The Value of Relationships

In my last post, I wrote about reaching out to new donors and other supporters.  I found it hard not to wonder, would you have to spend so much time finding new donors if you had better relationships with your current donors?
According to Kivi Leroux Miller’s 2014 Nonprofit Trends Report, 53% of organizations surveyed said that acquiring new donors was their most important goal this year, as opposed to 30% who responded with retaining current donors as their most important goal. The results were similar in 2013.
You need to do both, but focus at least half your time on keeping your current donors. Fundraising expert Adrian Sargeant says, “Improving attrition rates by only 10% can improve the life time value of a donor base up to 200%”.
Developing and sustaining relationships with your current supporters is often easier and less expensive than finding new supporters.  After all, you’ve already found people who are interested in your organization. 
Stay in touch
A couple of the organizations I donated to at the end of last year have been in touch with updates.  The others, I haven’t heard a peep.
One of the organizations just sent me an email update about their holiday toy drive.  While it wasn’t an outstanding letter, it was filled with warmth and gratitude.  They let me know my donation helped bring joy to nearly 7 million children by giving them toys, books, and other gifts over the holidays.  The email message also included some photos of kids receiving gifts.
This is what you need to do.  Stay in touch with your donors throughout the year.  Find ways to show gratitude and keep them updated on how they are helping you make a difference for the people you serve.
A missed opportunity
There are many ways to build relationships, but some organizations don’t do it very well. 
I attended an event in my community at the beginning of February and never received any kind of thank you note or follow up message.  I’m a firm believer in sending thank you notes after an event. 
I was the highest bidder on a couple of silent auction items and did get thanked when someone called about the items and when I went to pick them up.  But that’s not enough, and what about people who didn’t win auction items?
You should follow up with your event attendees with a thank you note, phone call, or at the very least, an email message.  I know this organization has my email address because they sent me an announcement about the event (I’ve attended before).
Thank people for attending, let them know how much money you raised, and share specific ways their support is helping you make a difference. Then invite these supporters to connect in other ways such as signing up to receive your newsletter or volunteering.  Obviously, you should do the same thing when you thank someone for a donation.
I only hear from this organization at event time.  I’ve never been approached for an individual gift, although I would be a good donor candidate because I have supported this event.  Are your event lists and individual giving lists mutually exclusive?  They shouldn’t be.  Your donors may choose to support one or the other, but at least you can ask.  
Relationships matter
Don’t miss out on opportunities to develop relationships. How can I connect with your organization if you don’t give me any ways to do that?
Your donors and other supporters have expressed interest in your organization. Keep them interested by staying in touch.
With donor retention rates plummeting, it’s crucial that you develop and sustain valuable relationships with your donors.
Photo by Tiffanie J via Flickr

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