The art of donor retention and connection
Getting donors to give to your organization is hard. And getting them to give again can be even harder—but worth it. With gifts from individuals still the highest source of income to nonprofits, it’s essential that you balance efforts to attract new donors and grow your list with efforts to retain and engage your current supporters. In fact, fundraising researcher Adrian Sargeant found that “improving donor retention by just 10% can double the lifetime value of your donor database.” (cited by Association of Fundraising Professionals)
Photo credit: Good-wallpapers
So how do you capture those lovely LYBUNTs (Last-Year-But-Not-This-Year donors)? We suggest more strategic and more frequent or targeted communications (surprise!). Here are some approaches you should try at home:
- Calculate your donor retention rate. Determine what percentage of all your donors last year were repeat givers. According to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, nearly six out of every ten donors who gave to nonprofits in 2009 did not donate again in 2010. Are you retaining more than 40%? Understand how big of a problem you really have and look for differences in donor retention rates based on giving levels or sources.
- Audit your donor communications. Look at every email, letter, invitation, report, web page, blog post, and status update, as well as anything else you published in an effort to engage your donors. Keep track of the number of times you asked your community to donate. Then, track how often you shared news on the progress of their investment and results of your programs. Which number is higher? Donors want to feel like part of your success, not just the ATM behind it.
- Try new ways to thank donors for their support. A heartfelt and personal thank you or update about your work leaves donors feeling good. Plus, it shows that you care about them beyond their wallet. Take time now, early in the year, to create a new calendar and brainstorm what other communications you might need to send—which may also include calls and visits.
- Get (or reexamine) your systems for managing donor data. Using data to target and segment communications is essential to keeping your donors. There are lots of different options for how to do this and what systems to use. Not sure if you need to change your donor management or constituent relationship management (CRM) system? Start by reading this handy report from Idealware and TechSoup.
- Ask your donors why they give to your organization. Find out what was behind that first or even tenth gift to your organization. Was it because a particular person asked them? Did they receive services or resources from you? If you’re not sure what’s motivating your donors, try asking them next time you see them, or schedule a few phone interviews. You can also send them a survey or experiment with posting a question on Facebook.
Whether you do just one of these steps or all five of them, be sure to develop a new approach to retaining your donors. Sure, new friends are great, but it’s the old ones you can really count on.
Still wondering if your donors love your nonprofit as much as you love them? Take a look at my ideas for eleven ways you can tell your donors love you—and add some of your own in the comments.
Farra Trompeter, Big Duck's Vice President, is an active participant on the Communications Committee for the New York City Anti-Violence Project and helps organize 501TechNYC—a monthly meetup for local members and friends of the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN). Farra tweets about nonprofit fundraising and communications via @farra.