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3 elements of loyal and productive donor relationships

March 22, 2022
This image depicts a young Asian woman contemplating making a donation, showing the importance of building loyal donor relationships.

Every donor’s gift matters to your nonprofit organization, but it's the consistent, reliable contributions from your ongoing supporters that truly power your operations and on-the-ground impact. What compels some donors to give just once to an organization, while others stay involved over time?

According to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, retention rates for one-time donors is at 18.6%. This rate more than doubles for donors who have given twice at 38.6%, and continues to rise with each gift up to donors who’ve given seven or more times at 88.6%. This means that focusing on motivating donors to make that second gift is a critical part of building a reliable fundraising base and earning the revenue needed to support your purpose.

In order to build loyal donor relationships that stand the test of time, you’ll need to optimize three elements of those relationships: personalization, trust, and appreciation.


Do your donors believe their contributions are vital to your organization’s purpose? Your supporters chose to get involved with your nonprofit to accomplish positive and meaningful change. The more they feel connected with your cause, the more likely they are to become long term supporters and continue giving.

Nurture these connections by getting to know your supporters. A comprehensive CRM will allow your organization to construct detailed donor profiles and analyze the data stored in them. Find out what they care about, and use meaningful characteristics to segment your supporters for more personalized communications.

Some popular ways to segment your donors include:

  • Giving history
  • Past involvement
  • Communication preferences
  • Connection to your cause

Your supporters are likely used to receiving tailored communications from brands and stores they frequent. Similarly, donors appreciate nonprofits that leverage their information and preferences to share content that aligns with their interests.

For example, if a donor recently gave to a community-based initiative, you might share information about local volunteer opportunities. 

Additionally, tailor your donation requests based on donors’ past gifts. Look at donors’ past gifts and reach out with reasonable suggested giving amounts according to those donations. Also, don’t forget to use their preferred communication channel, whether it’s email, social media, text, or direct mail.


You need to establish trust with donors before they’ll make an investment in your organization. Once you’ve gained enough trust for the initial gift, you will have a strong foundation for constructing lasting relationships. 

To build trust, maintain regular communication and follow these best practices:

  • Say what you’ll do and then follow through, providing frequent updates.
  • Be transparent with how you’ll put donations to use.
  • Communicate the specific impact that gifts will have and the plans in place to make that impact a reality.
  • Ask for feedback and make improvements accordingly.
  • Respond promptly to questions and comments.
  • Communicate your commitment to maintaining the relationship into the future.

Your organization’s every interaction with its supporters presents an opportunity to leave a positive impression. Aim for effective and thoughtful communication anytime you reach out to your donors about your cause.


Donors give to an organization because they believe in its purpose. They may care deeply about a cause or issue, and see partnering with your nonprofit as a meaningful way to effect change. However, they also appreciate it when your nonprofit takes the time to thank them for their support. 

Send thank you messages after each of their donations. This should include an automatic thank-you for online gifts, as well as a more personalized message later via email, traditional mail, or a phone call.

Don’t forget to emphasize the importance of your donors’ gifts in your appreciation messages. A compelling impact story, coupled with facts and data, can powerfully demonstrate the results your organization has achieved with their support.

Through emails, social media posts, and letters, update your supporters on what your nonprofit is accomplishing with their financial contributions. For prospective major donors, arrange for coffee meetings and donor cultivation events to gather your supporters together and make one-on-one connections. 

You can also feature some of your most dedicated supporters on your social media profiles. Encourage them to feel proud of their contributions to your organization’s purpose and to stay involved for even greater impact down the road.

Encouraging further donor engagement

By establishing an exceptional donor experience, your nonprofit will cultivate productive relationships with loyal donors, earning long-lasting support to drive your organization’s purpose year after year. With a strong foundation in place, you can even encourage donors to expand their engagement even further, from fundraising on your behalf in a peer-to-peer campaign to joining your organization’s monthly giving program.

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    Donor Engagement
  • Nonprofits
  • Digital communications & marketing