One of the things I often say is that fundraising is akin to dating.
And that regardless of your gender or sexual orientation, when it comes to fundraising, YOU are always the “man” in the relationship.
(In other words, it’s YOUR job to “make the moves.”)
Like it or not, it’s always OUR job to take the lead, to deepen the relationship, to let donors know that we’re interested in and care about them, to ask the donor to take the next step with us, be that by making a larger donation, volunteering, engaging in peer solicitation, or joining a committee of the board.
If we don’t take the time required to date our donors, then we will in all likelihood get dumped, unceremoniously, without so much as a Dear John letter.
Donor retention is a HUGE problem in the nonprofit sector! Did you know…
- We can expect to lose up to 50% of our donors between their 1st and 2nd gift?
- We can expect an annual attrition rate of up to 30% among donors who make more than one gift?
We’re engaged in the process of fund-raising, but we seem to be donor-losing!
What’s going on?
There are two primary reasons our donors are dumping us and looking for a better date:
- We tend to focus on donor acquisition instead of retention.
- We generally treat donations as transactions, rather than an extension of a relationship.
When you look at the attrition rates, you can see that the scale of lost opportunity is huge.
And it’s costing us money!
Donor retention is important for several reasons:
- Cost: It costs about 5 times as much to acquire a new donor than to keep one. It costs our organizations 2-3 times more to recruit a new donor than they will give by way of their first gift. Even after the donor has given, it can take 12-18 months before the relationship becomes profitable.
- Increased Revenue: Only existing donors can increase the amount of their gift and make additional donations. They are also more likely to attend your events and/or purchase merchandise that supports your cause.
- Word-of-Mouth Marketing: Existing donors are the only donors who provide word-of-mouth “advertising” to their friends, family members and co-workers, and other people they know. As any business owner will tell you, word-of-mouth marketing it worth its weight in gold!
- Help: Existing donors are more likely to volunteer, join a committee, or join the board. And – volunteers give twice as often as annual donors!
Without proper attention to cultivation and stewardship – which are the underpinnings of donor retention – we’re leaving money on the table.
We have about 95 days until the end of the year. This gives us a narrow window of opportunity before the holiday giving season kicks in to rekindle that lovin’ feeling with our existing and lapsed donors.
Here are 3 tips to avoid getting dumped by your donors:
Relationships usually fare better when there’s a good flow of positive, heartfelt communication.
It’s no different with donors – they need and want to hear from you!
–When did your last newsletter go out?
–How long has it been since they heard from you via email?
–Is your website up to date (74% of all gifts begin on line!)?
–Are you posting to social media channels on regular basis?
Communication helps build donor confidence. If it’s been a while since you reached out and touched your donors, you have a few weeks in which to reconnect with them and remind them of all the great work their gifts are helping make possible.
2) GET UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL
The personal touch helps establish a connection and maintain the bond in a relationship.
Donors too want to have that personal connection!
When was the last time you saw your donors?
–Have you ever had an Open House or other small, intimate event that allowed them to get an insider’s view of your organization? If not, you’ve got a few weeks to organize a reception or some other type of low-key event.
Turn it into a schmooze-a-thon! Have your entire staff, board and key volunteers attend so there’s a high ratio of organizational reps to donors – having extra help will allow you to make a personal connection with your donors.
3) PROVIDE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT AND VALIDATION!
All people want to be treated with respect, to be valued and accepted, loved, and cherished. People also want to feel they are making important contributions and that they are being heard. When people feel seen and validated, it builds cooperation.
Just like any other human, your donors need to be acknowledged, validated, heard and respected. When was the last time you said thank you to your donors?
–Does your organization hold an annual Thank-a-Thon? Giving Tuesday is on November 29 – why not use it as an opportunity to thank your donors?
–Are your thank you notes hand-written? You don’t have to be the only one in the organization writing these – board members, other staffers, volunteers and clients can write them, too (be sure to provide them with samples)!
Try using hand-written notes this year — it’ll make a qualitative difference in your donors’ experience, which will help significantly with retention.
While every donor knows that an organization requires many contributors, not a single one of them wants to feel like a number, a transaction, an ATM. We need to treat every donor – and every dollar – with respect and gratitude. Because at the end of the day, we have no idea what any specific donor may be capable of. I could tell you dozens of tales of low- or mid-level donors who made a mind-blowing donation out of nowhere!
Investing more time and energy in dating our donors (aka cultivation, stewardship and retention) literally pays off in the form of higher donations, multiple donations, habitual donations (e.g., giving every year), volunteerism, word-of-mouth marketing, etc.
We have only a few short weeks in which to evaluate our individual donor program and implement the strategies that will help improve recurring gifts and retention among our donors. Try one of the strategies listed above – and be sure to let us know how it goes!