For the past decade, donor-retention rates have been sinking. Today, they’re at an all-time low. According to studies by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), every $100 raised from new donors is offset by $100 in losses because of attrition. All this despite the facts:
- Organizations have a 60 percent to 70 percent chance of obtaining additional gifts from an existing donor.
- A 20 percent to 40 percent chance of obtaining an additional gift from a recently lapsed donor.
- But less than a 2 percent chance of obtaining a gift from a prospective donor.
So one thing should be blindingly obvious. The bulk of your fundraising expenditures should be aimed at holding onto and building relationships with existing donors, not in acquiring new ones.
Are there primary reasons why donors stop giving? Yes, I detail them at length in my book Retention Fundraising. In short the main reasons are:
- Failure to properly thank and involve donors.
- Failure to place the focus of communications on the donor, rather than the organization.
- Failure to be consistent, both in message and in service delivery to the donor.
Organizations that brag about themselves and ignore donors will ultimately fail. Yet it’s surprising how many organizations simply don’t understand this.
Are there any easy, inexpensive steps we can take to hold onto our donors? Surprisingly, there are. The three that come to mind quickest are:
- Say Thanks. You don’t have much competition here. Our research shows that more than 60 percent of all nonprofits thank their donors impersonally, slowly, or not at all.
- Be Consistent. If you’re consistent with your message you build trust. To a donor who gives money for feeding the hungry, switching the thank you to all the great stuff you’re doing in the area of social justice is joltingly inconsistent, and you’re likely to lose the donor.
- Be Reliable. Just as in personal relationships, reliability is essential. If a donor calls your service center with a question or a request for an address change and is met with a rude or unknowledgeable representative, you’re on your way to losing that donor. Don’t stint on donor service. It’s the best investment you can make.
This blog posting is an extract from an article by Roger Craver that GuideStar published in September 2014. Mr. Craver is the author of the new book “Retention Fundraising: The New Art and Science of Keeping Donors for Life”
Author: Bob Cryer, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org