The Comprehensive Guide to Donor Retention

Donor Retention: The Basics and More

Donor Retention 101: The Basics

What is donor retention? How do you calculate it?

The Importance of Retaining Donors

Why is retention such a hot topic?

Increase Your Retention Rate

Tips and tricks for keeping your donors on board.

What is a Golden Donation?

The most sought-after of all donations. Click on the link above to learn all about golden donations and how they can help your nonprofit skyrocket.

Top Resources and Relevant Case Studies

The Best Resources on the Web

If you’re looking for the top info on retention, we’ve got it all right here.

The Latest Trends

The most pertinent and recent advice from experts in their fields.

Relevant Donor Retention Case Studies

Cold, hard case studies on the efficacy of different methods for retaining contributors. 

Donation Statistics

All of the facts you could ever want to know about modern fundraising.

Donor Retention: The Basics and More

Donor Retention 101: The Basics


Donor retention is one of the key performance metrics that every nonprofit must keep track of.

While the specifics of donor retention get kind of nitty-gritty, on a surface level, donor retention is simply maintaining positive relationships with and therefore retaining your existing donors.

It’s essentially a measure of the number of donors who continue to donate to your organization. Typically, this number is a percentage.

If you don’t know much about the fundamentals of donor retention, don’t worry. You’re not alone.

That’s precisely why we’ve gathered together the best articles on the internet to cover all of the basics.

From “What is donor retention?” all the way to “How do I calculate my nonprofit’s retention rate?” We’ve got you covered!

To learn all about the basics of donor retention, from A-Z, check out these handy articles:

Did you know that every $100 gained in 2011 was offset by $100 in losses through attrition?


There are concrete ways to avoid this issue. In fact, there are 8 basic secrets (that aren’t so secret, actually) to retaining more donors this year.

Here they are:

1. Listen more.
2. Produce valuable content.
3. Communicate consistently.
4. Recognize constituents’ contributions.
5. Show outcomes and prove impact.
6. Be responsive.
7. Exude positivity.
8. Put the donor first.

To read more about these 8 basics, click on the button below.

The 8 Basics of Donor Retention

As with most relationships, your connection with your donors isn’t an instant bond.


Imagine you’ve just moved to a new city. You’re meeting all sorts of new people, and sure, you’ll exchange numbers and say, “Let’s stay in touch.” But are you the first person they call when they have an extra ticket to a show? Are they the one you call when you need a ride to the airport?

Of course not! Because getting to be that go-to person (or that go-to nonprofit) takes time and effort.

With these 5 ideas, you’ll be one step closer to forming great relationships with your donors:

1. Get to know your supporters as individuals.
2. Be gracious.
3. Follow-up.
4. Share stories.
5. Open doors.

Donor retention is crucial to the success of your nonprofit.


But how can you work on improving your donor retention if you’re not 100% sure what your rate is?

Luckily for you, we’ve got a fairly simple formula for calculating that number.

It depends pretty heavily on your having a database that’s easily filtered through to isolate new and unique donors.

What you need to figure out first is just how many donors you had in the past year who gave just last year (eliminate any donors who gave in the years before).

Once you know that number, you’ll need to figure out how many of those same donors gave again this year.

Take that second number and divide it by the first. You’ll have your percentage!

If you had 1,000 new, unique donors last year, and this year 500 of those donors gave again, you’d have a 50% donor retention rate.

To put it plainly, donor retention is the retaining of newly acquired donors.

It may go without saying, but increasing your retention rate is an integral part of any successful nonprofit’s strategy.

Many nonprofits assume that donor acquisition is the most important key performance indicator, but recent studies have shown that it’s actually far more expensive to acquire a new donor than it is to retain an existing one.

So when you’re looking to beef up your donor relations strategy, don’t count retention out.

To read a little more about what donor retention entails and how you can boost yours this year,
click on the button below to read an informative article on the subject.

Donor Retention: What is It?

The Importance of Retaining Donors


You’ve probably heard that donor retention is just as important as donor acquisition. In fact, some experts are even saying that donor retention might be arguably more important than donor acquisition.

Regardless of whether or not it’s more important (or less important) than any other key performance indicator, it’s still one of the most crucial numbers that a nonprofit needs to be keeping track of. Why?

Well, for starters, donor retention can actually lead to larger donations in the long run.

Think about it: if a donor has been engaged with your nonprofit for a couple of years, they’re more aware of what your organization needs. Plus they’ve built a connection with your nonprofit and its cause, which might inspire them to give more to help you reach your goals.

Alternatively, a donor that’s invested in your organization might join your membership program or be more receptive to your membership letters. Instead of just receiving periodic donations, you can turn these donors into monthly or annual contributors.

As a result, your nonprofit can afford fund all of those projects you’re always dreaming of.

It’s also, coincidentally, one of the most cost-effective ways to increase your nonprofit’s revenue.

For more on the importance of donor retention, we’ve scoured the internet to find the best, most informative articles on the topic:

You probably already know that prospecting for new donors is far costlier for nonprofits than maintaining existing relationships.


Then why is donor retention still so low across the board?

