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3 Ways to Use Multichannel Engagement to Retain Donors

Multichannel engagement is your key to boosting donor retention. Your donors are diverse, coming from different backgrounds and having different areas of interest. With a multichannel fundraising approach, you can reach donors in their preferred channels, connect more deeply with them, and retain their support over time.

Nonprofit organizations can no longer find long-term success in a single fundraising channel. While direct mail once dominated nonprofit fundraising strategies, today’s rapidly changing landscape demands a more diversified, multichannel fundraising approach.

After all, donors are spending their time across a variety of platforms, primarily digital channels. Americans are spending an average of seven hours online per day, according to research from DataReportal.

There’s a growing prevalence of online channels, but our point isn’t to create a division between direct mail and digital. The truth is direct mail still holds enormous value for nonprofits, with marketers citing that direct mail delivers the best conversion rate out of all the channels they use.

Nevertheless, achieving long-term fundraising success lies in strategically integrating tried-and-true channels with digital. Through this multichannel fundraising integration, nonprofits can create a more responsive fundraising approach that deepens and enriches our connections with donors.

Single-Channel Engagement Has Its Limitations on Donor Retention

Today’s donors are diverse, each hailing from varied backgrounds and areas of interest, which calls for a more inclusive and multi-layered engagement strategy. Engaging donors across multiple channels is key to building stronger relationships and thus increasing donor retention.

“Gen Z doesn’t mind mail. If you’re living in a digital world, sending something physical in the mail that they can touch can be amazingly powerful. Your older donors, you may think they only like mail, [but] they’re getting more digitally savvy every day. Even if they’re sending in a check, they’re often willing to see what you’re doing on Facebook or look on your website,” Gabe Cooper, CEO of Virtuous, explains in a webinar on the responsive maturity model.

The reality is that single-channel communication—be it via direct mail, phone calls, or digital platforms—is no longer a sustainable fundraising model. Here’s why:

  • Limitations in reach: Different donor segments have distinct communication preferences, with some being more responsive to digital methods while others favor traditional channels. By focusing on just one channel, nonprofits risk missing engaging with segments of their target audience.
  • Reduced engagement opportunities: Your donors are active on different channels, so sticking to one channel increases the chance that donors might not see your message at all. But with a multichannel approach, you’ve got a whole toolbox at your disposal: from chatting one-on-one, to spreading the word through digital campaigns, to showing recognition on social media. The heightened frequency means better odds of catching the attention of your audience in one of their preferred channels.
  • Content restrictions: To maintain relevancy and resonance, content needs to be channel-specific. Relying solely on one channel can restrict a nonprofit’s ability to fully leverage the power of its content, potentially diminishing the impact of its messaging. For instance, complex narratives and emotional storytelling might be better suited for direct mail or email, whereas quick updates and calls-to-action might make more sense for phone calls or social media.

Channel-Only Attribution Isolates Donors

If your nonprofit is still bucketing donor experiences based on which channel they came from, you’re missing out on the bigger picture. For example, let’s say Billy was walking to his neighborhood coffee shop to get his usual cup of joe.

It just so happened that one of your advocates, Laura, was also there raising funds for providing more plant-based meals to local hospitals in schools, reducing carbon emissions in the city. In a sincere desire to aid the mission, Billy hands Laura a $25 cash donation. In turn, Laura collects a handful of information from him, like name, address, and phone number, and inputs it into the fundraising mobile app.

Because Billy made a gift in person, he’s automatically marked as an offline donor in your CRM. He receives a heartfelt thank-you letter and fundraising direct mail appeals. Unfortunately, Billy seldom checks his mail and is notorious for throwing away mail that doesn’t require his immediate attention. However, Billy is very active online and checks his email more than a dozen times a day because he frequently communicates with his colleagues about work.

This is a prime example of how channel-only attribution could be detrimental to building donor relationships to their full potential. By pigeonholing Billy as an offline donor based on his initial interaction, the nonprofit misses the opportunity to engage with him effectively through his preferred online channels. Leaning on a multichannel fundraising strategy mitigates this happenstance and holds the ability to unlock increased generosity over time.

