Blog + Social Media: Not Your Mom’s Donor Acquisition / Retention Plan


donor acquisition

Over a decade worth of compelling research from Adrian Sargeant and Penelope Burk shows nonprofits are losing up to 70% of donors before they ever move up the proverbial donor pyramid. This is why I recently declared the pyramid dead. Now we have a vortex – an energy circle.

The way the vortex works is through a maelstrom of online communication. It’s not linear. It’s not orderly. Folks come at you every which way. Facebook. Twitter. LinkedIn. Google+. Pinterest. Instagram. YouTube. You’ve got to be a lot of those places – at least the ones where your supporters (or your potential supporters) hang out. But these are just entry points unless you manage them. Every entry point into the vortex offers a pathway to deeper engagement.

Your blog can be a huge driver and coordinator of energy that engages folks in your nonprofit cause.

Digital communications have permanently disrupted the traditional donor-engagement process. People get information online. Network online. Make decisions online. So don’t think you can just sit back and self-righteously proclaim that you do “major donor work” and you therefore subsequently don’t need any of this online stuff. You do. Because major donors are people too. And just about all people these days are online in some fashion.

Before you stop reading thinking “this doesn’t apply to me; I’m a fundraiser, not a communicator,” WAIT.

It’s beyond time to change the way you’ve traditionally done fundraising and marketing. In silos. In segments. In ‘low touch’ at the bottom and ‘high touch’ at the top strategies. Boundaries are blurring. You’ve got to integrate all online and offline communications functions across your entire organization. Marketing and development are the same thing.

How can you raise money for your cause if no one knows about the good work you’re doing?

Bingo. Nonprofits used to think their “awareness creation” savior was their website. But, guess what? Websites are yesterday. Blogs are today. Websites are static. Blogs are active. Websites are outbound broadcast platforms. Blogs are inbound listening, learning and information exchange platforms.

How can a blog help with donor acquisition and retention?

A recent article on NTEN by Laura Iancu suggests that your blog be part of a powerful triangle that attracts and retains donors.  She writes:

Unlike the actual Bermuda triangle from the Atlantic, where things get lost, this one would attract donors in a safe haven. A place where they actually feel reassured for their giving action and sense the fulfillment of being involved in a real causeIn the quest of forging this mystical triangle, the first and most important pillar is your blog.”

Wow! I bet you never thought of a blog as an important pillar for donor acquisition and retention. But it is. It truly is. So let’s take a closer look.

In the 20th century you had your (1) newsletter, (2) press releases and advertisements, and (3) donation reply envelopes.  That’s how you communicated, found potential new supporters and asked for/received donations.

In the 21st century you have these equivalents for donor acquisition and retention:

  1. Blog
  2. Social Media
  3. Online Donation Landing Page

THE ROLE OF YOUR BLOG is to inform, interest, engage and inspire folks to become involved and invested with your cause.

Oh… and also to keep them invested!

You can tell stories, offer opinions, show your authority, lead discussions and ask for comments.

This makes a blog much better than a newsletter, because it’s interactive. You can find out what your constituents are interested in. Folks can share your blog posts with their networks. Your blog happens in real time, and it has legs.

You can link to and share your blog posts on all the major social media networks. This is a way to leverage content you’ve already created, making your blog a content hub and true workhorse for you.

You can link to your website donation page from your blog posts, and easily enable folks to take action whenever you’re in campaign mode. This makes it possible for folks to give in the very moment they are most inspired, making it a great tool for donor acquisition.

You can thank donors on your blog in multiple ways, making it a great tool for donor retention. In a way, blogs are a gift to your supporters – one you can give many times throughout the year in the form of thank you videos, insider news, useful tips and even fun, interactive games. And these are the folks who will share your posts with their networks – leading you right back to more donor acquisition!

THE ROLE OF SOCIAL MEDIA is to carry the information on your blog further. You can take your blog content and repurpose it here. 140 characters including a link on Twitter. A “pinned” photo on Pinterest. A title, comment and hashtag on Google+. And so forth. You can then ask people to share. When you install Google Analytics on your blog, you can monitor where your traffic comes from and what content drives the most interest and engagement. This enables you to modify and improve your communications outreach strategy – no guessing involved!

