Cultivation & Stewardship

How to Keep Your Year-End Donors Engaged All Year

Year-End is a great time to attract new donors, but can you keep those new supporters engaged throughout the new year? Boost retention with these tips.


The new year has begun - maybe you're full of energy for new resolutions, new plans, and new possibilities. Maybe you're wondering if you blinked and missed the month of December. Wherever the new year is finding you, you're probably starting to do some reporting and analysis of how the Year-End fundraising season went for your organization.

The end of the year is a great time for nonprofits to obtain new donors, and this January, you might be working with now slightly-larger base of supporters. Picking up new donors during year-end giving offers an exciting opportunity to nurture these relationships into becoming life-long supporters.

You likely put a great deal of effort into your year-end appeals and campaigns to recruit new supporters. On average, this type of donor recruitment costs five times more than retaining a current donor. This underscores the importance of engaging these new year-end donors throughout the next year to keep them as champions for your cause.

If you’re looking for creative ways to jumpstart your donor stewardship efforts in the new year, you’ve come to the right place. Below, we’ll cover six tips to keep your supporters engaged year-round and, ultimately, increase your donor retention rate.

Download: Donor Cultivation & Stewardship Plan Template


1. Craft a Memorable Year-End Acknowledgment

To meet Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requirements for charitable contributions, all nonprofits have to send a year-end acknowledgment to donors that documents their cumulative giving from the year. This generally happens before January 31st, so if you haven't already done so, it's a great starting place!

While this letter needs to include particular information, you can also find ways to make it more personal. Doing this provides an opportunity to connect with your donors more deeply and keep your work top-of-mind as they move into the new year.

Consider including a small gift with your letter, like a sticker, pen, or calendar. You can also handwrite your addresses to add more of a human element. Make sure to include an action-oriented “P.S.” message that invites your donor to help with a specific task in the new year. For more details and ideas on how to craft letters that stand out from the crowd, check out our blog on year-end acknowledgments.

2. Put Your Donor Data to Work

Effective donor engagement feels personal to your supporters. The easiest way to increase the personalization of your outreach efforts is to use your donor data wisely. 

For example, you may want to segment your new Year-End donors based on how they arrived at your organization. You may have a cohort that donated through a peer-to-peer campaign, another that arrived through social media, or others who gave during an event you hosted. You can also segment your donors by donation amount, interests, volunteer history, or other factors. Once you have your different donor cohorts established, you can create personalized communications plans for each of them. By doing so, you’re more likely to strike a tone that resonates with them and send them information on the events and projects you’re working on that are most relevant to them.

In addition to using donor data to segment your supporters, consider other information you have on donors that can inform how you personalize your engagement with them. For example, if you know their birthday, plan to send a card. If they’ve volunteered in the past, invite them to your next volunteer day and thank them for their past service. If they have connections with other organizations, groups, or businesses that could benefit your nonprofit, reach out to them about partnership opportunities.

3. Leverage a Survey

Ask your Year-End donors to participate in a survey to help shape your new-year priorities and better understand how they want to be engaged. You can ask about topics such as:

  • Communication preferences
  • Project ideas
  • Volunteer experiences
  • Event opportunities

Inviting supporters to respond to your survey can help them feel appreciated by showing that you value their opinions. Make sure to follow up afterwards to thank them for participating, share what you learned, and note how you’ll be incorporating it moving forward. This demonstrates that you take their time seriously and are proactive and accountable when it comes to bettering your organization.

4. Encourage Recurring Gifts

The recurring gift model is one that donors are likely already familiar with in their daily lives. Many supporters have monthly subscriptions to services like Netflix, pet supplies, and more. This subscription model is so popular because you can set it up once and forget about it. Let your year-end donors know that they have a similar option available when it comes to supporting your work. 

Highlight the ease of recurring gifts for donors who want to continue to support your nonprofit but don’t want to have to put too much effort into it. You can send out a targeted email campaign that highlights this option or run a social media series that spotlights the benefits of recurring gifts. 

Remember that, even if supporters choose to become recurring donors, you still need to periodically follow up with them to remind them of their automatic monthly gift’s impact. This prevents them canceling the transaction and encourages them to increase their involvement with your mission.

5. Send a Donor Welcome Series

When you pick up new donors from year-end giving, have an email series ready to welcome them to your nonprofit’s community. Consider sending an email once per week for four weeks to orient them to your work. Your series could look something like this:

  • Week One: Embed a video message from your executive director thanking them for donating to your nonprofit and welcoming them to your community. Let them know that over the next three weeks, you’ll be sending more information on your work and how they can get involved.
  • Week Two: Show your new donor the impact you have on your cause. Highlight some key stats in an infographic, showcasing how you’ve grown over the years thanks to donors. Use imagery that evokes the emotion of your mission. Embed a short video or write a message that tells your nonprofit’s story.
  • Week Three: Paint a picture of your nonprofit’s future with continued donor support. Share what your goals for the year are, how many people you will serve, and what types of events you will host. Tie this all back to your mission.
  • Week Four: Highlight ways your new donor can continue to be involved in this movement. Let them know about recurring gift options. List upcoming events and volunteer opportunities. Note how they can follow you on social media. Encourage them to reach out with any questions and let them know you’re excited to have them onboard for the year ahead.

In addition to an emailed welcome series, you can also consider mailing a welcome kit to new year-end donors that includes some branded swag as a gesture of your appreciation and a brochure about your work.

6. Connect Beyond the Donation

Yes, you hope that your new Year-End donors will ultimately donate again. However, your relationship with them needs to go beyond the donation. You want to look for ways to connect more deeply with your donors so that they feel like a part of your community rather than just someone who made a one-time gift.

Invite your new Year-End donors to your next event or volunteer opportunity. Consider hosting a new donor social where your supporters can get to know each other. Putting a face to your organization and cultivating ways for your work to become a part of a new donor’s identity will help keep your new donors engaged throughout the year.

Be Proactive With Donor Stewardship to Keep Year-End Donors Year-Round

While recovering from the busy rush of the holiday season and all of the Year-End bookkeeping needs, you may not be thinking about donor retention efforts. However, it’s likely that you picked up some new donors during your Year-End campaigns. Keeping these donors engaged throughout the year increases the likelihood that they’ll give again. By taking some quick steps to welcome your new donors to your community, you can turn new year-end donors into lifetime supporters.


Looking for a step-by-step plan for engaging your new donors, including template timelines and communication campaign ideas? We've got you covered with our Donor Cultivation and Stewardship Plan Template!

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