Donor Retention: What You Need to Know & Why You Should Care

Tim Sarrantonio

Missed our webinar on donor retention with Neon One consultant Mary Cahalane? Not to worry. Check out the recording of the webinar below.

You can also download Mary’s slides here and see some additional resources related to the webinar. In that end of year rush and can’t commit to watching the full webinar now? Here’s a recap of what you missed.

Donor retention matters

The ability for your organization to hold onto donors that have given to you before is absolutely vital for the long term health of your organization. Some important statistics regarding retention that Mary brought to light are:

  • 80% of donors are lost between the first and second gifts
  • A 10% decrease in attrition = 200% increase in the lifetime value of your database
  • It costs 5-7 times more to acquire a donor than it does to keep one

Need a primer of the details of retention, attrition, and other vital nonprofit benchmarks? Then check out our recent post by our CEO Jeff Gordy on keeping a pulse on your organization’s health.

Loyalty drivers for donor retention

There are four key indicators that can highlight whether your organization is practicing solid donor retention practices, which are drawn from the research of Professor Adrian Sargeant. These are:

  • Satisfaction – are you approaching donors with a customer service point of view?
  • Identification – do your donors think of themselves as donors to your mission?
  • Trust – can you demonstrate that you are worthy of their trust?
  • Commitment – are you in it for the long haul?

Why are donors leaving you?

Donors stop supporting your mission for a variety of reasons. Some of these may be within your control while others are outside of it.

There may be major life changes that occurred in the donor’s life that affect their ability to give to you, such as the birth or death of someone in their family. Other times it may be that the donor identifies not with your organization but the cause you represent, which means that they are not necessarily loyal to your organization.

The item that you have the most control over however is if they have poor interactions with your nonprofit. As we learned from our Retention Wednesday webinar with Neon One partner Double the Donation, 53% of donors cite poor communication as the reason they no longer want to support your organization.

What can you do to create loyal donors?

There are several items that you can implement quickly as well as plan for long term adoption to create loyal donors.

  • Create a culture of philanthropy in your organization for both donors and staff
  • Making an ask is not enough, your organization must be consistently thanking donors
  • Focus asks on what the donor can change, not your need for money
  • Make asks personalized and specific
  • Tell your donors what they have accomplished by giving

There are other long term strategies your organization can implement as well, such as:

  • Ensuring that you measure your impact with either built in tools within your CRM or with outside resources such as Neon One partner Fundraising Report Card
  • Ask for a second gift sooner rather than later — that second gift increases donor retention rate to 63%
  • Prioritize a monthly gift program, which has a retention rate of 60 – 80%!
  • Ask for feedback by creating donor surveys

Donor surveys are something that can be done online, through the mail, or over the phone. Overall asking for feedback from donors is vital to understand why they continue to give to you as well as to help identify gaps where you may be failing in communicating to them.

Retention is hard but is absolutely vital to maintaining your organization’s growth. By demonstrating your value to your donor base, you will be able to build trust and ensure that your mission isn’t seen as something replaceable by your supporters. Donors have many choices, so do your best to communicate your unique value and watch your retention rates rise.

It's not too late! Optimize your year-end fundraising campaign with our free guide.

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