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How to Retain Donors By Adding AI to Your Workflows

Giving is down, raising an important question: How to retain donors? Understanding donor engagement is crucial for retention, but it’s nearly impossible to do it all yourself. AI can be valuable in streamlining operations and automating essential tasks, especially for resource-limited nonprofits. Learn how AI can help you become a more responsive fundraiser and how CRM analytics can boost your donor retention efforts.

Last year’s giving outlook was underwhelming. Between dips in giving, participation, and trust, it raised a big question: How to retain donors?

While boosting donor retention relies on understanding how to keep donors engaged, modern technology can help you personalize interactions at scale. Especially if your nonprofit is already strapped for resources, AI for nonprofits can step in to streamline operations and automate key processes, allowing you to focus on what really matters—building personal connections.

AI Helps You Become a More Responsive Fundraiser

Responsive fundraising creates top-notch donor experiences that deepen the bond between your organization and its supporters. With the combination of modern technology and data intelligence, nonprofits can now provide donor-centric giving experiences. This trifecta tailors every interaction, considering each donor’s unique journey and preferences.

Responsive Fundraising Framework

But it’s nearly impossible to manually comb through all that information in your CRM for nonprofits. CRM analytics that harness the power of AI and machine learning help uncover key behavioral insights about your donors at scale. Requiring the use of fewer resources dedicated to admin work, staff can now divert their focus to more mission-critical activities.

“We think about AI a lot for accelerated personalization with donors. Where that’s super helpful is if you can predict the next response from a person, that is incredibly powerful. We can better predict responses that allow us to send the right communication at the right time with the right ask increases average gift, increases response rate, and allows us to spend less money on fundraising and marketing while accelerating generosity,” explains Gabe Cooper, CEO of Virtuous, explains in a webinar on the responsive maturity model.

Learning from an intelligent nonprofit CRM empowers your team to become more responsive fundraisers. A holistic understanding of donor behaviors and patterns enables you to tailor your strategies and interactions effectively. This leads to an approach that engages donors and unlocks recurring support.

Retaining Donors With Personalized Interactions

While they once had their place, mass-style fundraising appeals no longer resonate with donors. Donors have grown accustomed to receiving hyper-personalized communications from their favorite consumer brands, like Target and Netflix. These companies use personal details—such as past purchases or viewing habits—to curate content and recommendations.

For years, this has set a high standard for engagement that today’s consumers expect from consumer and even nonprofit brands. Moving past the one-to-all approach to fundraising and adopting a more responsive fundraising model, nonprofits can take into account donor history, preferences, and engagement to:

  • Craft communications that resonate: Generic communication doesn’t have the appeal they used to. We’re advocating for deeper attribution other than addressing someone by their first name. Personalized messages that acknowledge intricate details, like past support for specific causes, strengthen their emotional connection to your mission.
  • Tailor content to their passions: Constantly use CRM analytics to identify donor triggers. What types of content have they engaged with in the past? Send donors project stories that align with their interests, invite them to events they’d find engaging, and offer opportunities to directly participate in what matters most to them.
  • Show you care through timely interactions: Recognize milestones like anniversaries of their first donation or respond promptly to inquiries with personalized messages. These small gestures demonstrate attentiveness and foster a deeper connection.
  • Boost donor retention: Personalized interactions cultivate a sense of value and belonging, leading to long-term loyalty and ongoing support. Donors who feel genuinely connected will likely become recurring supporters and champions for your cause.

Creating Dynamic Donor Journeys That Drive Long-Term Retention

Dynamic donor journeys are key to driving long-term retention, but this relies on having quality data in your nonprofit CRM. Working within data silos leads to fragmented and inconsistent communications across various nonprofit departments.

When armed with trusted, high-quality data, you’re empowered to design donor journeys that are dynamic and deeply personalized, reflecting each donor’s unique interests and motivations. Achieving this level of data requires rigorous data hygiene practices, effective integration of data across multiple platforms, and comprehensive evaluation of your nonprofit CRM software.

By fully utilizing your CRM’s capabilities, including its built-in fundraising automation, you can increase donor engagement. CRM automation creates tailored touchpoints at scale, ensuring that each donor feels uniquely valued and understood.

Moreover, incorporating marketing automation for nonprofits can greatly enhance efficiency. This includes automating tasks like sending customized thank-you notes, initiating a new donor welcome series, or adapting donor journeys based on their giving patterns. Such automation is crucial for ensuring no significant engagement opportunity is overlooked, a vital aspect for any organization striving to maintain strong, ongoing relationships with its supporters.

How to retain donors: automation workflows

How to Retain Donors Using AI-Powered CRM Analytics

While donor retention is about nurturing and deepening relationships, CRM analytics can help fill gaps your team might overlook. With responsive CRM software, you can gain more intelligent insights about your donors.