How to Retain More Donors With Responsive Multichannel Fundraising

Donors want to feel valued. With a multichannel fundraising strategy, you can unlock return generosity by creating a more personalized and engaging experience across platforms. Multichannel fundraising is so successful because it responds to donor wants and needs.

Responsive fundraising is being a multichannel-first organization. Knowing that your donors are all unique in their own way, responsive multichannel fundraising leverages data intelligence collected from your nonprofit CRM and from your team to make informed decisions on how best to engage donors based on their donor signals—actions they take with your organization.

Whether it’s registering for a local event, downloading a white paper, signing up for your monthly newsletter, or making a major gift, every type of donor signal gives you clarity on what your next move should be. It’s about really listening to what donors are telling you and making them feel seen and valued. This is the core part of responsive fundraising: listening to their needs and wants, making connections with them based on their donor signals, suggesting actions they should take, and learning from their engagement.

This responsive fundraising approach allows you to meet donors where they are most comfortable, whether it’s through social media, email, direct mail, or events. By tailoring your messaging to suit different channels, you’re acknowledging evolving donor preferences, interests, and motivations.

1. Consistent, Tailored Multichannel Fundraising Messaging

As donor attention becomes more scarce, often inundated by the plethora of information that they receive every day, maintaining consistent and engaging communication across multiple channels ensures that their messages stand out in a competitive market.

While email is one of the strongest channels for fundraising, it’s also possible for donors to miss your messages when they’re receiving hundreds if not thousands of emails per day from other brands also vying for their attention.

However, by arming yourself with a multichannel approach that might look something like email, organic social, targeted digital ads, text messages, and direct mail, you have a higher chance of catching your donors’ where and when they are most active and receptive.

At Virtuous, we recognize that creating this high-touch, multichannel experience demands a band of resources that may be beyond your scope. That’s why we’ve built marketing automation for nonprofits right into our system, empowering nonprofits like YWAM Orlando to automatically trigger personalized communications based on specific donor signals across different channels, like email, website, social, and even text messages.

“Once someone lapses, we have a workflow so they receive specific content with a specific call to action to try to reengage their giving. We have that all automated, we don’t even have to manage that. Those donors begin lapsing and—boom—they’re receiving the information we want them to receive, given the situation they’re in. It’s allowing us to be far more invested in them,” says Alastair Cuthbertson, Digital Communications Director.

Multichannel simply converts better compared to single-channel outreach. This has been proven in our research with NextAfter: Multichannel donors are worth 300% more in their lifetime value than those interacting exclusively through offline or online channels. In addition, the first-year retention rate of these donors is two times higher.

2. Advanced Donor Segmentation Using CRM Analytics

Multichannel is more than just getting in front of your donors across multiple channels. Context matters, especially for existing donors who are already supporting you. While unintentional on your nonprofit’s part, the last thing you want is to send current donors the same message as you’re sending prospective donors.

Let’s see this scenario played out:

Kevin is a long-time supporter of your child welfare nonprofit. He is passionate about your cause and believes you are affecting real change in the children that you serve. So much so that he’s signed up to match gifts up to $10,000 for your upcoming gala.

However, because your CRM for nonprofits comes with limitations in donor segmentation, Kevin has been lumped into the gala invitation for prospective donors. The email gives a detailed explainer about your organization, why it’s hosting a fundraising gala, and why they should participate. At the end of the email, you ask him to consider making his first gift.

This seemingly innocent mistake on your part could cost you this very high-value donor. On his end, he feels unappreciated for his loyalty to your cause and also feels like his previous contributions and deep involvement have gone unnoticed. It diminishes the personal connection he has with your cause, potentially making him question the level of the impact his donations are having.

With trustworthy CRM analytics from your donor management system, you avoid oversights like the one with Kevin. A responsive nonprofit CRM like Virtuous not only guarantees the integrity of your data but also fine-tunes your segmented donor outreach, ensuring that each supporter receives the level of personalization and recognition they deserve.

Plus, with the use of custom fields, you can get remarkably specific in your communications, weaving in individual data points such as lifetime donation amounts or the frequency of their contributions within the year. This level of intricacy allows you to create messages that resonate more meaningfully with each donor, acknowledging their unique contributions to your cause.

