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6 Beliefs to Help Counteract the Donor Retention Problem

On average, today’s nonprofit loses 81% of their first-time donors.  

Once a donor makes a second gift, however, their likelihood of continuing as your donor in the future increases substantially. But how do you get that second gift and establish a healthy donor retention program?

Increasing donor loyalty can be as simple as developing beliefs and behaviors that put the donor first.

You can start by aligning your efforts with the following six beliefs:

1. The donor is always right

Some may argue that “the customer is always right” philosophy is flawed, however, when you approach your relationships with donors in this way, you’re showing the respect, appreciation, and care that any healthy relationship needs to thrive.

2. My primary goal is always to make my donors feel appreciated

You might be thinking, “I already say thank you to my donors and show adequate appreciation to them” – but, without this core belief, you could miss out on opportunities to show your appreciation in ways that will really stick with your donors and increase their loyalty to your cause.

3. Donors are part of our nonprofit family, so we should make them feel welcome

Consider how you interact with members of your family or friends that you’re very close with and that you appreciate.  Do you passively invite them to family get-togethers or do you make it a point to meet with or at least speak with them one-on-one to keep your connection alive and feel as though you’re really bonding?

It may not be plausible with every donor, but asking a handful of them out to coffee or lunch is a great way to further strengthen your personal connection.  Even if the get-together never happens, the invitation alone could make a significant impact on your relationship.

4. Our donors keep our organization alive, so I’m going to make sure our communications are donor-centered

When sending out communications, are you highlighting what your organization has accomplished or what your donors have made possible through your organization?

By putting the power in the hands of your donors, you’re pointing out that you NEED their support and that you wouldn’t be functioning the way you are today without them!

5. I value our donors, so I’m going to keep the lines of communication open and let them know how they’ve made an impact

It’s estimated that 8% of donors stop supporting a nonprofit because they don’t know how their donation money was spent. Emails, letters and phone calls of appreciation should always include a description of the impact the donor made.

Sure, donors know your mission statement and possibly selected from a set of donation tiers that allowed them to choose where their money was going, but sending an image of who or what they helped and/or an invitation to come see for themselves is all the more powerful.

6. I know that donors want to feel proud of the organizations they’re associated with, so I’m going to make sure we’re sharing information they’d be excited about

Over time, a donor’s relationship with an organization becomes less about what they’re giving to and more about how their relationship with you makes them feel.

According to Penelope Burke in her book, Donor-Centered Fundraising,

93% of donors would give a second gift to the same organization if they used donor-centered fundraising.

Do your donors feel a greater sense of purpose as a result of being identified with your organization?   Is the way you frame their contributions, how you show your appreciation, and how you involve them with your efforts conducive to a long-term relationship and repeated giving?

Going about your day, ask yourself if your retention strategy and the beliefs highlighted above are in alignment or if something needs to be adjusted.

An organization that functions from a philosophy of donor-centered awareness, communication, and appreciation is one with the best chance of donor retention.

Happy Fundraising!