Donor Stewardship

How to Improve Donor Retention by Creating Meaningful Connections

electronic donor and nonprofit hands shaking over a gold background

Listening is just the first step for nonprofits beginning to prioritize meaningful engagements. Responsive nonprofits must connect their donors’ signals with their work.

Points of connection are where you make your organization relevant to donors. The strategies you create directly impact the breadth, depth, and longevity of your relationships.

In this second part of the four-part series Virtuous is contributing to AmPhil Insights, you’ll learn how to take signals collected from your supporters to create connection points that cut through the noise, increase interest in your cause, and ultimately lead to improved donor retention.

How to Create Meaningful Connections

When I speak to nonprofit fundraising professionals about responsive fundraising, I use a simple analogy to tie together “Listen” and “Connect.”

Say, for example, that you’re hosting an event and a long-time, dedicated supporter invites a guest to attend the event with them. This friend had never heard of your organization before but is interested in attending and giving their support—even if it’s only for one night.

After being introduced to your supporter’s guest, let’s call him John, you pick up on indirect signals throughout your conversation. He’s lived in the area his entire life, aside from leaving for college, and enjoys spending time with his family. He’s interested in finding something more fulfilling for his weekend plans and is considering volunteering. As your conversation progresses, you discover that, as a child, his parents volunteered and worked in the field building water sources for underdeveloped communities abroad.

How convenient! Your event this evening is to raise awareness and funds for an upcoming water project.

Here’s where “Listen” and “Connect” coincide.

Rather than rush into an elevator pitch about your project, you continue gleaning data-rich details from John. Before you part ways, you simply ask him, “Would you like to receive email notifications about upcoming volunteer opportunities?” He says yes, and the conversation comes to an end.

A few days after the event, you reach out to John and invite him to tour your facilities and discuss volunteering for your organization.

From there you can connect John with volunteer opportunities in your organization. Everyone wins in this scenario! Your mission recruits another dedicated volunteer and John finds renewed commitment to a cause he saw his parents involved with when he was a child.

3 Easy Ways to Create Connections that Lead to Donor Retention

Even in our digital world, intentional conversations help us deepen our relationships with supporters. Investing in donor retention is key to creating sustainable funding for your organization, but good retention rates rely on creating meaningful connections with your supporters. Unfortunately, with so many daily tasks, we often overlook opportunities to connect personally with supporters.

If you struggle with balancing the burden of daily tasks, meetings, and appointments and find yourself with a small amount of time to connect with supporters, try automating your touchpoints and connecting with your supporters in a scalable way. Improving your donor retention doesn’t have to be a long list of manual tasks for your team.

1. Milestone Emails

Creating an automated workflow that tags donors based on specific information—such as milestones, birthdays, anniversaries, and donation amounts—can help you send weekly personalized emails to donors who meet those criteria. Building those relationships encourages greater donor engagement and increases donor retention rates. No more sending time-intensive one-on-one emails. Simply create the emails in advance and set them to send each time a donor meets certain requirements!

2. Daily Reminders

Calling donors to thank them for their generosity is one of the easiest ways to increase your donor’s involvement with your cause. Creating a daily task reminder in your CRM to call those who have given in the previous 24 hours is an excellent way to strengthen your relationship and increase your donor retention. While most won’t answer their phone, leaving a heartfelt and thankful voicemail can work wonders.

3. Outreach Emails

Like with an automated workflow that triggers emails to donors who fit specific criteria, you can create an automated workflow to reconnect with lapsed donors. Reminding them of their impact and showcasing updates on specific projects or campaigns funded by their previous support is an excellent way to reconnect.

There are countless ways to connect with your supporters in a way that deepens your relationships with them and increases your donor retention. These three simple, scalable ways can help your team begin connecting with your supporters immediately!

Want to learn more about cultivating your supporter’s relationship with your cause? Download the Responsive Fundraising Starter Pack

About the Author

Young woman with long brown hair in a blue topKelly Cristaldi serves as the Sr. Partner Marketing Manager at Virtuous, a responsive CRM, marketing automation, and donor-centric giving platform. In this role, she works with partners to identify opportunities to help fundraisers increase their supporters' generosity. 

Before joining Virtuous, Kelly worked for five years in the animal welfare sector and specialized in marketing, PR, and fundraising, with a focus on major donors and corporate sponsorship. 

Connect with Kelly on LinkedIn or reach out to her via email at


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