8 Strategies to Gain and Retain Donors

by | Jul 5, 2017 | Development/Fundraising, Donors


I am here to share 8 strategies that will help you gain and retain donors. There are obviously more, such as your strategy around LYBUNTs, which is one of my short YouTube videos you can check out at your leisure should you need additional ideas.


Let’s jump right in.
1.  Have a plan

If you have a plan to gain and retain donors, you can work the plan and accomplish your goals. You need road map for how you anticipate growing your donor base. Develop strategies that are well thought out. Just as an organization needs a strategic or business plan, a development staff need a development plan. Part of a well-developed plan should include donor acquisition strategies and donor retention strategies.

2.  Prospect Clearing

I always loved prospect clearing when I was a Development Director. I would pass out prospect sheets to my board members and staff members once a year. Each person would list 5-10 prospective donors that they felt might be interested in supporting our organization. Donors could be individuals, businesses, or foundations. The sheet included a space for name, business name, and phone number. I would take each sheet and compare it to my database to see if prospects were already donors, if more than one person listed a particular name, etc. Then I would get back to my board and staff with the non-duplicated names and proceed with the best way to reach out to those prospects. This provided me with great new leads every year and was a key exercise in trying to gain and retain donors.

3.  Create Your Ideal Donor Profile

It’s hard to find the right people when you don’t know who you are looking for. Sit down and look at your database and figure out what your ideal donor profile is. Who is already giving regularly? Look at all the demographics you collect and see what appears over and over. Are your donors mostly women? What age is your average supporter? How are they coming to you for their first gift? What is your average gift? Are there any other identifying characteristics like political or religious preferences, socio-economic status, interests, etc? Once you narrow down your current donors, you can create a profile to target those who might be more inclined to give to your organization, how to target them, or how to get in front of them.

For example, if your average donor is a female between 40 and 65 that attends church you might create appeals to have published in bulletins of local churches. You might also ask to speak to congregations or women’s groups. You might try to get asked to speak at other female-focused groups that have a religious theme.

4.  7 Donor Touches

As part of your annual development plan and efforts to gain and retain donors, you should have a minimum of 7 donor touches scheduled annually. This does NOT mean 7 ‘asks’. Some ‘asks’ are fine, but not 7. Please don’t ‘thask’ either. That is the not-so-clever art of thanking and asking in the same breath (or mailing as is often the case). Your donor touches need to be planned and intentional. Some suggestions might be birthday cards, anniversary calls on the date of the donor’s first gift, holiday mailings, newsletters, event invites, and lunch or coffee, etc.

Thank Not THASK! A Nonpfit’s Quick Guide to Donor Thank You Calls

5.  Thank-You Phone Calls

EVERY donor, regardless of the size of their gift, should receive at least one thank you phone call from your organization annually. Staff or board members can do this and it is doable. If you have too many donors and you don’t think you can manage this, I promise it is doable and necessary! Utilize your resources, volunteers, board, and staff. Make it happen! Make calls during lunch so you can leave a message. Be smart about it, but get it done. In a timely manner!

6.  Low-Hanging Fruit

When it comes to strategies to gain and retain donors, don’t try to make it harder than it already is. Start with the easy stuff. Check out your LYBUNTs, SYBUNTS, and previous board members who may have stopped giving first. These are lists you should have access to or be able to generate rather effortlessly. Then get busy weeding through them and reaching out. Get folks reengaged.

7.  Stop Looking For Rich People

Use your Ideal Donor Profile and start there. Just because people have money doesn’t mean they have a connection to your organization or want to give to charities. Search for those who have a passion or connection to your work first. Good donor prospects not only have dollars to give but a connection to your organization as well.

8.  Ask

The number one reason people don’t give (of their time, treasure, or talents) is that they are not asked. It is as simple as that. Get good at it and make the ask. You will gain and retain donors with something as simple as an Ask.


Our YouTube Channel has a specific playlist called All About Donors. If you would like to learn about our fundraising or development solutions, just schedule a Visioning Call with the team. Here are some other articles related to donors:

Donor Relations 101 – What I Learned

Donor Relations that Create Donor Retention

5 Essentials for Fundraising Success

As Always, Keep Growing for Good!


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