Donor retention rates continue to be poor, especially for first-time donors. Donors don’t keep magically donating to your organization and you can’t hope you’ll get lucky and they’ll donate again. You need more than luck to keep your donors.
Pay attention to your donor retention
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.
If you don’t know your retention rate, figure that out now.A Guide to Donor Retention If you ’re losing donors, it’s most likely because you’re either not communicating enough or communicating poorly. Fortunately, this is something you can fix, but it will take more than leprechauns granting wishes. If you want to keep reaching that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, you’ll need to work at it.
When figuring out your retention rate, you’ll find you have some lapsed donors. Take some time to reach out and let them know you miss them and want them back.
You need good donor relations
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.
The biggest hurdle is getting your first-time donors to donate again, so do something special for your new donors like sending them a welcome packet.
That said, don’t take your longer-term donors for granted. 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.
Donor loyalty is also important
Your goal should be to have high-quality donors who will support you for a long time. Who has supported you for three, five, or even ten years? Go the extra mile for these loyal donors. This takes more work, but it will pay off in the long run. You don’t want to lose these valuable donors.
Keep building relationships
You may be between fundraising campaigns or events. It’s easy to get complacent right now, but don’t do that. You need to work on building relationships. Let your donors know how much you appreciate them and keep doing that again and again.
It takes more than luck to keep your donors. You need to show appreciation and stay in touch throughout the year. You could reach out now by using a St. Patrick’s Day or spring theme, or get inspired by one of the ideas in the links below.
Happy New Year! I expect many of you launched a year-end appeal last year. I hope it was successful. If it wasn’t, I have some suggestions about how you can raise more money – both now and throughout the year.
Reach out to your lapsed donors
Take advantage of this now. Look to see who donated in 2017, but didn’t give this year. It’s possible some people meant to give but were too busy.
Send these donors a personalized appeal or give them a call. Let them know you miss them and want them back. You can go back another year or two, as well.
Take a good look at your list of lapsed donors. They’re not all the same. Do you have someone who’s given consistently over the last few years, but not this year, or are you looking at a person who gave once five years ago?
Eventually you’ll want to move some of your lapsed donors to an inactive file. This will save you money because you won’t be mailing appeals to people who aren’t going to donate.
But you can raise more money with a pesonalized appeal to donors who are likely to give again.
A great way to raise more money is by having a monthly/recurring giving program. Monthly donors usually give more and their retention rate is 90%.
If you don’t have a monthly giving program, make this the year you start one. You can also try to get current donors to upgrade to monthly giving.
Your best bet for monthly donors are people who’ve given at least twice. These are donors who have shown a commitment to you. This doesn’t mean you can’t ask first-time donors. You can include information about monthly giving in the welcome packet you send to new donors. You do welcome new donors, right?
Donors who gave in November or December may not be ready to give again so soon. Make a plan to specifically invite people to become monthly donors in the spring or at other times of the year.
Now I’m going to tell you how you can raise more money without asking for money. You need to remember the two R’s – retention and relationships.
It’s easier and less expensive to keep your donors than to find new ones. Yet, many nonprofits have abysmal retention rates, especially for first-time donors. Now is a good time to figure out your retention rate.
One way to raise your retention rate is with the second R – relationships. Building relationships with your donors is a key component of fundraising.
This starts with a good thank you experience and continues as you update your donors regularly throughout the year letting them know how they’re helping you make a difference.
One reason you may be behind in your fundraising goals is because you just blasted out a bunch of generic appeals without targeting them to specific donors and trying to build relationships.
The New Year is a good time to evaluate what’s working and what’s not in your fundraising. You should be able to raise more money by reaching out to your lapsed donors, starting or growing a monthly giving program, paying attention to your donor retention, and focusing on building relationships.
I’m sure you’ve all heard of #GivingTuesday, the annual giving day that takes place the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. This year it will be on November 27.
Perhaps you’ve participated in the past and it’s been successful, or maybe it wasn’t. Perhaps you’re planning to participate for the first time.
Whether you participate or not, #GivingTuesday is now part of the nonprofit landscape and if you’re doing a year-end appeal, you’ll need to factor it into your campaign.
I’m not a huge fan of #GivingTuesday or any giving days, for that matter, because they focus too much on getting donations. Many of these donors are first-time donors who don’t give again. That may be because they were drawn into whatever gimmicks the organizations were using to get donations and/or the organizations failed to build relationships afterward.
I have a few suggestions to help make #GivingTuesday more successful or how to navigate around it if you’re not participating in it.
