Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 12.05.13 PMYou’ve been listening and working. You’ve been blogging, connecting on social media and networking and now, your efforts have finally started to pay off.  New donations, from new donors, are starting to roll in.

New donors make us feel good: they believe in what we do, they want to give us money and they can connect us to a wider circle of potential supporters. But it’s difficult to cultivate this relationship- it’s a delicate balance.

But let’s be honest, the honeymoon phase fades fast with new donors. It’s way too easy to lose track of the untapped potential in your existing donor base. Don’t you remember? Those donors believed in you at some point, for some reason, so learn to show them that they’re right, that this is the donation that counts.

So now that you’ve earned these donors, you don’t just want to keep them, you want to cultivate them - that is, help them give you more money, more often. But how can you do that? What now? We’re so happy you asked.

According to the 2014 Fundraising Effectiveness Survey Report, a research study conducted by the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Urban Institute, “The largest growth in gift dollars/donors came from new gifts/donors” and “the greatest losses in gift dollars came from downgraded and lapsed repeat gifts."

Here are some strategies you can use today to start cultivating your existing donors.

Talk to them.

Organizations put careful time and consideration into cultivating new donors. If that cultivation stops once the money is in the bank, there’s a risk that your donor will feel “sold” on something. People hate feeling “sold”. Poor communication is one of the top ways to guarantee that this relationship won’t last.

Nurture the relationship by taking time to understand which type of communication works best for your donor base. For example, some donors appreciate (and expect) updates on programs, while others prefer the good works they helped fund to take place without too much pestering.

Learning to communicate with different donor personalities will help you build better relationships and natural rapport. This way, when it’s time to ask for a renewal and increase in a donation or pledge contribution, it’s simply a continuation of a conversation.

Show them the money.

According to Giving USA, 2013, “Individuals gave $228.93 billion in 2012.” This number is a big indicator that people are giving and it’s not just to big name foundations. With all that money and support at stake, how do you stand out in the first place?

Donors have lots of options when it comes to where to put their money. Show them that their help matters. Offer donors who make a large financial contribution to your organization the opportunity to decide where the money will go. Would they like their donation to contribute to building repairs? Hire new staff? Implement new programs? Support a particular program? Keeping donors invested in the growth of your nonprofit is key.

Keep in mind, some donors will have little interest in making these decisions. But others will appreciate the opportunity to help shape an organization they care about. When a particular program or project inspires a donor, they might be more apt to feel a sense of ownership. This will encourage them to support your organization again in the future.

Be more intentional.

Some organizations tend to tap out current donors by contacting them for every single fundraising campaign or community initiative. If your organization is doing this, STOP!

When a donor starts to feel nickeled and dimed, it won’t be long until s/he gets the sense that it’s all about the money, when it should be all about the cause. Think about who you contact, when you contact them, and how often you contact them.

Remember, it’s important to cultivate and not alienate. For example, don’t ask big donors to contribute to bake sales and car washes. Think about which donors might be interested in the specific incentive you’re providing or issue you’re targeting.

Use peer pressure to your advantage.

Show off your supporters with pride. Be certain your donors don’t feel like they are the only ones contributing. Some organizations provide lists of donors with various contribution levels listed, which can help to create a healthy sense of community… and competition. Allow your donors to “share” their donation status. Don’t make donors feel like they’re on an abandoned nonprofit island.

If your organization does not share these numbers, consider hosting a thank-you reception for major donors (making it very clear that the evening is truly a thank-you, not a lead-in for further donation requests) or providing a one of a kind incentive. That way, donors contributing at a significant level will see they are in good company.


Don’t be shy.  Let donors know how they can help. Donors will typically base their donation to your organization in one of two ways.

1. The donor will consider a logical contribution based on several factors (what they gave last time, how that money was spent, and their current financial and charitable commitments to name a few).


2. The donor will consider an emotional connection with your organization and feel a desire to contribute, without specific parameters on when or how much. Whether your donor is logical or emotional, provide them with a roadmap. When your donor is up for a contribution renewal, take the time to pick up the phone or set up a meeting. Then, tell the donor exactly what type of contribution your organization would like and why.

If a donor has given generously in the past, be prepared to cite specific examples as to how that money was used, the effect it had on the organization, and how a repeat donation will help. Often, donors who have already contributed to an organization care about the cause. They simply need to understand that their contribution truly makes a difference, in order to feel good about giving again.

But all of this takes bandwidth. Strategy. Time. Follow Up.  If you’re short on any of those things, check out our tips on marketing , or even better, engage us as your shiny new marketing department.

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