Want to Increase Repeat Donors? Just Follow the Rules

It takes a lot of effort to bring in new donors. That’s why hanging on to the donors you have—and getting them to donate again and again—is key for any nonprofit.

So how you do you increase your pool of repeat donors? Here are a few rules to get you there.

Rule 1: Remember, your nonprofit is only as good as your last interaction.

The interaction a donor will remember most is the last one they had with your organization, so offer the best service possible at all times to all of your donors. Make sure you keep the donation process easy and streamlined. Acknowledge donations in a timely fashion and don’t keep donors waiting for promised tax documentation.

Rule 2: Let donors “get their feet wet.”

Small donations can lead to larger ones down the line. Are you looking for products or supplies? Offer a “trial donation” where the donor only commits to a small amount. If that goes well, you can contact them to see if they would like to make a larger donation.

Rule 3: Spread good will.

Give donors the chance to piggyback on your public relations efforts. Sure, you may publicize their name in your lists of donors, but consider going one step further. Ask if they would like to talk about their donations in your press releases or promotional materials.

Rule 4: Ask for feedback and follow through.

It’s a good idea to send out surveys to your clients to ask about how the donation process went for them. Keep it short to increase your chance of receiving a response, and consider 10 percent a good return rate. Make sure you designate someone to go through the surveys and notify staff of any problems they need to address.

Rule 5: Honor your donors’ preferred form of communication.

To develop positive relationships with donors, nothing beats in-person meetings with telephone conversations the next best. But taking those steps can backfire if a donor prefers you contact them only by email. Find out how your donors prefer you contact them, and then honor that request. If you’re receiving product donations, set up a schedule for how frequently you should contact a business. Some companies may want to donate on a quarterly basis, others every six months. It’s best to set those parameters up front.

Rule 6: Remember to ask the next question.

If you call and a company says they have nothing to donate at that time, ask if you can call back in six months. A lot of companies have “gatekeepers,” so if you call in six months and tell the person answering the phone, “Joe asked me to call him back,” your call is more likely to go through. And if you’re lucky enough to schedule an in-person meeting with a potential donor, remember the next question you should ask is whether anyone else would like to join you for the meeting. The more people you know within a company, the stronger relationship you’ll be able to build and the better chance you’ll have that that relationship will continue if your main contact leaves the company.

Rule 7: Add value to those donations.

Give your donors value beyond the tax benefits they receive. Offer specifics on where their donations went and how your organization used them. Give them as much personal connection as you can to the good their donation is doing. Taking the time to do that is the best way to turn that one-time donor into a long-term giver.

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