Is #GivingTuesday working for you?
If you’ve run a campaign in the past, check to see if people who gave the year before gave again. Go back as far as you can to check retention rates.
Also, who is donating on #GivingTuesday? Are they brand new donors or current donors who choose to donate on that day?
Focus on relationship building
Never miss an opportunity to build relationships, whether you’re reaching out to new donors or following up with current ones. Keep your appeal donor-centered. Thank current donors and find a way to make a connection with potential donors.
I realize the purpose of a fundraising appeal is to ask for donations, but don’t forget to build relationships, too. Again, the problem with most #GivingTuesday appeals is they’re focused too much on getting donations.
Use #GivingTuesday as a way to follow up with your donors
If you don’t want to launch a full #Giving Tuesday campaign (understandable), it can be a great opportunity to follow up with people who haven’t donated to your year-end appeal. You should be doing regular reminders, anyway.
Send email and social media messages before and on #Giving Tuesday encouraging people to donate. You can use the #Giving Tuesday logos, etc. Obviously, you’ll want to keep following up with anyone who didn’t donate on #GivingTuesday.
Keep in mind your donors will be barraged with email and social media messages on #GivingTuesday. Make yours stand out and be prepared to keep following up.
How about #GratitudeTuesday instead?
Maybe you’ll decide to bypass #GivingTuesday all together and make it a day to show some gratitude to your donors.
Remember that your donors may not see your messages that day so send some #donorlove on other days around that time, such as Thanksgiving.
Donors are going to get a lot of appeals from you at year-end so you also want to use this time to communicate in ways in which you’re not asking for money. Don’t forget to say thank you
Speaking of showing gratitude, your donors should be feeling the love right after they make their donation.
Make sure you have an engaging thank you landing page and thank you email for your online donors. You could even create ones especially for #GivingTuesday. Then you need to follow that with a phone call, handwritten note, or thank you letter.
Send welcome packets to new donors or welcome back messages to current donors.
#GivingTuesday has a transactional feel to it, although it doesn’t need to. Go the extra mile and do a good job of thanking these donors – both right after they’ve made their donation and throughout the year.
When this year’s #GivingTuesday is over, make a plan to measure your results, whether you do a full campaign, a follow-up, or a thank you fest. Was it worth the time and effort?
I think you’ll find that your #GivingTuesday campaign, or any fundraising campaign, will be more successful if you focus on more than just the giving part. And a big part of a successful campaign is getting repeat donations.
Most of you are getting ready to launch your year-end appeal if you haven’t already done so. I hope your organization also has a monthly/recurring giving program. If you don’t, you’re missing out on a great way to raise more money and receive a constant stream of revenue throughout the year.
Plus, monthly giving will raise your retention rate. According to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, the retention rate for monthly donors is 90%. These donors are committed to your organization!
To keep things simple, I’m going to use the term monthly giving, but you should offer your donors other options, such as quarterly giving.
How to get started
If you don’t already have a monthly giving program, try to set one up before your year-end appeal and let your donors know about it. If that’s not possible, make it one of your first New Year’s resolutions for 2019.
Setting up a monthly giving program will take a little work up front but will pay off in the end. Mention it in your appeal letters and make it a prominent option on your donation page.
Some organizations’ donation pages aren’t set up for monthly giving. I experienced this recently when I tried to make a donation. If I wanted to make a recurring gift, I had to contact the organization and in the interest of time, I chose a one-time gift.
Make it easy for everyone and set up a monthly giving option on your donation page.
Invite your current donors to become monthly donors
One way to get monthly donors is to ask your current donors to switch to monthly giving. Send targeted appeals to donors who have given at least twice. These donors have already shown you their commitment.
Let them know how much you appreciate their support and invite them to join your family of monthly donors. Show them how their $50 or $100 gift is helping you make a difference and how they can help even more with gifts of $5 or $10 a month.
Monthly donors get their own special appeal
If you already have monthly donors, send them a special appeal. Don’t send them a generic appeal that doesn’t recognize that they’re monthly donors. You should be personalizing and segmenting all your appeal letters, anyway.
Thank them for being a monthly donor and let them know you couldn’t do your work without their continued support. Politely ask monthly donors who’ve supported you for at least six months if they can upgrade their gift.
Monthly donors also get their own thank you letters
Not only do monthly donors get their own thank you letters, handwritten notes, or phone calls, you need separate letters for brand new monthly donors and current single-gift donors who’ve become monthly donors. I covered this in a recent post.