For example, your nonprofit CRM can identify unique patterns, such as a sudden dip in giving. This might indicate that the donor is losing interest or that their financial situation has changed. In whatever case, your CRM should notify you of this change so your team can reach out with personalized communication, perhaps through a survey or even an invitation to a feedback session.

With a proactive approach, you’re showing donors that their participation is valued and noticed, which could go as far as rekindling their connection to your cause.

Let’s review other ways AI-powered CRM analytics can help you increase your average donor retention rate.

Leverage Predictive Analytics

Before modern technology, fundraising looked a lot like a guessing game. Data analysts would sift through donor files line by line to identify trends and draw conclusions from an exhaustive hub of information. But now, organizations can now see beyond individual donations.

Predictive analytics can use historical data and sophisticated algorithms to forecast future donor behavior. This can help fundraisers in several ways:

  • Identify high-potential donors: Predictive analytics can pinpoint major donors who have yet to maximize their giving potential, allowing you to cultivate these relationships before anyone else.
  • Deepen connections with proactive outreach: By anticipating giving patterns, you can tailor your outreach in advance, ensuring your communications are highly relevant and resonate with each donor.
  • Intervene with lapsed donors at the right time: Predictive analytics can identify donors who might be at risk of falling off the radar. This allows you to intervene early, reignite their passion for your cause, and keep them invested in your mission.

“We use Virtuous to notify our gift officers when people in their portfolios have recently given. We also notify people if others in certain regions give gifts of certain sizes, using it to help as a prospecting tool,” says Shade Perkins, Giving Engagement Analyst at International Mission Board.

Predictive analytics, coupled with CRM automation, shifts traditional reactive campaigns to dynamic and engaging donor journeys. This responsive workflow ensures your nonprofit can anticipate and meet donors’ needs by making decisions based on donor signals—specific actions a donor takes.

Automation Workflow in Virtuous

Learn What Needs to Be Improved

You put a lot of hard work into crafting your fundraising campaigns, hoping they spark enough emotion to inspire donors to take action. You’re likely even exploring donor segmentation tactics to add an extra layer of personalization. But without an effective analytics tool, it can be difficult to gauge which messages, channels, or strategies truly resonate with your various donor segments.

One key step of responsive fundraising is continuously learning from your efforts. With a responsive nonprofit CRM, you can identify areas for improvement by analyzing KPIs for nonprofits, such as retention rates, lifetime value, and lapsed donor reactivation rates.

Virtuous CRM screenshot of responsive dashboard.

While Virtuous’ responsive dashboard offers a snapshot of your organization’s overall health through its CRM analytics, the reporting features offer a deeper dive into data, providing detailed insights over specific time frames. The dashboard has been invaluable for organizations like Denton Freedom House.

“I use the widgets on the dashboard… One of my favorites, being in fundraising and having goals for the year, is our year-to-date cash raised. I always love watching that. The recent gift log is very beneficial to me. I can see who gave, how much they gave, and the date their donation came in,” says Chad Eskew, Director of Growth and Development at Denton Freedom House.

Our platform equips nonprofits with 13 standard reports, each designed to meet the core reporting needs of most organizations. They can also create automated workflows to deliver these reports to key stakeholders, saving time and keeping everyone informed.

Iterate Fundraising to Keep Donors Engaged

Retaining donors requires keeping them engaged and invested in your cause. To do that, you need to understand which fundraising strategies are working well. Fundraising is rarely a set-it-and-forget-it endeavor. Because your donors are also people with changing behaviors, interests, and motivations, ongoing evaluation and adaptation are essential.

CRM analytics empower you to take a data-driven approach to fundraising. Whether it’s recognizing new segments, trying out new messaging techniques, or pinpointing the ideal times for outreach, these insights can help identify new opportunities for donor engagement that may have been previously overlooked.

Double Down on Responsive Fundraising Maturity

To help you become a more responsive nonprofit, we’ve adopted a maturity model framework, a step-by-step guide often used by organizations to benchmark their current level of maturity against industry best practices.

Responsive Maturity Model Framework
Responsive Maturity Model Framework

As you progress across each step, you’ll see more team effectiveness, increased average donor retention and gift size, decreased staff burnout, improved advocacy, and improved donor acquisition metrics.

Download The Responsive Maturity Model: 5 Building Blocks to Drive Increased Generosity to learn the five building blocks of responsive fundraising.

What you should do now

Below are three ways we can help you begin your journey to building more personalized fundraising with responsive technology.

See the Virtuous platform in action.  Schedule a call with our team for personalized answers and expert advice on transforming your nonprofit with donor management software.

Download our free Responsive Maturity Model and learn the 5 steps to more personalized donor experiences.

If you know another nonprofit pro who’d enjoy reading this page, share it with them via Email, Linkedin, Twitter, or Facebook.

The Responsive Maturity Model
5 Steps to More Personalized Donor Experiences
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Virtuous is the responsive fundraising software platform proven to help nonprofit organizations increase generosity by serving all donors personally, no matter their gift size.

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Todd Shinabarger
Chief Information Officer