We live in a digital age, and online donors are crucial in building a successful fundraising initiative. But once an online donor has given to an organization for the first time, what strategies can be implemented to retain that donor and cultivate a long-term giving relationship?

“Online donors are the least likely to renew their gifts among all of the donors to a nonprofit institution,” says Steven Shattuck, vice president of marketing for Bloomerang, a consultancy in Indianapolis, IN. “Retention is the most important fundraising strategy, and creative and specific steps must be taken to engage and thank online donors.” Here Shattuck offers his insight into retaining digital donors.

What aspects of an online donor program are most effective?

“We found by researching the existing donor base of a nonprofit, and also many potential donors from alumni and other friends and supporters, many potential supporters had either never been asked or simply did not know how to go about making a donation. With that information in mind, the next step involves building an online program that is simple and easy to use and also provides donors many options for the use of their gifts.”

How can an online donor program increase support?

“Overwhelmingly, online donors are young professionals who have seldom, if ever, given. For universities, we are talking about young alumni, and for other nonprofits, the profile fits young professionals in the community who have recently become involved on boards or community-based programming. The online giving option will make contributions from these donors both convenient and familiar, as they are accomplished at utilizing the Internet. Soon after implementing an online giving option, the nonprofit organization will receive comments about how easy and stress-free it was to contribute.”

How can these first-time, online donors be retained?

“Very soon or immediately after the donor has made an online contribution, a thank-you e-mail should be sent that describes how the donation has made a positive impact on the people served. Timely follow-up is crucial in building a long-term giving relationship. Young donors are especially interested in how their dollars are making a difference, and, generally speaking, young donors do not want to simply hand over their money — they are interested in serving in meaningful ways.”

What are some of the ways to keep online donors involved?

“Quite simply, one strategy is to involve the young professionals who have given online to help brainstorm ways to improve the online giving program. Also, their skills can be put to use in mentoring service recipients, serving on committees or strategic planning groups or speaking on behalf of the organization. An important caveat is to take their advice and input seriously, and implement their suggestions when possible or plausible.”

Source: Steven Shattuck, Vice President of Marketing, Bloomerang, Indianapolis, IN. Phone (866) 332-2999. E-mail: steven.shattuck@bloomerang.co. Website: www.bloomerang.co