How to Improve Your Donor Acquisition & Retention Plans with Modern Fundraising Tools

  TOO BUSY TO FUNDRAISE is happy to introduce guest blogger, Zach Hagopian.  He is the co-founder and COO of Accelevents, a mobile fundraising platform that enhances silent auctions and raffles through online and text-message bidding.  An active member in the Boston fundraising scene, Zach focuses on improving traditional fundraising methods and increasing fundraiser proceeds. things are more critical to the success of a nonprofit organization than donor acquisition and retention.

While many NPOs do have some form of acquisition and retention strategy in place, most are not dedicating sufficient resources or time to make headway in their annual donor goals.

Furthermore, most nonprofit organizations are not taking advantage of the amazing online and mobile fundraising tools available to them. Online and mobile strategies not only help improve donor acquisition and retention, but they make the process easier and more efficient! This means that you can save your team of staff and volunteers significant time, AND make it easier for your donors to support your cause.

As a general note, the end goal of donor acquisition and retention is to create a respectful relationship with your donors. Rather than treating a donation as a one-off transaction, NPOs must treat a donation as the first step in a long-lasting relationship to be created between the donor and the organization.

Transforming your nonprofit into a donor-acquiring-and-retaining powerhouse may seem like an overwhelming task, but we assure you that it is not. To show you just how easy it is to implement modern tools for donor acquisition and retention, we’ve put together a quick guide to get you started.


You may argue that your NPO has implemented a strategy for acquiring new donors, but the question here is whether or not your NPO is doing it effectively and efficiently.

Typically, we have found that many organizations use traditional methods of acquisition (direct mail, physical pledge / bid / donation sheets), which may appear clunky and old fashioned to potential donors, and will ultimately turn them away.

Instead, organizations should put more emphasis on using mobile and online fundraising tools to gain new donors.

Mobile and online fundraising tools are more flexible and easier to use, and they reduce donation barriers for your potential audience. The result? An easier giving experience and more donors!

Another key advantage of online and mobile fundraising tools is that they allow your donors to share their enthusiasm instantly on social media.

By keeping your donors socially accountable and asking them to share updates on their giving experience (donating to a cause, attending a fundraiser, etc.) on their social channels, you will create viral awareness for you cause, and will begin to observe a higher occurrence of organic visitors to your donation page. This organic growth in website traffic and support is what will sustain your nonprofit in the long run.

People naturally want to join in with groups and actions if they see their peers doing so. Online and mobile tools create this social proof by providing donors with social recognition and allowing them to share their donations with their audience.

Below, you will find some of the most popular tools out there to help you with your donor acquisition strategy:

Donation Pages

Donation pages are web pages that allow your audience to make online donations to your cause. The benefit of these pages is that they provide accessibility to your donors regardless of their location. These pages are also optimized to make the donation process as easy as possible. Oddly enough, not all NPO’s are using these pages!

Online donation pages make sense because they are easily accessible, easily shareable, and are extremely easy to set up! Using tools like Crowdrise, donation pages can be created at the organization or individual level. Once the pages have been created, users simply navigate to a custom donation page to give their desired amount.

As your team sets up their first online donation page (or seeks to optimize an existing page), feel free to use some of our favorite tips to create an engaging page:

  1. Make it Visual – Take advantage of the online environment that you are now working in, and utilize great imagery to tell your story. Did your organization host an amazing event this year? Do you have vivid pictures of your volunteers in action? Use these photos on your donation page to create a more personal feel.
  2. Tell Your Story – Online donation tools make it easy to create a custom page in minutes. As part of your page setup, your organization should put extra care in telling the story or history of your cause. Successful storytelling will appeal to your audience’s emotions, allowing them to connect with your cause, and increase the chances of a donation!
  3. Include Your Donation Button! – Most importantly, do not forget to include a “Donate” button. Creating a clearly visible donation button is crucial to soliciting donations. Take Charity: Water, for example. In addition to a visual and personalized page, they created a “Donate” button that stands out over everything else on the page. Follow this strategy, and you will be well on your way to crafting a great donation page.

