Donor retention is a perennial problem for nonprofit organizations. Many organizations spend all this time and energy on acquiring donors, concentrating more on volume and don’t seem to be concerned that they’re churning through different donors year after year.
You should be keeping track of your retention rate. If you’re losing donors, it could be because you’re either not communicating enough or communicating poorly. Fortunately, this is something you can fix, but donors don’t magically donate, or more important, keep donating to your organization.
You need good donor relations
One of the most important components of fundraising is building relationships with your donors.
Donor relations should be easier than raising money, and it can be fun, too. Make it a priority, as well as something you do throughout the year.
But it will take more than leprechauns granting wishes. If you want to keep reaching for that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, you’ll need to work at it. If you ignore your donors or communicate poorly, they’re unlikely to donate again.
Spring is just around the corner (hopefully) and it’s a time for new beginnings. Maybe you can share a new initiative that you were able to launch with your donors’ help.
Speaking of new beginnings, think about sending something special to your first-time donors. Let them know how much you appreciate this new relationship. If you don’t, it’s likely to be a short-term relationship.
One-and-done fundraising is just March Madness
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 many of the players won’t be around next year.
Another place you’ll find one-and-done is in nonprofit fundraising. The donor retention rate for first-time donors is around 25%. Obviously, we can do better.
If you can get your first-time donors to give again, it’s much more likely they’ll keep giving. That second donation is known as the golden donation. This is why it’s important to engage with your new donors. But don’t stop there, you also want to acknowledge your longer-term donors and make them feel special.
A consistent stream of donor communication is key
Here in the Boston area where I live, we have the most inconsistent weather. This winter has been no exception. One day it was 65 and two days later we got a foot of snow.
Inconsistent levels of donor communication should have no place in the nonprofit world. You don’t want to barrage donors with appeals and then go silent for a while.
Ideally, you want to reach out somewhere between once a week and once a month. And not just with appeals. You need to thank donors and share updates. This is crucial for good donor retention.
A communications calendar will help. So will sending shorter, more frequent updates.
How will you reach out?
March may be a slower time for you. Maybe you have a fundraising campaign or event planned this spring. If so, you definitely want to engage with your donors first. If you don’t, the in-between times are just important.
As you’ll notice, I’ve made references to a bunch of March themes – St. Patrick’s Day, daylight saving time, March Madness, spring. But you don’t need a holiday, special occasion, or a theme as a reason to reach out to your donors. Do it just because they’re great and you can’t do your work without them.
Keep reading for more ways you can spring forward to better donor retention.