How to Turn One-Time Donors Into Members


One-time donors are great and they can really help a campaign reach its goal.

However, we don’t have to tell you that a successful nonprofit or charity is built on the strength of their recurring-donors or regular members. They are the ones that provide the regular and predictable funding that helps your organization grow and thrive.

If you’re trying to figure out how to get new members and recurring donors, you’re far from alone. This is the number one plight of charities and nonprofits all over the world.

Here are a few proven strategies that have worked.

Stay in their Minds and in Their Inboxes

Email marketing today still struggles a bit with the “spam” label. However, email marketing still has a massive ROI — if you do it correctly. Email marketing is only as spammy as the tactics you use.

First of all, if you receive a one-time donation, avoid sending a canned email response to say thank you. Make it as personal as possible.

If you’re worried about reaching out, try to remember that these people have already donated to your cause and they clearly like you. That means they’re very willing to accept and open an email from you. This is why the charity sector has always had rock-solid open rates.

However, ensure that they’re not simply receiving messages that are asking them for more money. Send them a message for things like:

  • Event notifications and invitations (particularly the members-only events)
  • Feel-good success stories
  • Media coverage you may have earned
  • Organizational changes such as new locations or key staff members

These types of messages are invaluable in staying fresh in your donors’ minds, while showing them the good work their donations can lead to.

Stay away from shotgun blast marketing and simply using one big mailing list for all of your email addresses. Sort your audience into as many targeted groups as you can. At the very least, sort them into Members (people making recurring payments) and Non-members (people you would absolutely love to start making recurring payments).

Make it as Easy as Possible For Them to Pay

Of course, you will want to have monthly (or quarterly) recurring payment options in place for your would-be members.

You also need to ensure that your website and your payment system make it as easy as possible for your members to pay. The second you say something like “Sorry, we don’t accept ABC” or “There is a service charge for XYZ” you have created a barrier between you and their generosity.

Ensure your payment system and website are set up to easily accept online payments of any type.

The soft sell definitely works better than the hard sell when trying to convert a one-time donor into a lifelong member. You can easily make them regret their decision to donate by spamming them with aggressive emails asking for more money.

However, if you stay in regular touch with strategic messaging and remove any payment barriers, you will find that you can steadily build your members list.

Nurture the relationship and be ready when they’re ready!