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The Donor Retention Checklist

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Published December 27, 2023 Reading Time: 5 minutes

Donor retention translates your nonprofit’s acquisition and conversion efforts into long-term revenue.

Based on findings from Classy’s annual report, The State of Modern Philanthropy, our expert-crafted donor retention plan will help you nurture donors into life-long supporters by building lasting relationships.

And if you prefer a PDF checklist, we’ve got you covered.

Step 1: Cultivate Donor Connections Proactively to Prevent Attrition

Securing a new donor requires more time and resources than retaining an existing one. Be aware of donor churn trends to ensure you respond proactively with tailored touchpoints and reignite donors’ connections with your cause before you lose them.

The first month after a donor makes a recurring donation will likely inform how long you retain their support. Implementing strategic stewardship tactics immediately following conversion will increase the chances of lasting support.

checkbox Build a Proactive Nurture Strategy to Reduce the Risk of Churn

Re-engage Recurring Donors Consistently throughout Their First Six Months

  • Personalize outreach in the immediate weeks following a recurring donation to acknowledge and celebrate each individual’s generosity.
  • Launch a monthly automated email campaign with updates on what your recurring giving community’s donations have funded in the past four weeks.
  • Surprise and delight donors with unexpected messages, gifts, or phone calls to express gratitude and check in with them for a more personal touch.

DID YOU KNOW? Following these proactive steps can help you mitigate early churn, as an average of 18% of monthly recurring donors cancel by month six.

checkbox Mitigate New Year Donor Drop-off with Inspiring Communications

Keep the Year-End Energy Alive Post-Giving Season

  • Send handwritten cards to thank donors for their continued support.
  • Host a special hybrid event through Classy Live in the new year to celebrate donors’ generosity near and far.
  • Incentivize one-time donors to become recurring donors by detailing what their monetary donations will accomplish in the short and long term.
  • Reiterate the value donations have on your community and beneficiaries by sharing letters or testimonials directly from those impacted by your services.
Pro Tip
Monthly recurring donors are 1.4x more likely to churn in January than any other month, making a thoughtful donor stewardship strategy even more critical to staying connected with supporters in the new year.

Step 2: Segment Your Retention Strategy by Campaign

Leveraging the benefits of different campaign types provides multiple on-ramps to giving and keeps donors excited about supporting your cause.

checkbox Keep Post-event Momentum Rolling with Timely Ways to Get Involved

Remind Donors of the Feelings They Experienced During Your Event

  • Re-promote photos from past events to build excitement ahead of your big day, including photos of attendees, activities, or the venue.
  • Recognize and thank major donors during and after your event through signage, announcements, and awards to highlight donor appreciation.

DID YOU KNOW? Ticketed events constitute 5.7% of donations above $1,000 but have the highest churn rates for recurring gifts. Ensure you take proper steps to keep these donors’ excitement alive once the evening wraps.

checkbox Optimize Donation Pages to Convert Returning Donor Traffic

Make Giving as Frictionless as Possible

  • Design a user-friendly recurring donation website with a streamlined checkout flow.
Pro Tip
When a donor makes a second donation on Classy, either to the same organization or a new one, 60% do so through a donation page. Take the necessary steps to optimize your donation page to avoid deterring activated supporters. 

checkbox Promote Peer-to-Peer Fundraising as an Accessible Way to Remain Engaged

Educate Supporters on the Power of Peer-to-Peer

  • Invite donors to fundraise on your behalf to remain connected to your cause without a financial commitment.
  • Designate a group of employees or volunteers to motivate fundraisers with regular phone calls, emails, or face-to-face interactions.
  • Make it simple for fundraisers to share their pages and stories on social media by leveraging integrations like Classy for Facebook.

DID YOU KNOW? Campaigns that prioritize peer-to-peer fundraising efforts raise 3.8x more on average compared to all other time-based campaigns.

Step 3: Entice New and Repeat Donors to Stay

Get ahead of times when donors are most likely to cancel gifts by consistently optimizing your organization’s giving experience.

checkbox Promote Easy, Affordable Recurring Giving Options

Provide Donors with Options That Fit Their Budget

  • Give donors the ability to easily update their giving frequencies or pause their recurring subscription if needed.
  • Encourage annual donors to split their yearly gifts into smaller, more frequent donations to support your fundraising efforts throughout every season.
  • Invite one-time donors to consider how monthly giving might feel less overwhelming for budgeting purposes than contributing one lump-sum donation.

DID YOU KNOW? Among different giving frequencies, recurring gifts donated monthly have the highest retention rate.

checkbox Make Repeat Transactions Seamless with the Right Payment Options

Remove Barriers to Giving with Optimized Conversion Practices

  • Present an embedded giving method on your website to immediately greet returning visitors with a quick conversion opportunity.
  • Offer ACH (bank transfer) to reduce outdated credit card risks.
  • Track which payments are most popular among your donor base and lean heavily into those methods in future initiatives.

DID YOU KNOW? The size of a recurring donation is 29% larger on average when made through ACH.

The Path to Lasting Donor Connections

For additional information on improving your nonprofit’s donor acquisition and conversion efforts, check out our easy-to-follow guides designed to set you up for success in building long-term relationships with your supporters.

Deep dive into our Donor Acquisition Checklist and Donor Conversion Checklist to strengthen your understanding of what’s necessary to prospect and convert potential supporters and grow donor lifetime value.

Copy Editor: Ayanna Julien


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