Building Donor Loyalty | What the Data Shows and How to Retain Donors


Building donor loyalty doesn’t have to be a guessing game. Many nonprofits and churches have few ways of predicting funds from month to month, creating frustration and uncertainty about… 

However, it is possible to understand what makes a one-time supporter reengage and ultimately enter into a meaningful relationship with your mission.   

3 Keys to Building Donor Loyalty  

  1. Data: Know your donors’ behavior.  
  1. Nurturing: Reengage one-time donors with the intent of creating exceptional experiences for them.  
  1. Asking: Encourage a second or recurring donation to fund a program, purchase a ticket to an event, or further your mission.  

What the Data Reveals… 

In the latest report from Classy, The State of Modern Philanthropy 2019: Trends in Return Donor Behavior, the following information was provided: 

  1. Recurring donors are 500% more valuable than one-time donors when it comes to funding your mission and programs.  
  1. First-time donors are 61% more likely to be women. 
  1. Returning donors are 59% more likely to be women.  
  1. First-time donors who initially gave on a mobile device are 77% more likely to give a second time on the same type of mobile device.  

When you understand this data, you can engage and appeal to your donors, building donor loyalty and increasing retention.  

Data Summary… 

5 Ways to Start Building Donor Loyalty  

To see real growth in your church or nonprofit, you need to work on solidifying the relationships you cultivate with your donors.  

With that in mind, here are 5 ways to connect with potential and existing donors, as well as encourage them to keep giving to your cause.  

1) Reengage First-Time Donors Earlier 

Most supporters make a one-time donation before becoming a recurring donor. Many will wait for months or even years before making a second or recurring donation.  


There are a number of reasons, but in the digital age, they are “checking you out online” before they make a commitment. They want to ensure you can deliver on the promises that you make.  

How to Reengage 

There is a way to close this gap. Research indicates that when the one-time donor is presented with relevant, valuable content that speaks into a pain point of their life and provides a way to overcome it, the lapse in donations can be shortened by 4 months.  

Valuable content is an excellent way of delivering on your promise. The potential recurring donor is looking for a way to make an impact and to feel encouraged. Your content can speak to both donor goals.  

2) Engage and Nurture Recurring Donors  

Don’t think of recurring donors as those who no longer need cultivating. Donors who raise their hands to commit to your cause month after month feel connected to your mission. 

Research shows that satisfied and highly engaged recurring donors are more likely to give on top of their regular contribution than not.  


When nurtured effectively, the highly engaged donor feels like they are an integral part of your mission. Regarding the donor journey, they move from playing a minor role to becoming the backbone of the mission. 

How to Engage and Nurture… 

Recurring donors are actually the most valuable contributors to your mission. That means you should identify ways to keep them engaged, focused, and nurtured as they continue to give.  

Make sure you are investing in the channels that attract your donors. This could be various social media platforms, email, or YouTube. Use your organization’s data to determine where and how to cultivate an existing donor relationship.  

3) Set Up Regularly Scheduled Fundraisers 

The key here is “regularly scheduled.” Along with returning to give on the same device type (see point 4 under What the Data Reveals above), donors also tend to give more during regularly scheduled fundraising events.  


The report by Classy stated, “Our analysis found that return fundraisers typically raised over twice as much (126%) as one-time fundraisers.” 

There are several reasons why regularly scheduled fundraisers work. Here are a couple of examples:  

How to Create Regularly Scheduled Fundraisers…  

First, you want to keep in mind what the data reveals: Regularly scheduled fundraising events create opportunities for building donor loyalty. Most organizations gear up for a fundraising event and are disappointed by the results. They abandon the effort and start back at square one.  

Instead, what you should do is look at the data from the event and build on it. Improve the fundraising effort and give it some time to gain traction with your donors. Survey them to learn more insights on how to improve.  

Lastly, put it on the calendar to repeat. You are more likely to see the fundraiser through to the end when you get it on the schedule and work toward it.  

4) Make Good Use of Social Media Platforms 

This is a hot method in today’s fundraising market. In Classy’s report, they discovered that 60% of mobile traffic comes from social media. Of the donors who initially engaged on social media, 87% returned via a social media source.  


Again, there are a number of factors at play. However, one reason is that 70% of adults in America are on social media platforms, such as Facebook, for approximately 1 hour a day. This fact reveals a great opportunity for you to present your mission to those engaged as one-time donors on a social media platform.  

How to Use Social Media Platforms 

There are many social media platforms available, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. Like anything, you want to review your organization’s data to determine which platform(s) your donors use most often. Then you’ll want to review best practices and guidelines—for example, the best time of day to post, word and character length of the post, brand style and consistency, and image sizes.  

You can download the Social Media Tool Kit here. It outlines all the above information for you.  

5) Position the Donor as the Hero 

Your recurring donors, and those on the fence about becoming one, want to know they are making an impact. You can never overemphasize the role they play in accomplishing your mission.  

As mentioned above, they are the backbone of everything you do. How you create content around this narrative is critical.  

We have seen the most successful nonprofits go by this principle: Talk more about the donor and the ones they help than yourself.  


Because as soon as the donor feels like they aren’t making a difference, they discontinue donating.  

How to Position Your Donor as the Hero 

You can position your donor as a hero through impact reports, images, and content creation. Each needs to focus on your donor being the one making the impact.  

You can do this through impact reports by providing data about how their giving impacted others.  

We recommend using real photos over stock images whenever possible. This provides an authentic experience for your donors. They begin to picture themselves in the image and visualize the change they can make.  

Lastly, content creation in the sense of building donor loyalty focuses on storytelling. This can be done in video or writing—ideally both. 

According to Forbes, 3 years ago more than 500 billion people were watching videos on Facebook every day. It is safe to conclude this number has increased. This means that communicating a strong, visual message to your donors that they are the hero of your mission through content creation is crucial when building donor loyalty.  

In Summary… 

How the donor chooses to move forward after a one-time gift is critical to the health of your organization and the impact of your mission.  

First-time donor retention is declining, and acquiring new donors is costly compared to keeping existing ones.  

By understanding donor behavior, building donor loyalty becomes an attainable goal. Many variables come into play when creating a donor loyalty strategy, such as where they first make their donation (a social media platform or on mobile, for example) and how to nurture them through content and fundraising efforts effectively.  

Reflect on the data you gather, develop a strategic plan for next steps, and start building donor loyalty, which will allow you to accomplish your mission and impact lives!  


At Viral Solutions we are committed to seeing YOU succeed. It is our goal to grow your business with proven digital marketing strategies that will help your business for the long haul.

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