5 ways to build long-lasting relationships with supporters

5 ways to build long-lasting relationships with supporters

winter heart.jpg

Lowri Turner shares her top tips for effective donor retention 


In recent years, there’s been a noticeable shift in the fundraising world. Charities are realising that it’s more cost effective and more beneficial to put resources into keeping donors, rather than constantly spending large sums on donor acquisition campaigns.

So, now that we all know how important donor retention is, how do we actually do it? Here are my top tips:

Make retention your goal from the start

Your donor retention programme should influence all your activities, including the many ways in which you interact with people. You should have it in mind before you even acquire a donor. Think of it like dating: People who are looking for a relationship behave differently to those looking for a one-night stand. We want someone we can grow old with and celebrate anniversaries with.

Get to know each other


Unless we know our donors, we won’t know how to keep them happy. Make sure communication with them is a two-way thing: Don’t just send newsletters and Christmas cards; find out what your donors like to hear from you, how often, and by what means? Find out what they’re interested in – not just what part of your work they’re interested in. How else will you know how best that person can raise awareness of your cause and raise funds? (This is a lot easier in the age of social media, where donors love to talk.)

Work at the relationship

Every relationship takes effort. Since you are the main beneficiary of this relationship, the onus is on you to put in the time. Call your donors yourself, or even better, visit them if you can. Invite them to events where they can meet you and hear more about your work. They need to know who you are. Remember the little things; celebrate anniversaries with a thank you card. Be thoughtful.

Grow Together

Understand that your donors will change over time. Their preferences, their interests, the reason they support you - all of these vital things can change without you knowing it, unless you’re actively looking out for them. However, be aware, sometimes what you’ll find is that you’re actually growing apart.

Know when to let go


Our new-found desire to retain donors can lead to somewhat clingy behaviour. If a donor decides to end the relationship with your charity, know how to let them go. Make sure you say a sincere and heartfelt thank you – in person or by telephone – and check they know how to get in touch with you if they want to in the future. You can still drop them a line occasionally, but don’t pester them to come back. Respect their choices.

You may not have a huge amount of time or resources to dedicate to each and every donor, but don’t worry; once you get into the retention mindset, you’ll realise it takes just a few small things to make a relationship last a lifetime.

Lowri Turner is fundraising manager at Kidscan

Get the latest fundraising advice and insight

Sign me up