As any K-12 development professional knows, recurring donors are the lifeblood of school fundraising. These frequent donors provide a steady and predictable source of donations, increase donor retention and loyalty, and reduce donor acquisition costs. In fact, research shows that the cost of acquiring a new donor is 50 – 100% more than the amount of their first gift — in other words, it’s cheaper to retain current donors than find new donors!  

But not all donors are recurring; many schools receive one-time donations from new school supporters. How do you encourage one-time givers to become recurring donors? Keep reading for five ways to strengthen donor relationships and increase donor loyalty. 

Say thank you.  

It might sound trite, but a little appreciation goes a long way! A timely and sincere thank you message can make a lasting impression on your donors and set the tone for future communication and engagements.  

Word to the wise: say more than just “thank you.” Use this opportunity to connect with each individual donor and tell them exactly how their donation is being used to further your school’s mission. Did their donation help you reach your fundraising goal? Were funds used to establish a new scholarship program or purchase new athletic equipment? Spell it out and show them the return on their investment. 

Personalize your approach.  

Your donors are more than wallets with a never-ending cash flow — they’re individuals with unique interests, goals, and perspectives. Even more, today’s donors expect to be known and recognized based on their interactions with your school.  

Demonstrate your donors’ value by making them feel like you know them through personalized digital or print interactions, solicitations, communications, and marketing pieces. Make sure they’re customized.Lauren Gerber, Director of the Annual Fund, Saint Mary's School

By harnessing data from your school fundraising software, you can personalize the donor experience and strengthen your relationships with these constituents. Here are a few ways you can customize your solicitations: 

  • (For anyone) Use preferred names and nicknames in your salutation 
  • (For parents) Incorporate their child’s name, grade, and graduating year 
  • (For alumni) Reference their graduating year, upcoming reunion, and program involvement 

Segment your outreach. 

Similar to the above, data segmentation is another strategic way to connect with donors and create a personalized giving experience. Use your school fundraising software to segment donors based on their giving history, constituent group, demographic, or preferences. This will allow you to tailor both your messaging and your outreach timeline based on their likelihood to give.  

There are many different ways to segment donor data, including: 

  • Alumni and parents of alumni 
  • Fall donors and spring donors 
  • Former athletes or student government participants 
  • Giving Society members 

Once you have segmented your data based on the desired criteria, you can tailor your communications to match. For example, pull a list of one-time donors that participated in last year’s Giving Tuesday campaign. Since they supported this campaign previously, they may be willing to contribute again this year. Use historical data to compose an appeal letter that references their prior participation and reminds them of the impact of their previous gift; then, ask them to continue supporting your school with a gift of equal or higher value. 

Stay in touch. 

Whether it’s their first donation or their fifth, donors want to see how their money is making a difference at your school. Keep them abreast of what’s happening with regular communications and fundraising updates.  

For example, interview a student who received scholarship money from your last giving campaign and demonstrate how the donor’s gift made it possible for them to receive an education at your school. You could write a blog about the student or, if you have the resources, film a short video testimonial to share on social media and in email communications. Bonus: if the student is a first year, check in with them on an annual basis to provide a yearly update to your donors. 

As you stay in touch with donors on an ongoing basis, be mindful of messaging fatigue! Vary your communication methods and messaging to keep donors engaged and interested in what you have to say.  

Make it easy to support your school. 

Today’s donors expect a straightforward online giving experience. Make it easy to support your school with user-friendly fundraising software!  

Lauren Gerber, Director of the Annual Fund, relies on Veracross to simplify the giving experience at Saint Mary’s School in Raleigh, North Carolina. She credits the platform’s unique online giving forms, vanity URLs, email templates, and e-receipts with empowering donors to make easy transactions that are also easy to manage on the back end. 

With Veracross Development, schools can manage every element of fundraising in one platform — from emails to events, reporting to relationship-building and beyond. Interested in turning your one-time givers into recurring donors? Get in touch for a free demo to learn how our school fundraising software can help you build long-term donor relationships.