Custom fields can also be used to help your team learn about donors internally. For instance, Josiah White’s uses custom fields to add any relevant information about their donors. Because you can’t rely on one single team member to manage every donor, it ensures anyone has full visibility about the donor at any given time.

“One of the things that we implemented was creating a custom-built field that has a narrative. Having a donor in the database is great, but if you have no idea how they got there, what they’re interested in, or any background of why they’re a part of your database, it’s not really good data. So, allowing all our workers to utilize those types of things to put in narratives has made a big difference,” Andy Stout, Director of Donor Relations of Josiah White’s, explains in a webinar on the value of trusted data.

3. Optimized Giving Experiences Across Online and Offline Channels

Amazon has revolutionized shopping convenience with its one-click checkout feature. Netflix elevates personalization by offering tailored recommendations based on individual viewing histories and preferred genres. Meanwhile, innovative brands like Bombas and Patagonia are creating more customer flexibility by offering a variety of payment options.

Together, these for-profit brands are setting a new gold standard for checkout experiences, blending ease, personalization, and versatility to meet and exceed the expectations of consumers, enhancing their loyalty and significantly boosting customer retention rates.

Because these consumers also happen to be your donors, they’re seeking similar interactions with nonprofits. So, regardless of whether donors choose to engage online or offline, it’s important to make the giving experience easy and consistent across platforms.

It’s difficult to create woven experiences that transition seamlessly from channel to channel if your data is scattered across different platforms. The lack of integration between your CRM system and other marketing platforms results in data silos, posing a significant barrier to creating a true multichannel fundraising experience.

This rigidity in data management creates a whole host of challenges, including increased risks caused by poor data hygiene, obstacles in tracking campaign performance, missed opportunities for donor cultivation, and a lack of consistency in donor experiences.

With responsive nonprofit CRM software like Virtuous that helps consolidate your data, you have a more holistic handle on donor information and create multichannel donor journeys that realistically reflect how they interact with your nonprofit.

This has made life simpler for organizations like Morgan Autism Center. Instead of spending copious amounts of time juggling multiple systems and having missing data between platforms, now the Morgan Autism Center team can focus on truly growing fundraising.

“We really wanted a system that could house all of our donor information in one place and a system that could allow us to create customizable communication plans for our supporters. Virtuous has all of that functionality,” says Lisa Lemke, Development and Communications Director of Morgan Autism Center.

Multichannel Fundraising: Closing the Loop With the Thank-You

Your donor engagement shouldn’t end at the point of conversion. You want to express your sincerest gratitude and recognize donors for their generosity because it shows them that you value their support and fosters a sense of belonging within your community, improving the likelihood of their continued support and boosting average donor retention rates.

A well-crafted thank-you message can transform a single act of generosity into a lasting relationship with a donor. To make sure your multichannel fundraising acknowledgments hit home for donors, here are five essential elements to include:

  1. Personalization across channels: Whether it’s an email, a direct mail letter, a social media shoutout, or a phone call, tailoring the message to each platform and individual deepens the connection. Mention specific contributions, reference past interactions, and highlight the impact of the donor’s support.
  2. Timeliness and consistency: Thank-yous should always be sent no later than 48 hours after receipt of the gift. Promptness is key—so is keeping content consistent with your campaign’s look and feel. Communication donors receive post-donation should echo the ones they saw before giving. This continuity doubles down on the sincerity of your appreciation and reinforces your organization’s brand identity, creating a cohesive donor experience across channels.
  3. Storytelling to show impact: People appreciate the thoughtfulness of getting updates about their contributions. This involves sharing heartfelt testimonials, progress on programs they’ve supported, and outlining future initiatives. It closes the loop by connecting their donation back to the impact and encouraging them to continue checking back in about future updates.
  4. Inviting further engagement: The thank-you message should also invite continued interaction. This could be updates about upcoming events, information about other ways to get involved, or simply a call to action to stay connected through social media or newsletters.
  5. Feedback opportunities: Encourage donors to provide feedback in your thank-yous. This not only shows that you value their opinions but also provides invaluable insights for improving donor relations and engagement strategies moving forward.

Next step: Build Dynamic Campaigns

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.

As you progress across each step, you’ll see increased team effectiveness, increased 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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