Maintaining donor loyalty in small nonprofits

Every interaction you have with a donor plays into loyalty, and it’s much easier to keep a donor than to find a new one.

Attrition is inevitable, but if you do ‘good works’ and maintain accountability, there are donors who will stay with you for a very long time.


What are your top tips for maintaining donor loyalty in small nonprofits?


* Be accountable and transparent

Many of your donors give to you specifically because you are a smaller nonprofit. They can expect greater accountability for every dollar, so you should expect greater scrutiny.

Everyone in your organization, even down to the receptionist, should be knowledgeable about a project or able to direct a donor to someone who is.

Also, when things aren’t going exactly in the direction you had originally envisioned, let people know. A donor who is kept in the loop will be much more open to working with you if the change is announced ahead of time, than if it takes them by surprise.

* Know your donors, and get it right.

In small nonprofit work, knowing your donors personally usually happens naturally.

Due to the deeper relationship, they may be much less forgiving if you confuse their salutation, the spelling of their name or the size of their gift.

Regardless of who’s at the helm, donors to smaller organizations tend to interact with the organization itself.  Because of this, some donors never forget a slight or public organizational scrutiny, even if it happened many years earlier, so everyone has to be on their game.

* Make recognition appropriate.

If you’re a small nonprofit, and you suddenly build an enormous donor recognition wall, your donors and grantors are going to question why you spent their money building it.

Recognizing donors is incredibly important for small nonprofits, but you must do it in a way that makes sense for your organization.

Go back to the folks who originally introduced these donors to you to get clarification on what would be a welcome and appropriate acknowledgement that aligns with why they choose to give to you in the first place.

* Engage without the “ask”.

Donors will frown upon a thank you card that includes another plea for donations. They don’t want to hear from you only when you’re asking for money.

Send frequent, meaningful updates about your organization, and plan other activities that truly engage your donors, such as a program tour or invitations to local community events.

Make sure your “good works” are being covered by the local media.  All of these initiatives help build continuous support that makes the time when you do ask for money that much easier.

–Compiled by Elizabeth Floyd

Heather Burton is a marketing manager for Sage Software’s Nonprofit Solutions. Previously, she worked in various development roles at several nonprofits and now is board vice president and development chair of a small nonprofit in her community.

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