Pay Attention to Your Donor Retention

Now that you’ve sent your year-end appeal, take a look at your retention rate to see how well you did. A Guide to Donor Retention Poor retention rates are a chronic problem for nonprofit organizations, but it’s something you can fix.

Reach out to your lapsed donors

How did you do? Did you have a number of donors who gave in the past, but didn’t this year?  Reach out to these lapsed donors by phone or letter.  Let them know you miss them and want them back. Some people may have been busy in December (who wasn’t) and didn’t have time to respond to your appeals.

Who are you missing?

I hope you have a good database to keep track of your donor records.  Check to see who didn’t donate. You should be most concerned about past donors who didn’t give this year. There are a variety of reasons people don’t donate, and many of them are ones you can control.  If you have a number of first-time donors who didn’t give again, chances are you spent a lot of time enticing them to donate, and then, well not much after that.

The case of the disappearing donors

Ideally, once you get a donor, you should be able to keep the person, but that’s not happening.  According to the 2015 Fundraising Effectiveness survey, first-time donor retention is an abysmal 19%.  It’s 63% for repeat donors, which is nothing to celebrate. We can do better.

One of your priorities this year is to get your first-time donors to become long-term donors.  

Create a welcome plan for new donors

If you haven’t already done this, send your new donors a welcome kit by mail or email. Roll Out the Red Carpet for Your New Donors 

But keep showing the love to all your donors

You want as many donors as possible to give again, preferably at a higher level. This won’t happen if you don’t stay in touch throughout the year. Does Your Donor Communication Tell Donors What’s Next?

Create a donor relations plan in which you find ways to engage with your donors at least once or twice a month.  You can include this in your communications calendar. 

Know which channels your donors use the most, but don’t neglect direct mail. One idea is to send a thank you for being an amazing donor card at least once a year. If cost is an issue, spread your mailings out over the year, so you send a smaller number of cards each month. Donors may be pleasantly surprised to receive a card in May or September.

Be donor-centered

It’s not enough just to send a donor newsletter or post a social media update.  Most donor communication is all about the organization.  Share stories and updates your donors will want to read.

Keep building relationships

You can’t control your donors’ financial situation, but you can control your communication with them, and it needs to be whole lot better.

Pay attention to your donor retention and work on keeping your donors for a long time.

Image by Bloomerang


6 thoughts on “Pay Attention to Your Donor Retention

  1. Ann, you’re right to highlight the importance of donor retention. The numbers for the sector are HORRIBLE! Being on par with one’s peers is NOT good enough. The keys are to show donors gratitude and let them know the good their money is achieving.

    Here some additional resources your readers might appreciate:

    “Do You Know If Your Fundraising is Failing?”

    “Donor Retention: Time for a Change”


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