Crafting Your Donor Follow Up Experience

Once a donor gives you their money, how are you following up with them? How are you thanking them and engaging with them to set you up for success with a second gift down the road? 

It is a lot of work getting new donors but the work doesn’t stop there. How you treat your donors once they’ve given makes a big impact on if they give again, regardless of gift size. You probably have a follow up plan for your major donors and corporate sponsors. Remember that you don’t always know the capacity of someone donating on your website – or who else they know. Nurturing donors that give $5 as well as major donors leads to better sustainability and pool of donors to connect with.

Having a combination of offline and online elements will be a great strategy to keep you moving forward. The best part is that some of it can be automated. This blog post will give you some ideas for things to consider with designing your own donor follow up experience.

Create an Experience Map

Determine what you want the donor experience to look like. Be on brand and have fun with it! The goal is to keep them engaged and part of your community. You may have a different experience for different types of donors. For example, monthly donors, foundations/grants, corporate sponsors, event attendees, etc.

Brainstorm ideas and then line them out for each different type. If you’re just getting started, start with one and then go from there.

It’s important to include offline and online elements. You can start with the ideas below! Once you have it all lined out, create a template in your CRM so people know when they need to do a task post donation and nothing falls through the cracks.

Donor Email Welcome Sequence

A donor welcome sequence is a series of emails that a donor gets after they have donated. It’s usually 5-7 emails over a period of a couple of weeks. The goal of this sequence is to share more impact stories, let them get to know your organization better and set expectations for how you’ll be communicating with them.

Welcome sequences can make a huge impact because the open rates on the first email are the highest of any email you’ll send in the future. This is a great way to connect and set the stage for how you treat your donors.

Listen to Episode 122 of the Digital Marketing Therapy Podcast for a deep dive on the welcome sequence.

The best part of these sequences is that they are automated and you don’t have to manage sending them out manually. Just remember to leave space in the timing of the emails for the other elements you include in the experience.

Personal Phone Call

Phone calls go a long way – and not a lot of nonprofits take this step. This call could come from your Executive Director, Development Director, Board Member, etc. Determine the right person based off of the type of gift. 

Even smaller gifts or new monthly donors should be getting 1:1 phone calls. This gives you an opportunity to make a personal connection with donors, ask questions and take notes of how you can better connect in the future.

Ask great questions:

  • why did you choose to give to our organization?
  • what part of our program excites you the most?
  • how do you like to be recognized?

The goal is to make it about them and find out how you can make them feel special in the future.

Thank You Cards

Handwritten cards are a great way to personalize thank yous. Plus people love getting mail that isn’t bills or junk! Again, this is something not a lot of organizations are doing.

You can utilize volunteers and board members for this, or it can also be automated with software like Handwrytten. While this isn’t free, it is a great low cost option to make a great impact.

Send Swag

Swag is a great way surprise and delight your donors and allow them to showcase their support for your organization. It doesn’t have to be expensive! Stickers are great and can be used everywhere. You could also create window clings for their business or car windows. Of course t-shirts are great because people wear them out and about. 

Just like with other elements here, pay attention to your budget and gift size. For example, you might send swag to your monthly donors after six months to acknowledge their dedication and say thank you.

Ongoing Email Newsletters

Once they’ve donated you want to connect with them regularly. That way when the next campaign comes around they have heard from you about impact and you’ve stayed top of mind.

Emails can go out at whatever cadence you can do consistently. We recommend at least twice a month, but weekly is even better. These newsletters can include your blog content, impact stories, industry updates, tips and more. The goal is to position you as the industry expert you are so they know you are the best suited to move the cause forward. 

The more consistently and regularly you send these emails the more often you can make an ask of your subscribers.


Your donors are the reason you are able to create impact. Nurturing them and engagement with them regularly will help you with your retention rates and keep your fundraising running smooth. While you don’t have to do all the things listed here, build in a donor experience you’re excited about and your donors will be excited too. 

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