Don’t Let Your Fundraising Be One-and-Done


In college basketball, players are allowed to turn pro after playing one season.  This is known as one-and-done.  If you watch the NCAA tournament (aka March Madness), it’s likely that many of the players won’t be around next year.

I’m not a fan of one-and-done.  I think players should stay in college longer. I’m also not a fan of one-and-done in fundraising, but it seems to happen a lot. According to The Fundraising Effectiveness Report, the retention rate for first-time donors was 23% in 2014 Yikes! 2014 Fundraising Effectiveness Project Survey Report 

Here’s how you can avoid having your fundraising go the one-and-done route.

Spend an equal amount of time keeping your donors

Participating in giving days like #GivingTuesday or #GiveLocal15 are okay ONLY if you spend just as much time on keeping these donors as you do getting  them to donate in the first place.

The same problem arises in fundraising campaigns. Organizations spend all this time and energy on getting donors and then stop.

Build relationships

Events can be a great way to build relationships, but few organizations seem to take advantage of this.  I recently attended an event that charged admission, had a silent and live auction, and held a raffle.  But they didn’t give attendees an opportunity to join their mailing list or offer other ways to get involved.

I’ve seen this before. I realize the purpose of an event is to raise money, but it should also be an opportunity to build relationships.  I only hear from some organizations the next time they have an event.

Your event attendees are potential individual donors.  Keep in touch and let them know how their support helps you make a difference.

Show your donors how much you appreciate them

Send welcome packets to new donors, but show the love to your long-time donors, too.  Send them a welcome back letter. I’ve donated to several organizations for a number of years, and it bothers me when they don’t acknowledge that.

Given the lousy retention rates, don’t take it for granted when donors support you for more than one year. Otherwise, you could be looking at two-and-done.

There’s no off-season

Continuing on the sports theme, most athletes train during the off-season and some even play in leagues.  You may be between fundraising campaigns, but that doesn’t mean you should rest easy.

Keep connecting with your donors. This post I wrote a few weeks ago has lots of ideas for ways to stay in touch with your donors throughout the year. I’m sure you can think of more. This is the Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship

This is also a good time to see how many of your past donors didn’t donate to your year-end campaign. If it was significant, you have some work to do. You may be able to woo back your past donors with personalized letters or phone calls

Here’s how you can figure out your retention rate. How Does your 2014 Donor Retention Stack Up?

One-and-done is not something you want in your fundraising.  Make sure your donors stick with you for a long time.

Photo by SD Dirk

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