How to retain (and love) your grassroots donors

One of the smartest and most exciting strategies your organization can implement right now is prioritizing existing donors! Reaching fundraising goals can be much more than finding *new* donors. Making donor retention a key part of your fundraising program helps you build strong, lasting relationships with your incredible supporters that lead to more money raised over the long term. Your small-dollar donors are your most passionate advocates and investors in your mission, so treat them as the valued stakeholders they are! And donor retention doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are some tips for showing your supporters some love and motivating them to stay in this movement with you.

Start off on the right foot with a welcome email series

Welcome emails are a great way to show people who are new to your email list that they’re part of something bigger! These emails are the foundation on which you’ll build relationships with grassroots supporters, so you’ll want to put in the time to craft content that makes people want to stick around and take action.

What’s the anatomy of a strong welcome email series? From the get go, the content of your welcome emails should reiterate that by joining your list, supporters are joining a community of critical participants for your cause, like this welcome email from Sunrise does:

Sunrise Welcome Email

Let your supporters know how they can begin taking specific actions, whether it’s donating, signing a petition, volunteering, or sharing on social media. Sunrise provides links for action steps to make participating as easy as possible.

You can set a precedent for honest, respectful communication by laying out to subscribers what kinds of emails you’ll send their way, like Grist does below. Additionally, think about giving supporters an easy way to unsubscribe from your email list or linking to subscription preferences like Grist does. (Giving an easy opt-out from the start also keeps your list healthy and clean from inactive subscribers, and your future self might just thank you later).

Grist Welcome Email

Make appreciation your bread and butter

Make it a point to say “thank you!” Appreciate your small-dollar donors by letting them know they’re an irreplaceable part of your larger mission. You can immediately begin showing donors your appreciation by automating donation receipts that acknowledge gifts. AB Charities already sends automated receipts to donors for you, but you can (and should) customize the “thank you” text in these receipts. With automated, customized receipts, you ensure every grassroots gift is acknowledged and every donor leaves the giving process feeling special and important to your cause.

Saying “thank you” after someone donates is important, but appreciating your supporters in all pieces of communication for sticking with you is just as important. Keep gratitude and respect at the crux of your fundraising program by thanking supporters in every email you send. Whether a fundraising email or a newsletter, a line at the end saying “thank you” shows people they’re part of your work — and your organization knows it!

Go beyond asking for money

When a big goal of your program is building lasting relationships with donors, send non-fundraising emails that share high-quality, approachable, and timely content with your supporters. Your emails should aim to engage people so they want to stay on your list, hear from you, and invest in your cause for the long term. Many of your emails can be cultivation emails — non-fundraising emails meant to share compelling content — so you’re not only sending hard fundraising asks. With thoughtful cultivation emails, you can engage folks as partners in the fight for your cause rather than solely as piggy banks.

Try sending cultivation emails entirely dedicated to saying “thank you.” Do you have exciting numbers and accomplishments to share? You can use a thank you email as a moment to emphasize the impact of gifts and express appreciation for your donors’ actions. And you don’t have to sacrifice fundraising, either — leave an easy donate button at the bottom of the email for people who are compelled to give. Here’s an example of a great thank you email from United We Dream:

United We Dream Thank You Email

Another possible way to engage supporters is asking for their input and opinions to let them know their voices are central to your movement. Many organizations send surveys, but Friends of the Earth checked in with their list by asking people if they could make a special volunteer call to discuss advancing climate change legislation:

Friends of the Earth Volunteer Call Email

Be ready to support donors who need help

An enjoyable giving process also means having the donor support to quickly solve donation problems. Make sure you have the infrastructure to address the needs and concerns of donors. That’s why AB Charities has a dedicated donor support team that spends one-on-one time with donors having trouble. Your fundraising platform should also offer tools for frictionless donations. For example, AB Charities has a free integration with Account Updater to automatically update credit card numbers so recurring donations don’t stop even when cards are lost or expired!

With these tips in mind, you’re ready to begin building lasting relationships with small-dollar donors passionate about powering your work and sustaining your movement for the long haul. Relationship management can feel intimidating, so our team is always happy to jump on a one-on-one call with you to help your organization retain (and love) your donors!