Posted Sep 2018
In the article here http://www.afpnet.org/ResourceCenter/ArticleDetail.cfm?ItemNumber=50009, details a small percentage increase overall from 2016 and an improvement in the donor retention rate from 2016, but the retention rate is still hovering around 45%. Retention is one of the hottest topics in fundraising, and it should be. So what can we do about it?
Fundraising success is rooted in relationship building with your donors. Today, much of the focus on poor retention centers on efforts around stewardship – that is, actions after the gift has been received. Stewardship has to be consistent, personable and periodically face-to-face for it to work best. Additionally, much of the retention struggle should focus on the effective cultivation efforts before the first gift is made and the entry point the donor used for your organization.
Long term relationships take time and require a proactive, consistent approach. Making a strong connection with a donor requires more listening and learning than simply “selling” your nonprofit’s mission. If a majority of your fundraising results are tied to your annual fund (mailing, email blasts) and special events, challenges will exist in establishing a strong connection prior to the gift. As an entry point, special events certainly bring prospects and donors into the fold of your organization, but don’t ignore the likelihood of these gifts not recurring the next year. Your retention rates are negatively impacted by a heavy reliance on special event fundraising and annual appeals.
Connectivity and participation with donors has to be a clearly defined expectation for your team and it has to be executed consistently across your development plan. Identifying meaningful ways for your donors to participate in your organization’s mission strengthens their connection and increases the likelihood of repeat gifts.
Does most of your fundraising revenue originate from special events and your annual fund? If so, re-focus and re-balance the contributed support scales. Your retention rate will increase if you spend more quality, relationship-building time with prospects and donors before they make a gift, and if you can acquire multi-year commitments with pledges and/or online giving. Yes, it is necessary to spend time to get to know potential donors without receiving a gift at your first meeting or two. In the long run, you will make lasting connections and identify more meaningful participation options for donors.
To become known, trusted and liked as a nonprofit requires proactive and consistent effort from everyone on the organization’s team. Establishing a Culture of Philanthropy doesn’t happen overnight, but in time your donor retention will improve!