Don’t shortchange your monthly donors with a generic thank you letter.
I make most of my donations monthly. The thank yous I receive range from pretty good to dreadful to nonexistent.
Some organizations will send a monthly acknowledgment by email. I don’t mind these because it lets me know my donation was charged. Often I get the same boring email each month with an equally sleep-inducing subject line such as Subsequent Sustaining Thank You. One organization uses the subject line You Are AMAZING, which is pretty amazing, and rare.
Since your donors have committed to donating every month, show them the same courtesy by communicating with them at least once a month. Those generic thank you emails don’t count.
You could send an e-mail update and at least a couple of updates by mail. Show your donors how they’re helping you make difference in your updates. Share a story or give specific examples.
A few ways I’ve seen organizations recognize their monthly donors are by giving them a special shout out in their newsletter, thanking them in their annual report, and inviting them to take a tour of the organization. Other ideas include an open house, a thank you video, a thank you postcard, and a handwritten note. Whatever you do, keep in touch throughout the year.
Pay attention to your monthly donors
All donors are special, but monthly donors are extra special because they’ve made this commitment to you. Therefore, you’re doing a huge disservice when you don’t recognize them for who they are. You can send requests for an additional single gift but not without thanking them for their monthly support.
Speaking of paying attention, you need to keep track of when a donor’s gift is about to expire. One way to avoid that is to not include an expiration option on your donation page. But that only solves part of the problem because credit cards have expiration dates. Don’t rely on your donors to keep track of this. They’re busy and have a lot of other things to worry about.
Set up a system where you can flag credit card expiration dates. A month ahead of time, send your donors a friendly reminder letting them know it’s time to renew their monthly donation. You can also ask for an upgrade and, of course, thank them. If you don’t do this, you’ll lose money and you’re showing your donors you don’t care because you’re not paying attention to them.
One of your year-end fundraising goals may be to get new donors. That’s fine, but a better goal is to keep these donors. The retention rate for new donors is a dismal 23%. Put simply, over ¾’s of your new donors won’t donate again.
There are many reason donors don’t give a second gift – some you can control, some you can’t. One of the biggest reasons is poor or nonexistent donor communication. This is easy to fix, and if you put some time and effort into it, you can rise above other organizations who seem to like to ignore their donors.
Show some #donorlove by putting together a welcome plan for your new donors.
Start off with an extra special thank you Don’t send your new donors that tired old, generic thank you letter that doesn’t acknowledge that they’re new donors. You have to do more.Take Thanking Your Donors to the Next Level
Research by fundraising expert Penelope Burk says that first-time donors who receive a thank you call are more likely to donate again and give at a higher level the next year. Get together a group of board members, staff (especially your executive director), and volunteers to call your new donors or send them a handwritten thank you card. If you can’t make phone calls or send a handwritten card, send a thank you letter that specifically recognizes that someone is a new donor. You could also add a handwritten note to a thank you letter welcoming your new donor. *Make sure these are actually new donors. A good database will help you avoid any embarrassment.* Next, send a welcome package A week or two after the initial thank you, send a welcome package. You can do this by mail, email, or a combination of both. Welcome your new donors. Thank them again and show them other ways they can connect with you. Invite them to subscribe to your newsletter and join you on social media. Your welcome package can include a warm introductory message and a brochure or fact sheet. Send separate welcome packages to one-time donors and monthly donors. You could invite new one-time donors to become monthly donors. For monthly donors, send different messages to brand new donors and existing donors who’ve become monthly donors.
Who are your new donors? Get to know your new donors better. Include a short survey with your welcome package to find out how they heard about you, what issues are important to them, and if they prefer print or electronic communication. You could also direct people to your website for more information about your organization. Be careful about how much information you send. Donors want to feel welcome not overwhelmed. Give your donors the gift of appreciation and impact
I don’t recommend sending unsolicited swag. You could offer your new donors a gift and they can let you know if they want to receive it, but it’s not necessary. You want donors who care about your work, not getting a free tote bag. Instead of spending your resources securing premiums, invest in creating thank you cards or making a welcome video. What donors really want from you is to feel appreciated and know how they’re helping you make a difference. This is a year-round effort Don’t let the welcome package be the last time your donors hear from you until your next appeal. Use a communications calendarto help you plan to stay in touch throughout the year. The biggest hurdle you’ll face in donor giving is getting a second gift. Once donors make a second gift, they’re more likely to keep giving, although not always. Making your new donors feel welcome and staying in touch throughout the year will help you keep your donors for a long time. Here’s more information on the importance of treating new donors well. How to Get First Time Donors to Give Again
Did you ever get in touch with people who didn’t give to your year-end appeal? Before this year’s campaign, figure out who didn’t give a year ago, but has donated in the last two or three years. Send them a special targeted letter telling them you miss them and want them back.
