action.

Cultivating a community of donors with a passion for your cause and strong connections to your organization’s team is the winning formula for retaining your supporters

Keep donors updated on fundraising opportunities in your email outreach by:

  • Letting them know about upcoming events.
  • Reminding them about ongoing crowdfunding or peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns.
  • Encouraging them to volunteer at events.

If you’re not sure how to frame your email messages, Fundraising Letters has a comprehensive list of templates for every occasion.

Takeaway: Having donors participate in events and volunteer for your cause is the cornerstone of any successful stewardship plan. Use email to spread the word about your engagement opportunities.


4. Let donors know how their funds were used.

Generally, after donors give to your nonprofit, they’ll receive a thank-you letter (sometimes in an email or via direct mail) and the engagement usually ends until your organization will make another appeal.
When organizations make that second appeal, they may find donors don’t want to give again. Even if donors are passionate about your cause, they may not contribute because they don’t know how their funds were used the first time.

After a donor gives to your organization, the engagement shouldn’t stop at the thank-you letter. It’s crucial that you let your donors know how their money was used.

For example, if you launched a crowdfunding campaign to update the facilities at your animal shelter, you should send the donors that contributed emails updating them on the progress of your project.

These emails can include:

  1. Photos and videos of your nonprofit in action. In our animal shelter example, the organization could send photos of the updated facilities and explain how the changes improved the living conditions of the animals.
  2. A breakdown of how the money was used. Include a pie chart that shows how each portion of your fundraising goal was used. For instance, the animal shelter may show that 50% of the funds raised went to building materials and equipment and 30% went to labor costs.

Of course, if you’re sending out updates, your organization will need to keep a record of which donors contributed to what campaigns so that no is left out of the loop.

Using comprehensive fundraising software and your email marketing tool, you can keep donations organized and use segmented lists to send emails to the right donors.

Takeaway: Don’t let your engagement end after the thank-you letter. Make sure to keep donors up-to-date on the progression of your nonprofit’s project.


5. Include a clear call-to-action.

When your organization creates an email, you likely have a goal or multiple objectives you’d like your reader to complete. Creating these goals is not only useful for assessing the effectiveness of your emails but also creating the copy and designing the message itself.

In order to help donors complete your main objective, your organization needs to have a clear call-to-action that leads donors to their next steps.

Depending on the email you’re sending, your call-to-action could:

  • Direct donors to your online donation form.
  • Encourage donors to RSVP for your event.
  • Motivate donors to share your fundraising campaign with their peers.
  • Ask donors to volunteer for an upcoming fundraising event.

Once, you’ve determined what your call-to-action is going to be, you need to make it clear to your donors what you want them to do.

Towards the beginning of your email, make a direct ask so that donors know exactly what your organization needs to be successful.

Additionally, place your call-to-action in a prominent location and make it stand out. For instance, if you want people to make a contribution, don’t just include a link to your donation form. Instead, create a “Donate Now” button that’s placed at the top of your email.

For more tips on how to improve your calls-to-action, check out this article.

Takeaway: Just like any fundraising campaign, your emails need a clear call-to-action that lets donors know exactly what you need to reach your goals.

Wrap up

Improving your donor retention doesn’t have to be a struggle. With these five tips, you can amp up your email marketing and encourage donors to keep giving.