4 Ways to Increase Your Donor Retention

If you regularly attend fundraising seminars or read books on non-profit development, you’ve likely come across the notion that it is easier to keep a current donor than it is to find a new donor.

This means that if you raised $90,000 last year and need to raise $100,000 this year, it’s far easier to hit your goal when all of your donors from last year give again, and thus you only have to raise $10,000 in “new money” this year. If you lose donors from last year and have to raise $50,000 in “new money,” it will be a much harder task.

Keeping your current donors happy and engaged will lead them to continue giving year after year, as well as to increase their gifts over time. Here are four strategies you can use to build strong relationships with your current donors:

#1 – Cultivate in the Same Medium

One basic rule of thumb for donor cultivation is that you should always do some non-ask communications with donors in the same medium in which they will be solicited.

For example, if you are going to be asking for money by mail, be sure that your donors also get newsletters and other non-solicitation mailings throughout the year. Likewise, if you are going to be asking for money from a major donor face-to-face, be sure that you also have some donor cultivation meetings with him in between asks, just to build the relationship.

If you fail to follow this rule, donors will start to think of your communications the same way they think of sales literature – as something to be wary of. If the only e-mails a donor ever gets are asks, then they will start to delete your e-mails without reading them. On the other hand, if they get lots of great stories and resources from you by e-mail, they will look forward to reading what you send, including the occasional solicitation.

#2 – Let Donors Touch and Feel

It is important for donors to connect physically with your organization. By giving your donors sensory experiences like volunteer opportunities, tours of your facility, and small group meetings with your staff and other donors, you are cementing the relationships you have with your supporters.

The danger for non-profits that only communicate with their donors at arms-length (mail, e-mail, and the yearly large gala event) is that the donor will get excited about what you are doing, but then put your organization in the back of her mind, until she gets excited by another non-profit’s work. Keep your donors excited about your work by letting them touch and feel the good that you are doing and that they are funding.

#3 – Give Donors Other Ways to Be Heard

While your donors have proven that they are willing to support you through financial gifts to your organization, most people don’t like to be just another checkbook for your non-profit. They want to be heard in more ways than just making a donation.

Give your donors other ways to be heard. Send them surveys about the work of your non-profit. Set up advisory councils for different programs and initiatives. Pick up the phone and call your donors to ask them for their thoughts.

The more your donors see the organization as “their non-profit,” the more they will invest to support your work.

#4 – Keep it Mission Focused

Many non-profits keep their fundraising extremely mission focused during the prospecting phase, but become transactional once the first donation is made. These organizations spend lots of time talking about the importance and outcomes of their work when approaching a prospect for the first time, but once someone makes an initial gift, all of the communications thereafter become sponsorship levels, naming opportunities, gift renewals and board positions.

Donors get tired of hearing transactional details, but they rarely tire of hearing about your mission. There are only so many times a donor wants to know how many tickets they can get to your annual gala for $1,000 sponsorship… but they are almost always willing to hear about how their $1,000 gift saved eight children from starvation halfway across the globe.

While some transactional language is necessary in any donor relationship, the best way to keep donors engaged for a lifetime is to keep them constantly thinking about, hearing about, and funding your work and mission.

Photo Credit: banggoesanotherday