THE ROLE OF YOUR ONLINE DONATION LANDING PAGE is to capture the energy you’ve stirred up. It’s important to make it easy to use (which includes mobile optimization), and to assure that it’s branded so that folks who land there from your blog or from social media recognize where they’ve landed. Generic landing pages are a bad idea. Try several versions, branding them so they match your different campaigns (e.g., if I read a blog post about your children’s literacy program, I don’t want to land on a donation form that doesn’t make it clear to me how I can donate for that program.) And don’t forget that donation landing forms can also be the first step in great donor stewardship that improves retention. Send folks a tailored autoresponder (not just a form gift confirmation) that makes them feel great about their donation. You can even include a brief “thank you” video that makes them smile. Offer the opportunity to easily share their smile via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media. Often, folks are proud to shout out their support – creating even more energy in your vortex!

Your Online Donor Acquisition and Retention Plan

Now it’s time to unite the power of your nonprofit blog with social media to accelerate donor acquisition and retention. Here are some actionable tips:


  1. Begin and end with remarkable, constituent-centered interesting content that you develop with the intention to engage folks. Think before you create/distribute your blog content. What do you want folks to learn, think, feel and/or do?
  2. Include calls to action in all your blog posts so it’s easy for folks to engage with you. Tell them, and make it simple for them to follow through.
  3. Include a link back to your blog in your social media accounts so it’s easy for folks to find your great content.
  4. Promote your blog posts via social media so it’s easy for folks to find you. All you need are a few words plus a link to your post. Use bitly to shorten your posts so you have more characters left to encourage interaction. Encourage sharing so you broaden your circle and create more energy around your cause.
  5. Assure you have inspiring branded donation landing pages to drive folks to from your blog and social media and that they’re optimized for mobile.


  1. Include social sharing buttons on your donation landing page so it’s easy for folks to show their pride and share their passion. Capitalize on the moment that they’re feeling good; let them feel good a little bit longer.
  2. Stay top of mind with your current supporters by creating a blog editorial calendar and consistent publication schedule. Pay attention to their comments, their interests and their habits. Get to know them then show them that you know them.
  3. Use your blog to do more outcome-focused reporting and stewardship. Help folks see the impact of their investment with you on an ongoing basis.
  4. Use visuals more on your blog; they tell a story like nobody’s business, and are adaptable for sharing via social media. Plus, they’re a quick and easy way to create compelling content – one picture is worth 1,000 words.

It’s Not Your Mother’s Donor Acquisition/Retention Strategy

I know you’re busy. I know you feel overwhelmed. But that’s because you don’t have your online strategy organized around a hub. You’re here, there and everywhere. You need to center yourself. Make your blog your center and go for the 21st century ROI – return on interesting .

The more people connect and engage with you, and vice-versa, the faster your energy vortex swirls and gains momentum. Over time you will learn what content drives participation and engagement. This, of course, will expand your reach and improve your acquisition and retention. How can you ignore that?

Before you know it, you’ll have created a perpetual motion machine – a magnetic force that draws supporters to you – and keeps them stuck on you!

Do you have an online strategy that’s working to acquire and retain donors? Please share!

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About the Author:

Claire Axelrad

This monthly Social Media and Nonprofits column is contributed by Claire Axelrad, J.D., CFRE. Claire brings 30 years of frontline development and marketing leadership experience to her work as principal of her social benefit consulting firm, Clairification. Named Outstanding Fundraising Professional of the Year by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Claire teaches the CFRE course that certifies professional fundraisers, is a web and audio presenter for Good Done Great Nonprofits and was recently honored as “Best Fundraising Blog” by FundRaising Success’ 2013 Fundraising Professionals of the Year Awards. Her passion is instilling an institution-wide culture of philanthropy to help organizations build constituencies and drive increased income to sustain and expand missions. +Claire Axelrad

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