Retention, Retention, Retention

| by Shannon Williams
The Word for 2016 is…?          

Retention, Retention, Retention 

Again this year individuals and organizations are eschewing the tradition of a new year’s resolution and choosing a single word to guide their year. Gratitude, Joy, Presence, and Focus are some of the headliners in talking to folks and reading countless posts about 2016’s “word of the year”. For non-profit fundraisers this year’s word must be RETENTION. 

If you have yet to get onboard the donor retention train, there is no doubt that your fundraising program is moving in the wrong direction. Retention is the key to long-term fundraising success. Period.  

Study after study has proven that without multi-year retention, the cost of donor acquisition is a losing proposition in most cases. And yet, year after year organizations watch about 70% of first time donors come and go on an annual basis—without trying new strategies. 

If 2016 is the year of retention for your organization, then you must try some new tactics. Here are three simple things to focus on as you kick-off the New Year: 

  1. You can’t improve what you don’t measure.  Calculate your donor retention rate. You can’t set a goal to improve it if you don’t know what it is. Need help; visit Bloomerang, a leading donor software company whose core purpose is to “improve donor retention in the non-profit world.” 
  2. Show them every donor makes a difference.  Create first-time donor protocols regardless of giving amount. EVERY first time donor should receive a vibrant thank you (note, letter, email, video, etc.) within two days (or sooner if electronic) of the time of the gift. Perhaps consider a donor welcome packet following the initial thank you. A couple weeks later, ask a board member to call and thank them. Be sure to add them to your e-news list and keep them informed of the impact of their gifts. Let all new donors know that their gifts are appreciated AND are making a real impact whether they are at the top of the giving chart or the bottom. 
  3. Focus all your fundraising strategies on relationship building. With every communication, event, meeting, ask yourself how will this activity help our organization build relationships with donors or prospects? If you are not sure, then you must either strengthen your game plan for the activity or scrap it. Strong relationships with donors at all levels yield strong retention. If you are not reviewing every fundraising strategy through relationship-colored glasses, you will not hit your retention goal. 

Need more suggestions? Check out this article from Frank Barry at Blackbaud. Let’s commit to making progress on donor retention in 2016 and plan to focus on a new challenge next year. 

Onward!

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