Get Donors and Keep Them At Year End

| by Shannon Williams

The mad dash is on! Non-profit organizations far and wide are planning (and hopefully executing) their year-end giving strategies. In the craziness of the season, remember that donor retention is the key to successful fundraising organizations.

According to the AFP Fundraising Effectiveness Project, the national donor retention rate is 41%. That means that nearly 60% of your new donors in 2012, will not give again this year—6 out of 10.

I don’t want to be a downer, but it gets worse—the rate is much lower for donors who give less than $250. And we all know that many of our new donors give at lower levels. Should we give up??

NO! As brand new donors respond to your year-end appeal, your response to them is critical.

Penelope Burk of Cygnus Applied Research has told us for years that donors (according to her in-depth research) want to clearly understand the impact of their gifts to your organization. If you can articulate the impact in a timely fashion, donors are likely to make an additional gift—retaining their support of your organization.

So, when first time donors give at year end, send them a letter that articulates the impact of their gift. But employ your other stewardship tactics as well—ask board members to call first time donors to say thank you and share the impact of their gift; send a handwritten note (in addition to the regular acknowledgement letter); send a thank you from a beneficiary. Whatever applies best to your organization, use it. Don’t just save it for your big donors—use it with your brand new donors.

Bloomerang, a software company focused on donor retention, shows the impact of improving your overall donor retention rate from 41% to 51%. They demonstrate that if you start with 5,000 donors at an average gift of $200, AND you retain 51% of these donors each year for 10 years, your organization will realize nearly $500,000 in support that would have been lost without improved retention over the national average of 41%.

Donor retention really matters. So build it into your year-end giving strategies and all your acquisition strategies. It will pay off!

Want more information? I recently gave a presentation to AFP Triad members about donor retention, I am happy to share it with you or your group. Just let me know.

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