Retaining Donors Beyond Giving Tuesday Campaigns

two women and one man jumping at daytime
|6 min read Giving Tuesday

Seven years in, Giving Tuesday campaigns have raised increasingly more each year – the total in 2018 was around $400 million. The opportunity for nonprofits to capitalize on Giving Tuesday is high, but what happens after this Tuesday? With donor retention rates being around 45%, how can nonprofits use the springboard of this popular event to retain donors long term?

Bar chart of money raised by Giving Tuesday campaigns from 2012 to 2018.

Focusing on donor retention

Every nonprofit knows the battle of donor retention, but many don’t understand the big picture or the strategies to see long term successes. The short answer is that nonprofits are not putting in the required and right kind of effort to see increases in their donor retention. Generally speaking, nonprofits are:

1. Focusing too much on donor acquisition and not enough on donor retention.
2. Not communicating in a personalized enough way to their donors to inspire them to make further donations.
3. Losing future donations by not employing segmented email marketing campaigns.

New donors from Giving Tuesday campaigns

With Giving Tuesday being one of the biggest charitable giving days of the year, it is also one of the biggest opportunities to begin new and lucrative relationships with people donating to an organization’s cause. states that donors that participate are 10-15% more likely to give again.

Many nonprofits spend the lion’s share of their fundraising efforts on gaining new donors, which is a costly process. In the case of Giving Tuesday, capitalizing on the movement’s inertia with a tailored fundraising campaign can mean less effort in gaining new donors and more ROI. While the donations are the primary targets, there is also an enormous opportunity to bring one-time donors from annual Giving Tuesday campaigns into the fold and create a long term relationship.

When creating Giving Tuesday campaigns, nonprofits need to focus on the presentation and verbiage that will set the foundation for that long term relationship. Not only does a nonprofit have to present a campaign that entices a potential donor, but it also has to resonate. They must feel a kinship to the cause and a sense of urgency that inspires them to engage with the organization. In the strategy of acquiring a donor, the campaign is a success – but what about sowing the seeds for an ongoing relationship?

Employing donor retention tactics during acquisition

According to Director of Philanthropy Centre Adrian Sargaent, the main crux of donor retention is recognizing a donor’s value and communicating an organization’s appreciation for that value. This value isn’t monetary, but instead is relative to their perceived sacrifice and identification with the cause. An organization can include verbiage in their Giving Tuesday campaigns that address topics that are entwined with better donor retention, such as:

  • Explaining how and where donors’ contributions will be used
  • Explaining how each and every donation is valued and integral
  • Highlighting how the organization wants input, suggestions, etc. from all donors

While donors may like t-shirts and other physical goods, they place a much higher importance on feeling appreciated and valued. In the era of social media sharing, the pride of being able to share their contribution to their network is also valuable currency.

Getting to know your donors during Giving Tuesday

Now that the right donor retention verbiage has been included in your Giving Tuesday campaign, questions for gathering metrics for the future should also be solicited from both donors and non-donors that visited. These metrics are integral to a retention strategy because this information will be used to tailor follow-up communications and build relationships that may inspire more donations in the future. To gather these metrics, consider a survey like the one below that asks the donor for metrics such as:

  1. Age
  2. Gender
  3. Location
  4. Reason for donation
  5. Preferred way of donating (debit, credit, PayPal, etc.)
  6. Perceived impact of donation
  7. Donation experience rating
  8. Reason for choosing the organization
  9. Comments and suggestions

A survey can be presented to donors and visitors on your website on a page or as a pop-up, on social media or via email. Some fundraising platforms also have built-in data collection capabilities that can gather astonishing amounts of detailed data that can help an organization learn how to better communicate with their base.

Below is a sample survey of possible questions to ask donors:

See survey

Note that some donors will care more about their privacy than others, so it should be up to the donors’ discretion how much personal information to share. People that may otherwise engage and donate may not do so if they perceive data collection as intrusive or violating their comfort level.

Personalizing follow-up communications with market segmentation

One of the most crucial opportunities to increase donor retention is the “Thank You” email to new and existing donors. This opportunity is where nonprofits have the chance to make first-time and one-time donors to their Giving Tuesday campaigns into recurring donors.

What is segmentation?

Where many nonprofits fail at communicating with donors is when they don’t employ a segmentation strategy. Market segmentation for nonprofits is dividing donors into smaller groups with commonalities and then personalized emails are created for each segment. Sending out the same direct mail, email or any other communications to all subscribers is not a strategy that will retain donors.

Writing the right “thank you” correspondence

Once an organization has identified its segments for donation, the next step is to create personalized “Thank You” correspondence for each of those segments. Based on all the data that has been collected, it should be relatively manageable to discover which points to positively stress with each segment, but there are also many reasons donors stop giving.

For example, an organization may not want to include another donation request in an initial “Thank You” correspondence to a lower-income donor, but they may want to include it for other segments. Likewise, an organization may want to tailor a “Thank You” correspondence to include more women’s issues for female subscribers than it might for male subscribers.

Another important factor to consider is time. Acknowledging the support of donors in a timely manner can make all the difference in how valued the donor feels. Some strategies to consider are sending an initial “Thank You” email immediately or within a day of the donation, then sending out a more personalized correspondence within a week. It’s important to know that the main reasons don’t give again or stop giving are because of poor communication and perceived lack of appreciation.

The takeaway

This December 3rd, Giving Tuesday campaigns offer a great opportunity to turn one-time and first-time donors into recurring donors. A key factor in achieving this donor retention is donor segmentation, plus “Thank You” and follow-up correspondences that build long-term relationships.

The core message from nonprofits to donors should be that the donor is valued and appreciated. Showing the donor that not just their money, but that their support for the cause is just as, if not more valuable to the success of the organization and the cause. Donors will be more willing to donate if they feel integral and viewed as a member of the team, not just as a revenue stream.

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Jessica Zim

About Jessica Zim

Jessica is an SEO Specialist who works to improve the website quality of caused-based organizations. She currently works at Puzzle Pieces Marketing, a nonprofit marketing agency in San Diego, California.