Online Silent Auctions and Raffles

Similar to online donation pages, online silent auctions and raffles reduce barriers to donation and can lead to increased donor acquisition. While traditional silent auctions and raffles are physical in nature and thus may actually offer barriers to donation, their online counterparts make participation extremely easy.

Due to their online and mobile nature, these fundraisers can engaged with from donors all over the world, not just those that are able to attend your yearly events.

Furthermore, accepting donations in the form of an auction or raffle allows your guests to have a chance in winning great items. This positive experience will then be associated with your nonprofit, building a relationship with your donor and encouraging further engagement.

Once you have improved your acquisition strategy, it will be time to focus on retention.


While donor acquisition is how NPOs are able to “build the top of their funnel,” retention can add sustained value to your nonprofit.

It is much more expensive and time intensive to acquire new donors (customers) than it is to encourage repeat donations (purchases) from current donors (customers).

One of our favorite donor retention strategies is something we call the “Ask, thank, report back strategy. Just as it sounds, organizations should follow the steps of asking for donations, thanking their donors, and reporting back on what donations were used for and how they helped the cause.

Below, you will find some of the keys to implementing this strategy, as well as our favorite tools to execute it effectively.

  1. Gratitude

Our first key is to express gratitude and thank your donors in a timely and authentic fashion.

The easiest way to improve your donation acknowledgement is to focus on promptness and authenticity. The sooner you thank your donors after their contribution, the more likely they will be to return in the future.

Additionally, thanking your donors in an authentic, “non-canned” fashion will help your donors relate to the human side of your nonprofit. Feel free to mix it up every once in awhile and send out hand-written letters! Just because online tools are effective, that does not mean that you need to rely on them all of the time.

  1. Keep Your Donors “In the Loop”

Once you have sufficiently acknowledged any contributions from your donors, it’s time to focus on the “report back” portion of our strategy. Here, your team should focus on keeping your community of supporters updated on what their donations are being used for.

Identify the cause that your donors’ funds are being used for, and spend significant time and effort to create shareable content on this cause. Some of our favorite pieces of content are in-depth case studies, expert interviews, and especially videos!

  1. Provide Opportunities for Your Donors to Support Your Organization without Donating Money

If you really want to stand out to your donors, try providing them with an opportunity to support your organization without donating money.  In creating a lasting relationship with your donors, it is critical to provide avenues for them to get involved in ways that are beyond just giving money.

Focus on creating unique opportunities for your donors to support you. These could be anything from volunteering to joining a committee for a special event. Creating unique opportunities for your donors will encourage them to support your organization in ways beyond just donated their money!

Tools For Donor Retention

Each of the tools below can help your organization implement a successful donor retention strategy – when used in combination, your team will be able to create a holistic and effective donor retention strategy.

  • Peer-To-Peer Campaigns

Peer-to-Peer (P2P) campaigns are fundraising campaigns that empower your best supporters to help raise funds for your cause. Some of the most popular P2P campaigns include physical events (Boston Marathon), and personal challenges (the Ice Bucket Challenge).

Creating a sense of responsibility and empowerment will go a long way toward creating lasting relationships with your donors!

  • Donor Management Software

Donor management software will allow you to store information on all of the actions of your donors, including donation amounts, frequency, and how long these donors have been with your organization.

These systems are also helpful in managing your outreach and acknowledgment strategies, as they will often allow you to create custom “Thank You” templates and adjust the frequency and timing for sending out your acknowledgement notes.

  • Social Media

And finally, what would this article be without a mention of social media?

Social media should play a critical role in helping your organization keep your donors “in the loop,” and will also allow your organization to have a more personal connection with your donors.

Be sure to use social media to provide any updates that you are also sending to your donors via email. Some of our favorite social media updates include:

o   Donation amount milestones

o   New initiatives launched with the help of donor support

o   Video recaps for your nonprofit’s fundraising events

This guide is just an intro to the amazing online fundraising tools and strategies out there - we hope that this assists you and your NPO in your mission.


You can (and should!) follow Zach on: Facebook: