For many nonprofit organizations throughout the U.S., donor retention is a persistent battle. 

With the median donor retention rate at 43% with an attrition rate of 57%, it’s no wonder so many are looking to improve their donor retention strategy.  What’s even more staggering is the surprisingly low retention rate of first-time donors, at only 19%, with a much higher retention of repeat donors, at around 63%.

Needless to say, if you’re able to get that second gift from a donor, they’ll be much more likely to stick around, and because it costs so much less to retain donors than to acquire new ones, retention equals more revenue.

Say, for instance, your nonprofit takes in $1 million in donations this year; if you were to improve your retention rate by 1%, you would get an additional $40K for the year!

With more and more donors coming on digitally, how do you keep them coming back to your organization?

Retain your Digital Donors in 3 Steps

Retaining your digital donors has everything to do with showing heartfelt and timely appreciation for their donations.

Sending a timely thank you and showing the impact of gifts received keeps the lines of communication open between you and your donors and increases the likelihood that you’ll retain them.

Step 1:  Thank You Page

After someone makes an online donation, they should be redirected to a Thank You page that does the following:

  • Thanks them for their donation
  • Confirms their donation was successfully processed
  • Shows the impact of their support —  “See what your gift makes possible!” 
  • Provides an idea of what communications to expect next from you
  • Gives the donor something to do next, like sharing on social media — For example, the United Way had a donation page that said, “Sharing increases the impact of your donation by 18%, which means that you’re adding $x to your donation!
  • Keeps them on the website to convert again — your Thank You page should be part of your website with a menu that leads them back to your homepage, blog, donation page, etc.  

Step 2:  Email Confirmation

Along with being redirected to a Thank You page, donors should also receive an email that:

  • Arrives immediately after a donation is made
  • Has an eye-catching subject line like, “You just changed a life!” rather than “Donation receipt”
  • Isn’t sent from a role-based email address (like admin@ or info@)
  • Offers a personal greeting
  • Thank the donor for investing in your beneficiaries
  • Communicates impact
  • Gives the donor something to do next — “Follow us for success stories that you make possible!”
  • Previews future communications and tells them what to expect next
  • Includes tax information

The following is an example of a confirmation email from The Finger Lakes Land Trust, following a donation made through their GiveGab campaign: 


Online Donors

Online Donors
Online Donors


GiveGab is set up to send customized and automated email confirmations following donations, as seen above.  

Notice how this nonprofit utilized the ability to include a video within their Thank You email, along with various calls to action for acting as a fundraiser for this campaign, spreading the news via social media, and signing up for their newsletter.

And finally, they ended the email with a donation receipt and link to the receiver’s full donation history through the GiveGab platform.

Step 3:  Formal Acknowledgement

Within 24 hours of receiving a donation, you should utilize your donors’ communication preferences to send them a formal acknowledgment of the gift they gave.  

If it’s in the form of an email, this should either be a separate correspondence from the receipt OR properly combined with it.  Unless the email containing the donation receipt has a personalized thank you message included, this doesn’t count as a formal acknowledgment!  

For special events or campaigns, you could choose to send a select number of donors a hand written thank you note.  These can be very powerful if done thoughtfully.  A phone call to directly express heartfelt appreciation for a specific donation can also be impactful.

Some Quick Appreciation Stats:  

  • First-time donors that get a personal thank you within 48 hours are 4 x more likely to give a second gift 
  • A 3-minute thank you call will boost your first-year retention by 30% 
  • thank you call from your board to a newly acquired donor within 24 hours of receiving a gift leads to a 39% increase in the next gift size! 

The Takeaway… 

Show love to your digital donors by expressing heartfelt appreciation for all they do to support your organization.  Not only is this the right thing to do from a moral standpoint, but doing so has been proven to produce recurring donors.  Your loyal supporters are only a Thank You away!

Download the Ultimate Guide to Appreciating Your Donors

Online Donors

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