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The Keys To Donor Retention

There’s one often-overlooked aspect of fundraising that actually can bring you a big return on investment. Study after study shows this is the closest thing to a fundraising silver bullet.

I’m talking about donor retention.

What is donor retention?

If you’ve been involved in non-profit fundraising for any length of time, you’ve probably heard the words “donor retention.” It simply means keeping donors.

Your donor retention rate is the percentage of people who donate to your organization again. So, if 100 people donated to your organization last year, and 60 of them donate this year, then your annualized donor retention rate is 60%. The national average is, according to a recent national study, is 48%. How do you compare?

Here are some things you can do to take immediate action to increase your donor retention rate. 

1. Focus. The first step in improving your donor retention levels is making a conscious choice to focus on it. In short, you’ve got to decide it’s important enough to keep it a priority in the face of countless other priorities.

2. Knowledge. Getting to know your donors as individuals is absolutely key to keeping them engaged over a long period of time. So don’t rely on mass emails and form letters, be willing to make personal phone calls, have coffee for no reason in particular and get to know people on a personal level.

3. Relationship. Getting to know your donors opens the door to having a relationship with them. Your donor is not your database – he or she is a unique individual.   You’ve got to be there for them if you want them to be there for you. That’s how any relationship works. The key to donor loyalty is being loyal to your donors!

4. Appreciation. Any donor retention strategy should be built on thankfulness. Phone calls, thank you notes and public appreciation are not only helpful to keeping people engaged, they are just good things to do. Thank your existing donors constantly using all means at your disposal. How aggressive should you be here? John Lepp says: Say thanks until your donors tell you to stop.

5. Communication. A good donor retention strategy is intentional, not just responsive. That means you can build the strategy in advance and execute it throughout the year. When you send letters and emails, make sure you fill it with stories and pictures. That does far more to keep people engaged than plain information. Stats may inform your donors, but the stories you tell will inspire them.

Action Steps

  • Make a personal phone call.

  • Have coffee for no reason in particular.

  • Get to know people on a personal level.

  • Keep saying “Thanks!”


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