What is the key to keeping your monthly donors engaged and giving? Communication. And while things like annual events and the occasional letter in the mail may be pieces of the pie, the majority of the relationship between you and a monthly donor is likely established through email.

A long-term relationship-building strategy is a must for nonprofits aiming to increase the retention of recurring donors. If you don’t steward your loyal donors, someone else will. Outside of a thank you email following their gift or enrollment in your giving program and additional fundraising appeals, keeping monthly donors updated, interested and engaged with your organization is key to building a relationship of mutual trust and loyalty over time.

Best Practices for Donor Emails

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Before diving into the types of emails that you can start sending these donors on a regular basis, we can cover a few ground rules and best practices for your email communications with donors.

  • Know who you’re talking to – Understand who your monthly donors are and tailor communications to that understanding, including their motivation to give. Conducting donor interviews and creating a donor persona can take communications to the next level.
  • Make yourselves accessible – Communication is a two-way street. Encourage donors to reach out to your development or communications staff with questions, comments or concerns. And be sure to keep up with those who reply to your emails.
  • Listen – When a donor mentions their preferences for things like communication methods or the types of content and information they’re interested in hearing about, make an effort to follow it wherever possible.
  • Welcome newcomers – Start building a relationship with new members of your recurring giving program with a friendly and personal email a few days after they first pledge their giving commitment. More on this below!
  • Make your asks clear – Always be as specific as you can in nonprofit calls to action so there’s no confusion around what you’re asking them to do, whether that’s to share feedback, give outside of their monthly schedule, or get involved in some other way.
  • Make it personal – Write conversationally and use the information that you have about your donors to make email communications as personal as you can. You want them to feel like an essential part of your community, not a nameless line on your email list.

Email Segmentation

Speaking of making it personal… All of the emails you send to recurring donors should be specifically crafted for them. Trying to address all of your donors with one email can leave everyone feeling like the email wasn’t meant for them. And when you feel like an email is not meant for you, the chance that you actually read it drops substantially. 

A donor who’s made a commitment (monthly or otherwise) to help you work toward your nonprofit’s mission can still receive your general updates, but should also hear from you on a more personal and targeted level about the information they care about most.

Within your main email list, give monthly donors their own group or segment. And if you have giving opportunities that vary, such as supporting specific programs versus general donations, you can get even more granular with your segmentation. Segmentation allows you to put what you know about each subset of your audience to good use, making each email feel that much more personalized and leading to a healthier relationship and higher engagement with donors.

Emails Ideas for Monthly Donors

As promised, here are five ideas for emails to send your monthly donors as part of a long-term relationship-building process.

Welcome series for new monthly donors

Establish a relationship with newcomers to your monthly giving program right off the bat through a series of welcome emails. Tell them about your organization and mission, including the integral role of monthly donors, and give them the opportunity to ask you any questions. You could even create an automated workflow to onboard them and get them up to speed for future communications. Just be sure to keep up with any replies!

Give regular impact updates

Recurring donors care about your cause and the impact that their contributions have on it. Engage them by highlighting all of the good they’re accomplishing through regular gifts. Have a new or updated impact statistic? A program or session that recently wrapped up? Or maybe you send out an annual report and can repurpose those details in bite-size pieces.

Another way to do this is by sharing the stories of those your nonprofit helps or testimonials from other community members. This is especially powerful for donors, most of whom don’t get to personally interact with your nonprofit’s work on a regular basis. Get our tips for collecting more stories and testimonials from your community.

Ask for feedback

To tailor your email strategy to real donors, give them the opportunity to weigh in on their preferences. In an email survey, ask 3-5 questions to gauge how your monthly donors are perceiving attempts to engage. Some possible questions could be:

  • As a recurring donor, do you feel like part of a community?
  • What’s one thing we could do to improve your experience?
  • What kinds of updates are you most interested in hearing about?

You can also ask any specific questions about your email communications through the survey. And remember, once you get some answers, be sure to follow suit and make any necessary adjustments to your strategy.

Show appreciation

Along with thanking your donors for their gifts, it’s important to let them know they’re needed and appreciated. Send them a personal message recognizing a monthly donation increase, another type of engagement with your organization or on the anniversary of the first time they gave. This can also be accomplished in combination with other strategies, like events.

Offer other ways to get involved

Another way to keep monthly donors engaged is to bring them into other facets of your organization. They care about your cause enough to sign on to regular gifts. It’s likely that they’ll also be interested in things like upcoming events, volunteer opportunities, advocacy efforts or other ways to get involved in your work. In fact, website donors in particular commonly participate in other ways of giving beyond money.

Monthly donors are a crucial piece of fundraising for many organizations, but far too few put the work in to build a relationship that stands the test of time. While, as you probably know, it takes more than sending out a few emails a year to establish that mutual trust, working these types of communications into your donor communications strategy is a great step forward.

Does your organization send regular emails to monthly donors? Or have you received any emails as a monthly donor that you enjoyed? Any topics that you’d add to our list? I’d love to hear about them in the comments section.