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Retaining Digital Donors: 7 Tips to Maximize Engagement

6 min read
January 04, 2024
Shannon Whitehead headshot
Shannon Whitehead
Content Strategist, Neon One
woman smiling with a laptop on her lap

In our digital age, devices make the world go ‘round—from the smartphones that help us stay on top of emails to the tablets we use to make payments, operate machinery, and more.

So it’s no surprise that more people than ever are donating digitally. In the United States and Canada, 63% of donors prefer donating online with a credit or debit card. But without face-to-face interaction, how can nonprofits connect with and retain digital donors?

Read on to find out! We’ll cover seven practical tips you can use to maintain digital donor relationships and prevent a first-time digital donor from becoming a one-time digital donor. 

7 Tips for Retaining Digital Donors

The big question behind digital donor retention is how to engage donors whose main (or only) interactions with your organization have been online.

Here are seven digital donor retention strategies that will help you keep these donors connected:

1. Prioritize User Experience

A good mobile and web donating experience free of unnecessary barriers or friction is a key part of retaining digital donors. What is it like to donate to your nonprofit digitally? If you’re not sure, run through the process: Does it take your website and donation page a long time to load? Are instructions difficult to read or understand? Is your donation form functional for mobile device users?

These are only a few areas to check when you want to ensure a great user experience for your digital donors. Because just like anything else in life, if people have a good experience, they’ll come back!

2. Use Social Media to Build Relationships

Social media is good for catching up with middle school buddies, watching cute bunny videos, and…cultivating online relationships with your digital donors. This donor retention strategy boils down to meeting digital donors where they already are: on their phones, online, scrolling social media feeds.

Make sure those who donate digitally know about your nonprofit’s social media presence. After they’ve donated online, encourage digital donors to follow you on social media to stay up to date with how their gift is making an impact. Build sharing your social media profiles into your follow-up strategy, and remember to include donor engagement tactics in your social media strategy.

3. Utilize Segmentation for Personalization

That may just sound like a fancy, technical word salad, but donor segmentation is a powerful tool for personalizing your communications and effectively targeting the right audience with messaging that’s specific to them.

With segmentation, you can tell a donor what their exact donation amount accomplished, remind them of an event they attended, include details about conversations or campaigns they’ve participated in, etc. If you always send generic messages and communicate with donors as if they’re just another wallet in a sea of thousands of donors, they’ll feel like just another wallet in a sea of thousands of donors.

4. Keep Donors in the Loop With Email

When a person donates digitally, they leave a piece of donor communication gold behind: their email address. Use this gift wisely! Effective email communication is an important part of retaining digital donors and how you keep them feeling included, interested, and in the loop.

You don’t need to email donors every day (and you shouldn’t!), but a regular communication cadence with digital donors can include storytelling, sending updated impact numbers, presenting other ways they can get involved—such as volunteering or sharing a campaign—and more. A donor may come to your organization digitally, but you can use your welcome email series, newsletters, and other email communications to build connections, keep donors updated, and encourage offline participation.

5. Get Creative With Your “Thank You”

When people give digitally, you have a myriad of options to thank them digitally. There’s so much you can do with digital tools—send a video from your team in an email, include a GIF in a text message, or use marketing automation to instantly send a message with the donor’s name, donation amount, and a brief summary of what their donation will do.

Showing appreciation will help you retain digital donors and thank them in ways you simply can’t do with pen and paper. You can be creative with email, social media, texts (very rarely), video, graphics, personalized messages, and more. 

6. Be Strategic

While the donation receipt is an important part of your digital donor retention efforts, don’t stop there. Don’t let your donation page or donation receipt be the last time an online donor hears from your organization or sees a “thank you.”

Retaining digital donors requires strategic planning. Track your donor retention rate and brainstorm ways to improve it. Compare your communications’ performance to determine what type of messages get the best response from your donors. Keep a list of digital donor engagement metrics, goals, and strategies to try. Above all, never leave your desire to retain digital donors to chance; have a plan to intentionally engage them.

7. Present Next Steps

One of the many perks of accepting digital donations is that your organization can easily access these donors. After all, you can send a bi-weekly update email, but sending direct mail that often would eventually get relegated to the instant trash pile and showing up at a donor’s house is frowned upon!

But with virtual communication tools at your disposal, digital donors can quickly and easily find out what’s next in their journey with your organization. You can send a survey to find out what type of updates they’re most interested in, invite them to volunteer or attend an event, send campaign materials they can share with their network, offer additional opportunities to give, etc. 

Retain Digital Donors With the Help of This Checklist 

Donor retention is a key piece of every successful fundraising plan. Is your nonprofit set up well for retaining digital donors? Here’s a resource to help you get started. Use the Donor Retention Checklist to fine-tune your donor retention strategy and ensure that none of your digital donors fall through the communication cracks.

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