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  • Writer's pictureNonprofit Learning Lab

18 Strategies to Attract and Retain Nonprofit Donors

Updated: Jun 7, 2023

Donors are a essential part of maintaining a nonprofit. Read on to learn about how to attract and retain your nonprofit's donors!

1. Determine your donor segment:

Identify donor segments to help your nonprofit tailor donor cultivation strategies to create campaigns, messaging, and events to your donors' interests. Use your donor database to identify potential donor segmentations such as donors that have attended your events, alumni of a certain decade, past volunteers, or lapsed donors.

2. Develop a clear message:

When seeking donations, clearly communicate the purpose and impact of your organization. Use concrete stories and examples to make your work tangible, relevant, and engaging.

3. Utilize social media:

Understand where your community is active on social media and reach them where they are whether it is Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, or Instagram. Use these platforms to share stories, updates, events, and fundraising campaigns. If you have supporters that are active on social media and have a large following, ask them to serve as an ambassador for your organization to share content related to campaigns, events, and program impact.

4. Ask a board member to host a donor event at their home:

Ask a board member to host a new donor recruitment event in their home to tap into a new network to build your base of supporters, donors, and volunteers. The event can be for 10-15 guests with an opportunity for attendees to learn about your organization and find out ways to get involved. Work with the board member to ensure they are inviting community members that don’t know about your organization as a way to build a network of supporters. The structure of the event can be networking, a short presentation about your organization’s programs, appetizers, and drinks. It doesn’t need to be extravagant. Keep it simple and focused on the message.

5. Leverage existing supporters:

Encourage existing donors to share information about your nonprofit with their network, community, and friends. Ask your supporters to write testimonials or share their personal stories of why they support your organization. Give them examples so it is easy for them to share.

6. Share your annual report:

Send out your annual report to prospective donors to highlight accomplishments over the past year. Include visuals with data, stores, pictures, and milestones of what you have done over the past year. Do you have donors across the country? Host a short virtual event to highlight your accomplishments, email out your annual report and promote it on your website.

7. Gratitude day, week, or month:

Thank your donors to cultivate and build long-term relationships. Send handwritten note cards to donors that have donated more than $1,000 in their lifetime to your organization. Call donors that have donated more than $5,000 in their lifetime to your nonprofit - to say thank you! Make your thank you personal to the donor so that they remember the phone call and how you reached out. This personal touch will help with end-of-the-year giving campaigns.

8. Call your donors:

Phone calls are a great way to build relationships, find out what inspires your donors, and get to know them better. When you have your donors on the phone, invite them to an event, say thank you to acknowledge their past contributions, and work to build a relationship. Block out time on your calendar to pick up the phone and call your donors. You don’t have to ask for a gift on the phone, give program and impact updates and thank them for their past support.

9. Participate in events aligned with your mission:

Browse your community calendar and attend events aligned with your organization’s mission, vision, and values. Community events can be a great way to outreach to potential donors, volunteers, and community leaders that care about your work. Set a goal for your organization in terms of the number of community events you attend and track to see the benefits of attendance. Make sure to attend events that are aligned with your mission and could attract community members to your organization.

10. Refer a friend, donor, or volunteer month:

Encourage committed donors and volunteers to promote your organization to their network. Craft simple messaging so donors and volunteers can share opportunities to volunteer, donate or get involved. Messages could be an email to invite friends to volunteer or a link to donate to an upcoming campaign.

11. Corporate Partners:

Building relationships with corporate sponsors takes time yet can be beneficial to raising unrestricted funds, and recruiting volunteers and new donors. Build out a list of potential corporate sponsors who care about your mission, align with your community and want to build relationships with your donors, alumni, program participants, and community. Create a list of 10-20 corporate sponsors based in your community that you want to reach out to over the next year. Identify individuals in your organization that have a connection to these potential sponsors or folks that would help with the outreach and strategy.

12. Create, update, and work on your fundraising plan:

A fundraising plan makes you think about fundraising in a more strategic way and helps you identify resources, donors, and capacity for events. Get your volunteers, board members, and staff to help you with the plan. A fundraising plan is a method to organize your fundraising for the year and stay on track. Don’t just create your fundraising plan and ignore it. Review it on a regular basis and track what is or isn’t working. Refer to the plan with committee members, board members, and your development team so everyone stays focused on the goals and ideas determined in the plan. See here for some helpful resources to create a fundraising plan. The yellow should link to our free resources.

13. Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Campaigns:

Leverage your supporters to tap into their networks for peer-to-peer fundraising. Peer-to-peer fundraising works well if your organization has a large network of volunteers, alumni, and supporters who are active on social media. Provide your supporters with approved links and images to share on

their social media. Always determine your ROI for peer-to-peer fundraising in advance of the campaign. ROI could be additional followers on social media, new volunteers, website visitors, or small one-time donations to acquire new donors.

14. Matching Gifts:

A matching gift program is a way for corporations to give back to nonprofits if their employees donate financially to a community organization. Always ask your volunteers, community members, or board members if their company participates in a matching gift program. If an employee donates to your organization their company will match their donation and also contribute to your nonprofit. A great way to ask your volunteers is when they sign up or register for the first time to volunteer and through an annual volunteer or donor survey.

15. Create a young professionals associate board:

Tap into young professionals who are interested in giving back to their community and building their network. A young professionals board can help you develop a leadership pipeline of new volunteers, donors, senior volunteers, or potential board members for your organization. Gauge interest and start small perhaps with just core volunteers. Host a networking happy hour or offer a volunteer shift that is just for young professionals so they can network and give back to your organization at the same time. Structure the young professionals' board so they realize this is a learning and giving opportunity. The learning is an opportunity for the young professionals to understand your organization’s mission and the giving is a way for young professionals to better understand philanthropy.

16. Volunteer-led fundraisers:

Let your volunteers organize a fundraising event tapping into their own networks. A volunteer-led fundraiser can be solely organized by volunteers. If there is a budget let them know and if there isn’t be clear about that as well. Let the volunteers know they have to tap into their own network for inviting attendees so that the event doesn’t impact your organization's own resources or capacity. A volunteer-led fundraiser could be a trivia night, march madness bracket, video game night, talent competition, art exhibit, movie night, beer or wine tasting, or happy hour.

17. Monthly E-newsletter:

Use your e-newsletter to share stories of program impact, volunteer and leadership opportunities, fundraising events, and more. Using an email service provider such as Constant Contact, Mailchimp, EveryAction or ActionNetwork can help you disseminate your message to a wide audience. Make sure that your supporters, volunteers, and donors can subscribe to your e-newsletter via your website. Create a calendar of emails that you will send out for the year to help prepare and theme messages so you have time to promote events, and fundraising campaigns, thank donors, share stories of impact and highlight leadership at your nonprofit. Always include a forward option and call to action in your newsletter whether it is to donate, volunteer, or forward along the newsletter.

18. Donor Recognition Program:

A donor recognition program is a strategy to steward and cultivate donors. Recognizing donors promotes their generosity to your community and to their network. One strategy for a donor recognition program is to host an annual thank you event where you recognize the contributions of donors and volunteers from the past year. Allow donors and volunteers to bring their friends and family which is a way for their contributions to be seen and your organization to grow its network.

Fundraising, retaining donors, and building relationships with new donors can be a challenge. Reflect on what works within your organization and try to integrate some new strategies. Are you looking for additional fundraising strategies and donor cultivation techniques? Check out our upcoming fundraising training here.


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