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3 Low Lift Strategies to Engage Your Donors All Year Long

Reading Time: 4 minutes


Nine times out of ten, when nonprofit fundraisers and marketers come looking for me and my services, what they need more than a new strategy is really just an extra set of hands. 🤗

Sound familiar?

When I was an in-house Director of Development I’d attend workshops and webinars FULL of great ideas. My hand would be writing note after note down on a piece of paper that – at the time – I’d be so motivated to execute. 

Then, upon returning to my desk, I’d be forced back to reality:

  • My inbox was overflowing
  • There were 4876 “fires” that needed putting out
  • I was expected to raise more, with the same resources I had the previous year

It was at this moment that I realized the two things that were going to help me achieve my goals of building stronger relationships with my donors and raise more money for the nonprofit I was working for: habits and automation. 

Listen, I know there is nothing sexy or ground-breaking about habits and automation, but I will say from experience that the combo will change your life. 

For example, it has been proven over and over again that it costs way less money to keep a donor you already have compared to finding a new one

In a report from the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, on average nonprofits retain only 46% of their donors. Yes, that means for every donor you gain – you’ll lose one. 💔

Even worse is that donors who give $100 or less are the most difficult to retain – at only 18% (ouch!). 

So I get it, new ideas and strategies are cool, but when you are likely bleeding donors you’ve got to ask yourself, “How can I work smarter, not harder?

Here are three low-lift strategies to engage your donors all year long 👇

Idea 1: Automate a welcome sequence for new donors

When someone makes a gift to your nonprofit for the first time, you have a limited opportunity to immerse them into your world.  

While thanking your donor within the first 48-hours following their gift has positive impacts, research by Next After shows that there is so much more you can do. In one study, a branded sequence increased donations by 760%!

Want a free and automated way to bring your new donor in for the long haul? Try a multi-part welcome sequence over the first 30 days. Some ideas of what each email can be about include:

  • Email 1: Thank you
  • Email 2: About us
  • Email 3: Survey
  • Email 4: Freebie promo
  • Email 5: Newsletter opt-in request
  • Email 6: An ask for a 2nd gift

Need some help getting started? This 7-part email template sequence for new donors will have you automating your welcome emails by the end of the day!

Idea 2: Carve out time for gratitude daily

One of the smartest things I did when I was a Director of Development was make gratitude a daily practice. 

Specifically, I would carve out the 4pm-5pm hour in my calendar to do gratitude. 

Sometimes that looked like thank you calls or hand-written notes, other times, I was brainstorming gratitude campaigns or impact reports. 

It did three things: 

  1. It reminded me why I did the work. Nonprofits can be grueling, but there is a growing body of research showing that gratitude has positive effects on our health and social and emotional well being. 
  2. It meant I never got behind. According to Candid, donors who are thanked within 48-hours of their gift being made are 4x more likely to give again. By creating a habit of gratitude, I made sure that I was giving myself the best (and easiest!) chance at retaining my donors. 
  3. It connected me to donors. 80% of the gratitude I practiced went unanswered, but for the 20% who did engage with me – they became raving fans of the nonprofit organization. Sending Loom videos or thanking donors over the phone opened a door to ask important questions like: “How did you get connected to our work?” or “what motivated you to give?”. These questions opened up a new gateway for where to find even more donors. 

Idea 3: Surprise and delight your donors

This might be cliche, but the world is definitely overdue to bring some fun back into fundraising. 

That’s why I’m a superfan of surprise and delighting your donors all year long. That could be anything from putting a Valentine’s Day postcard in the mail to your supporters, giving your donors – who happen to be mothers – a special social shout out on Mother’s Day, or it could be using an inventive tool or resource to say thank you and stand out above the crowd. 

Each year, I modestly donate to 40+ nonprofit organizations. I can count on less than one hand how many of them make any extra effort to thank me or engulf me in their communications. 


And it’s yours for the taking. 

Now, go forth building habits and making automations because the world needs YOU and YOUR NONPROFIT doing good and solving big problems. 

Jess Campbell is the founder of Out in the Boons, a shop that helps nonprofits discover donors (and donations!) in their email list. 

For more information you can visit Out in the Boons online here or on Instagram here

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