If you are working in the world of professional fundraising and have not been researching or applying greater emphasis on donor retention then hopefully you are either:

  • already wildly successful
  • seriously thinking about taking action soon

Donor retention has become the most discussed topic in many nonprofit circles. Since the success level in improving donor retention has been so poor this focus will most likely not wane anytime soon.

A common thread for those nonprofits with high donor retention rates is the awareness of the importance of donor retention by every single team member throughout the organization.

Since this awareness seems to be critical to ongoing donor retention improvement and success, let’s examine ten methods to instill and raise it.

1. Donor Retention “MOMENT” at Every All-Staff Meeting

The mere fact that a success story regarding donor retention is shared in some manner during your all-staff meeting raises awareness and action. Even small actions here and there by a portion of the team can bring constant improvement.

2. Present the Case for Donor Retention at Individual Department Meetings

This does not need to be at every regular meeting, just from time to time, like once a month for weekly departmental meetings. Encourage an open discussion regarding what exactly can be done and the specific benefits. This same type of open discussion should happen for concerns too.

These open discussions are just as important, if not more so, for non-fundraising related departments. It is far too easy for those departments to consider donor retention somebody else’s job.

3. Make a Donor Retention Metric a Part of the CEO Compensation Plan

Sounds too simple to even be ignored right?


Many CEOs, even those partially involved in fundraising, do not consider donor retention as part of their daily duties.

Remember: awareness of just about any topic starts at the top!

Hopefully, making it part of the compensation in some manner will move donor retention to a priority and keep it front and center. If it is a priority for the CEO, there is an excellent chance for spillover elsewhere!

4. Have Donor Retention be a Part of Everyone’s Goals/Bonus Plan

What is good for the CEO should be just as important for the balance of the team. Once such a focus permeates everyone’s goals and bonus plans open discussions will flow and results should not be far behind.

5. Create an Organization-Wide Key Metrics Dashboard

Key metric dashboards can be both internal and external. Both drive daily actions and results.

If improved donor retention is a portion of everyone’s goals then such a dashboard is merely a logical extension. Don’t underestimate its power.

6. Share the Financial Benefit of Improved Donor Retention With Everyone

If methods number three and four listed above are in place then this may already be the case. If not, a simple year-end or quarterly bonus of some nature based upon improved donor retention might spawn steady action by the nonprofit’s team.

Nothing seems to spur attention and focus any faster than a specific bonus of one nature or another.

7. Make Donor Retention Part of Board, Staff and Volunteer Orientations

Once again, this seems so obvious that any nonprofit could never ignore. However, leaving an explanation out of the importance of donor retention is often the case. Such omissions seem to validate the mindset of ignoring retention best practices.

All these orientations are the ideal time to create a strong foundation for awareness, action, and constant improvement.

8. Share Donor Retention Success via Social Media/Communications

A key part of keeping donor retention awareness high after orientations for your team is continual communications of various types. Success leads to success, especially if fun and rewarding stories are shared.

Communications is vital to continued efforts and involvement by the board, the staff and volunteers.

9. Make it Key in System Selection

Metrics, bonuses and results only happen if your various internal systems are designed to make it easy to measure.

If donor retention is hard to measure or is not visible daily then most of the methods outlined above wane or die off altogether.

Your internal system should also encourage proper actions that move the needle in donor retention results. Such actions as recording donor follow-up notes or having a reminder to even follow-up are critical to success.

10. Make it Fun!

Like most actions in life, if they are not fun or somewhat personally rewarding in another manner they seldom continue. All nine of the above items can be fun and rewarding in some aspect. Strive to bring such fun to life and to share each and every success to its fullest!

How many of the ten methods are you already using?

If you are using more than half of these, then you are well on your way to making donor retention everyone’s job at your organization. Once they are all in place, be prepared to move to higher and higher levels of donor retention and all of the successes that will bring.