Last year, nonprofits reported that fewer than half of the donors that they had acquired the previous year gave again the next year.

Why does that matter, though?

It’s simple.

It’s tremendously expensive, time-costly, and risky to acquire new donors. And for all of the effort and money you pour into new donors, sometimes you may not see a return at all. Many nonprofits even lose money in the process!

On the flip-side, keeping up with your existing donors (those who have given at least once in the past year) is considerably more affordable, and it’s easier.

The key is to stay connected.

If you keep in touch with your existing donors, not only will you have to spend less time and money acquiring new donors, you’ll also build strong relationships with people who could potentially provide (more than monetary) value to your organization.

Read all about the importance of donor retention by clicking the link below.

Donor Retention Matters


Did you know that over 70% of donors give once and then vanish? Okay, maybe they don’t actually disappear into thin air, but they don’t donate again!


The cost of donor acquisition alone should be enough to make donor retention a focus.

But in case you need more reasons, here are four fantastic reasons to make retention a priority:

1. You could be building important relationships.
2. Recurring donors tend to give more.
3. You can learn more about giving habits from repeat donors.
4. Existing donors make for great fundraisers themselves.

If you want more on each of these points, check out this stellar article:

Why Focus on Donor Retention

Now more than ever before, donor retention is key.


Wait, why is it more important now than in the past?

Well, sadly, studies have shown that there are fewer and fewer “new” donors every year.

If this trend persists, before long, existing and former donors will be the only ones left in donor pools.

Now is the perfect time to hone your donor relations strategy.

Get out there and start strengthening your relationships! What are you waiting for?

Increase Your Retention Rate With These Tips and Tricks

Now that you know all about the basics of donor retention and you know why it’s crucial for your nonprofit to keep an eye on, it’s time to discuss how to increase your donor retention rate.

Going from new donor acquisition to retention can be a difficult process, but it doesn’t have to be.

The key to effective donor retention is to focus on what your donors want. Your supporters aren’t looking to be acknowledged just when they give. You should engage with donors often by asking for their opinions, inviting them to events, and sharing your project’s progress.

If you keep in mind that your donors are fundamentally interested in your cause (they wouldn’t have donated in the first place otherwise, right?), everything else will make perfect sense.

Communication is key.

And it’s all about the timing. For several reasons, January seems to be the optimal time to convert those eager December donors into lifelong supporters. The earlier you engage with first-time donors, the better. Their connections to your organization will be the strongest right after they donate, so focus on keeping that engagement going.

If you’re curious about all of the top strategies for retaining more donors this year, read up on these authoritative articles:

Getting beyond acquisition is actually pretty simple.


It takes some finesse (and a little guidance), but with some solid, actionable advice, you can get there, too.

All you really need are two key pieces of information:

    • Email address.
    • Billing address.

With these two pieces of info, your nonprofit can effectively target new donors and hopefully take them to the next level.

To learn more about how to strategize with these key points of contact, click on the link below.

From Acquisition to Retention


Not only should you be trying to retain donors from last year this year, you should also be focusing your efforts on keeping them year after year.

You can build lifelong relationships with your donors and ultimately spend less and less time and money on gaining new donors over time.

If you keep your current donors happy and involved, there’s no telling the heights they could take your organization to.

So how do you do that?

Here are 4 easy-to-follow tips:

  • Cultivate in the same medium.
  • Provide tangible experiences.
  • Let your donors be heard.
  • Keep communications mission-centered.
You’re probably well aware that December is a critical time of year for nonprofit fundraising.


Some nonprofits make up to 50% of their annual revenue from the final ask of the year.

But think about this: the majority of those donors that gave out of the generosity of the holiday season will drop off come January. Many will never donate again.


You rework your fundraising strategy and allocate resources toward retention in the new year.



What is a Golden Donation?

What exactly is a “golden donation”?

Simply put, it’s the second donation that a donor makes to your organization.

What makes it golden then?

After a donor has given once, only 19% will ever give again.

BUT, after a donor has given a second time, 63% become recurring donors.

One of the keys to transitioning first-time donors to recurring donors is that golden donation.

How do you secure a golden donation?

There six key ways:

1. Have a first-time donor communications strategy.

2. Remember to thank your donors.

3. Use social media to your advantage.

4. Ask for donations that aren’t monetary.

5. Deliver on your promises.

6. Ask for the golden donation!

To learn more about each of these ways, click on the link below and read the ultimate explanation of golden donations.

Top Resources and Relevant Case Studies

Best Donor Retention Resources

You’re looking for the cream-of-the-crop, the tip-of-the-top. You want the be-all and end-all of donor retention information. Well, you’re in luck.

Our guide has guides within the guide! We think it’s vitally important for you to be able to research more in-depth aspects of this topic on your own, should you wish.

Additionally, we think that videos are just as important as articles on the web, but we understand that books are also deep wells of knowledge that shouldn’t be counted out, even in this digital age.

That’s why we collected a variety of links that will provide you with videos, podcasts, links to other articles, and even recommendations of books to check out at your local library.

Here you have it, all of the best resources on the internet (and beyond) for information on donor retention:
If you’re looking for videos, infographics, and more, look no further than Bloomerang’s guide.