Then make a plan do the same thing in January for anyone who didn’t give. Here you could follow up with a phone call or email. This could help you raise additional revenue.
A monthly or recurring giving program is a great way to raise more money. If you don’t have one, plan to promote monthly giving in your next campaign. To get more monthly donors, send a special targeted letter to current donors inviting them to become monthly donors.
Once someone has become a monthly donor, they should get their own appeal letter. One in which you thank them for being a monthly donor and politely ask them to increase their gift this year. Don’t send them a letter that asks for a one-time gift.
Other mistakesorganizations make with their monthly giving program are not paying attention if a donor’s gift expires and doing a poor job of thanking their monthly donors.
You’ll notice I’ve made several recommendations to segment your appeal letters. This shows your donors you know who they are and should help you raise more money.
Do a better job of thanking your donors
Most organizations don’t do a good job of thanking their donors. Perhaps they send a nice letter after they receive a donation, although that’s wishful thinking. But the donor love usually comes to a screeching halt after that.
Thanking donors is something you need to do throughout the year. Create a thank you plan to help you with this.
A few things you should do before your year-end campaign. Take a look at your current thank you letter. If it’s not gushing with gratitude, write a new one. This goes for your thank you landing page and email acknowledgment, too. Make sure your letter is ready to go at the same time you launch your appeal. Don’t treat it as an afterthought and send something a month after you receive a donation. You’ll get gold stars if you can throw handwritten cards and/or phone calls into the mix, too. Finally, send a special thank you sometime early this fall. This could be a handwritten note or a postcard with an update. Something by mail is best, but if that’s impossible, you could send email.
Stay in touch throughout the year
This is another problem area. Many organizations go AWOL unless they’re asking for donations. It’s Kind of Quiet Out There Some send newsletters and updates, but these are often boring and focused too much on how great the organization is.
The term donor-centered is pretty self-explanatory. It means focusing on your donors’ needs and interests, acknowledging them in your letters and other communication, and taking into account that not all donors are the same.
If it’s so obvious, then why are many nonprofits so bad at it? You see countless examples of generic, organization-centered communication that barely acknowledges the donor.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Before you send your next appeal, thank you letter, or newsletter, run it through this donor-centered checklist.
Is your fundraising appeal focused too much on your organization – rambling on about how great you are? Your organization may be great, but let your donors figure that out. Your donors are the ones who are great, and they want to hear how they can help you make a difference for the people/community you serve.
Is your appeal segmented to the appropriate audience? Thank past donors or reference your relationship to a potential donor. Maybe they’re event attendees, volunteers, or friends of board members.
Is your appeal addressed to a person and not Dear Friend?
Is your appeal vague, impersonal, and filled with jargon your donors won’t understand? Don’t say we’re helping underserved members of the community. A donor-centered appeal would say something like – With your support, we can help low-income families find affordable housing.
Does your appeal make people feel good about donating to your organization?
Thank you letters
Does your thank you letter come across as transactional and resemble a receipt? Yes, you need to acknowledge the donation is tax deductible, etc, but most donors are more concerned about how their gift made a difference.
Does your thank you letter (or better yet, a handwritten note) shower your donors with love? Start your letter with You’re amazing or Thanks to You!, and not On behalf of X organization.
Are you telling your donors the impact of their gift? For example – Thanks to your generous donation of $50, a local family can get a box of groceries at the Eastside Community Food Bank.
Do you recognize each donor? Is this the first time someone has donated? If someone donated before, did she increase her gift? Acknowledge this in your letter/note.
Does your newsletter sound self-promotional and focus on all the wonderful things your organization is doing instead of showing your donors how they’re helping you make a difference?
Does your newsletter include success stories, engaging photos, and other content your donors like to see?
Are you using the right channels? Perhaps you only send an e-newsletter, but some of your donors prefer print.
Are you showing gratitude to your donors in your newsletter?
Always think of your donors first
Use this checklist for other donor communication such as annual reports (these are rarely donor-centered), your website, and social media posts.
Make sure the messages you send to your donors focus on them and make them feel special. Staying donor-centered can help you build relationships. This is especially important as retention rates continue to plummet.
Read on for more information on the importance of being donor-centered.