Using Social Media to Boost Donor Retention

Thanks Steven!

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Association of Fundraising Professionals monthly meeting of the Louisville Chapter.  I was fortunate to hear Steven Shattuck from Bloomerang share his experience with using social media to boost donor retention. As fundraising consultants, many times nonprofits ask us how they can improve donor retention rates. This blog is a brief recap of some of the helpful knowledge he shared. More detailed information can be found in his E-Book at:

Retain to Sustain

It comes as no surprise to any nonprofit professional that donor retention is key to long-term sustainability.  However, studies reveal that most organizations retain only 23% of their first time donors. Giving USA reports that the national average for donor retention is only 46%.  Although a lot of nonprofits use social media to communicate with donors, they may not realize the influential role it can play in keeping donors engaged.

Why Use Social Media?

Social media usage should be used by nonprofits for three reasons.  They are:

  1.  Appreciation
  2.  Advocacy
  3.  Appeals

Abundant Appreciation

Simply put, nonprofits should use social media to thank donors. In fact, posts with a message of gratefulness should account for 70% of the organization’s social media activity.  It has been proven that posts of appreciation get the most engagement.  They are retweeted nearly 99% of the time.

In our capital campaign consulting we stress the importance of a timely and sincere gift acknowledgement.  While posts or tweets should not be used in place of a personalized thank you letter or phone call, they do provide the organization with the opportunity to respond almost immediately to a donor’s gift.  With the donor’s consent, they can either post a gift acknowledgement (leaving out the gift amount) or share a picture of a volunteer workday with a note of gratitude.  This puts philanthropy on display and gives the donor a sense of pride in the important work they are helping the nonprofit achieve.

When donors share or retweet appreciative posts, it creates a FOMO or “fear of missing out” among their peers.  Hearing about the generosity of others can inspire others to get involved and this increases donations.

Engage Advocates

Every nonprofit has a cause for which they advocate. Social media provides an excellent platform to educate or raise awareness about an issue.  Posts can come from external sources such as research, news updates or other content-rich sources.  Internal sources may include insights from staff on a variety of topics. Employees might create videos, podcasts, webinars, or other content that can easily be posted to various social media outlets.

Limit Appeals

Although social media is a great place to make an appeal, these posts should be used sparingly. Appeals should only come after the nonprofit has established a regular pattern of activity heavily focused on appreciation and advocacy.   When the time is right to make an appeal, there are three ways to make it effective.

  1.  Be specific – It is important to remember that specific asks receive better response than general requests.  For example, asking for the donation of a specific baby item (diapers) or volunteer need (writing letters to soldiers) help people know exactly how to respond.
  2. Get help – If you can get high-visibility donors, board members, volunteers and employees to help develop and deploy social media campaigns they will have a larger impact.
  3. Express Urgency – When an appeal is truly urgent, it is important to make people aware. Convey in posts the tight timeline and share why an immediate response is necessary.

Implementing the strategies outlined above can help your nonprofit develop an effective social media plan that will help you boost retention and increase engagement.