Listen to fundraising experts talk about the importance of donor retention and how to increase your nonprofit’s rate–even if you’re a smaller organization.



Looking for podcasts, multi-media courses on donor management, and so much more?

For all of the best articles, online tutorials, and downloadable audio, take a peek at Smart Annual Giving’s resources.

Click on the link below to be taken straight to their top content on the subject.

Smart Annual Giving: Donor Retention

Not finding what you need on the web?

Don’t worry!

The AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals) has compiled a thorough list of all of the best books and academic articles on the subject of donor retention.

You will also find audiotapes from relevant conferences.

To access this wealth of (tangible) knowledge, all you need to do is click on the link below, and it will take you to the archive of all of these resources!

AFP Donor Retention Resources

Donor Retention Trends

Even though almost 100% of nonprofit professionals, when surveyed, knew the term “donor retention,” only an astonishing 31% of them knew if their organizations had a formal strategy around retention.

In positive news, however, Kivi Leroux Miller of the Nonprofit Marketing Guide, has been quoted as saying,

“For the first time in five years, donor retention has jumped ahead of donor acquisition as a major communications goal. It seems as though everyone has been talking about the importance of donor retention for years now, but we did not see that reflected in the priority communications goals for nonprofits — until this year.”

Obviously, there will always be (at least) two sides to any story. But the story of donor retention is very clearly on the up-and-up, according to the latest trends analysts.

For every statistic that seems to purport that donor retention is plummeting across the board, there are about a dozen solutions to combat the attrition.

To make sense of all of the conflicting information, we’ve selected the most trustworthy sources to let you in on the industry secrets and enlighten you on the latest donor retention trends.

For the best articles and infographics on and about donor retention trends, click on any of the links below:
For every 100 donors that nonprofits acquired last year, they lost an average of 105 through attrition.

And for every $100 in donations, $96 was lost through gift attrition.

Across the board, donor retention has been declining steadily for about a decade now.

All of that being said, it’s not too late to turn the tides.

There are steps that can be made and measures that can be taken to increase retention (and decrease the terrible plague that is attrition).

The five basic steps are:

1. Measure your current donor retention rate.
2. Develop an intentional stewardship strategy.
3. Get in the habit of examining your portfolio.
4. Establish specific goals and plans for your donors.
5. Measure your success.

The experts always tell it best.

They’re in the trenches, and they know just how disheartening it can be to win over a donor only to have them disappear the next year.

Don’t get down in the dumps just yet.

What they’re all saying is that things are on the up-and-up.

As we said before, for the past ten years, donor retention has been plummeting. Finally, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

Experts are saying that the future is in customization and optimization of outreach.

For more on their thoughts, check out the link below.

5 Nonprofit Fundraising Donor Retention Trends

A few years ago, the AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals) and the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute came together to create the Fundraising Effectiveness Project.

The aim of the project was to help nonprofits track, assess, and optimize their fundraising growth year over year.

As a result, there are now hundreds of data points that nonprofits have access to, including a bevy of information regarding donor and gift retention and attrition.

If you’re curious about their findings, click on the link below to view their spectacular infographic.

Donor Retention and Attrition Infographic

Relevant Case Studies

There are a lot of numbers buzzing around out there. You’ll read all manner of unsubstantiated claims… with no source of which to speak.

That’s why we thought it was especially important to provide you with the cold, hard facts ourselves. Backed up with evidence in the form of case studies.

These particular case studies have been conducted by reputable experts in the industry, and some have been further refined and organized by nonprofit authorities.

Here are the top case studies on donor retention on the internet:
When you’re helping to shape young minds, donor retention might be the last thing on yours.


Unless, of course, you’re the Girls Inc of Greater Houston–in which case, you know how vital donor retention and brand awareness can be to the health and success of your nonprofit.

Without the support of recurring donors, young girls across the country would not have the same access to education, advocacy, and encouragement that they do thanks to wonderful organizations like the Girls Inc.



Retention and continued donor engagement is especially important for crowdfunding campaigns.


Sites, like, that allow their users to set up their own crowdfunding pages are seeing the same sorts of problems that are pervasive throughout the nonprofit sector.

Attrition is at an all-time high (70% or more), and no platform is exempt.

This particular case study dives specifically into the way teachers use to fund their classroom projects.

Read all about their methods for growth (and beating the odds of donor attrition) in this thorough case study.

Donor Retention in Online Crowdfunding Communities

Donation Statistics

While there are some pretty daunting statistics about the state of donor retention in the nonprofit sector these days, there are some bright spots.

Here are some encouraging, up-to-date donation statistics:
  • Nearly three-fourths of the entire population of the United States donates to charity in some form or another on a regular basis (69%).
  • In the past year, mobile giving donations have increased 205%.
  • Custom-branded donation pages on a nonprofit’s website help raise up to 6 times as much money on average.
  • 55% of people who engage with nonprofits on social media end up taking some sort of action.
  • Monthly donors end up giving 42% more in one year than one-time donors do.
For more facts and statistics, click on the button below to read a full article of statistics, broken up by category.