Donor Retention

Give them a reason to keep giving

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Donor retention is just as important as volunteer retention. For sure it is more important to retain donors you already have than recruiting new ones. The reasons are simple:

  • If people have given to you before, they are likely to do it again.
  • They are already on board with what you do, so there is no need on your part to make an effort to convince them you and your cause are worthy of their money.
  • Your donors are also more likely to be volunteers, and the other way around.
  • People already invested in you and your cause are likely to recruit others as volunteers and/or donors.

For many organizations, the 80/20 rule applies when it comes to monetary support: 80% of your donations are going to come from 20% of your donors. However, if you are a smaller group or organization, this may not apply. You may be getting lots of small donations – many people, including foundations, like to give money to something that is already established, especially larger gifts.

The following tips for retaining donors apply to gifts of all sizes – just a little more to those having made a more sizable contribution.

Stay in Touch

Many people worry about “bugging” their donors, and inundating them with emails or information for no good reason is certainly not a good idea. If you are lucky, they will simply tune you out, but worst-case scenario is they unsubscribe from your communications and stop giving.

Instead, apart from the personal “thank you” note we mention in the section about donor recognition, bundle your updates:

  • Send a periodic newsletter. Such a newsletter can be a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly one – really, whatever time interval you fancy. You don’t have to make it a paper newsletter, it can be a simple text email or even a PDF, if you have the time. Feature the great work you do and the people you are helping.
  • Cultivate a blog. If you have followed our advice to set up your website on WordPress, it is very easy to write periodic posts on what you have been up to. Keep in mind, however, that a blog becomes a liability when it is not kept up-to-date; your website visitors want to see a page with regular, fresh updates.
  • Focus on social media and cross-posting. A newsletter is content you can reuse on Facebook and Twitter.

Invite Donors to Volunteer

It seems excessive to ask people who have already donated money to also donate their time. Yet, they have already¬† been “primed”, they are on board with what you do, and so they are more likely do volunteer for you as well. Just ask.

Honesty is the Best Policy

Something went wrong with a major event? A program you thought would take off has fizzled out? Be frank about it, self-reflect, and tell your donors what you plan to do better next time after analyzing what went wrong. They will respect you much more for it, and in a 24/7 communication cycle there is no hiding anyway.

Give Them Plenty of Opportunities to Help

This goes hand-in-hand with regular, but bundled updates. Always include some items for them to act on, and make it easy for them to do so. Include lists of requested items, an event calendar – whatever fits.