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Donor Retention—The Talk of The Town

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Though some of you may be thinking, “Retention? Enough Already!” (like this article from Fundraising Success Magazine), the truth is – it’s important, it’s a hot topic and it’s not going anywhere. So, you might as well make nice with donor retention and hone your skills. To help you scratch the donor retention itch, we’ve compiled this line-up of over 20 helpful tips, takeaways, to-do’s and tactics—all revolving around your favorite issue! 

What Nonprofits Can Learn About Donor Retention from David Letterman (Clairification) – Two things we know about David Letterman: he doesn’t “do social media”, and his late-night TV series is soon coming to a close—coincidence? Claire Axelrad, J.D., CFRE, thinks not. If your nonprofit is not on social media the way Letterman’s not on social media—well, let’s hope you don’t go off the air with Letterman. Social media is the thing for retaining donors—to retain them you’ve got to be where they are!

Where’s the Acquisition Variable in the Retention Equation? (AvalonConsulting) – Interesting concept—if you put some retention techniques into play while you’re acquiring your new donors, you may not have to do as much work to keep them once you have them. Most donor retention tips tell you how to keep a donor once you have them – but what if you started working your retention angle while you were reeling them in from the start? They’d be more inclined to stay for the long-haul.

De-Think Your Way To Great Donor Retention (Newsci) – For the past ten years we have been talking about the same techniques to improve donor retention, but still the retention rate declines. Maybe it’s time that we think differently about how to retain donors instead of resorting to “old faithful”—which doesn’t seem to work that faithfully.

One Thing Most Nonprofits Stink at (Donor Retention) and How You Can Change It in 2014 (npENGAGE) – At the pace we’re declining, average retention rates could end up below 20 percent within the next 10 years—shocking, and scary, right? On the bright-side, Adrian Sargeant says that a 10 percent increase in donor retention can increase the lifetime value of your donor database by 200 percent! These 13 tips from experts in the field can get you well on your way to that 10 percent increase in no time.

Keep Them Coming Back: Using Video to Increase Donor Retention (CharityInfo) – A donor knows why they give the first time around, but then the excitement and drive to give fades over time. A surefire way to help them remember why they gave in the first place (and why they should continue giving) is to keep them engaged with videos that show proof of their donation’s good work. There are four types of videos that can keep your donor engaged – and retained!

How charity: water Increases Donor Retention with Continuous Communication (inotforprofit) – You may think that donors don’t want the constant communication—but when it comes to their hard-earned money, they’d like to know what you’re doing with it once they hand it over to you. Keeping them in the loop keeps them interested in the project, and ultimately keeps them coming back to give again. Report out to your donors the same way you would report out to your board. Take a cue from charity: water’s “Dollars to Projects” strategy.

3 Fundraising Experts Sounds off on Donor Retention from the Donors’ Perspective (npENGAGE) – Think about your own experience as a donor—sometimes we’re so concentrated on being fundraisers that we forget that we, too, are donors. As a donor, think of your previous giving experiences and the responses (or lack thereof) that you received from the charity you gave to. Were you pleased? Appalled? Learn what to (and not to) do by being a donor yourself—it may help you retain the next donor that gives to your organization.

A Guide to Donor Retention (Bloomerang) – Have you ever actually sat down and calculated your donor retention rate? You should try it (this article offers a calculator for you). It could help you see and understand how much you really depend on retaining donors. This eye-opening article will show you the timeline of your donor retention rate, and how quickly it can decline over five years. The process is a scary truth, but one that will kick your retention efforts into high-gear.

9 Underutilized Emails That Improve Donor Retention (AFundraisersFriend) – Nonprofits didn’t list donor retention as one of the top three communication goals for 2014—instead they are concentrating on acquiring new donors. But, riddle me this: if you retained your current donors, would you have to concentrate as much on acquiring new donors? Instead of using email to make an ‘ask’ of new donors, use it to report back to current donors and build relationships so they’re more easily retained.

Donor Retention Math Made Simple (NonprofitHub) – The reason that donor retention is ‘the bees knees’ should be a “duh”—the proof is in the pudding, right? But just in case you need statistics to back it up—for, say, a presentation to your CEO or board—this breakdown will help you show the real worth, including 10 factors that will make your case even more powerful.

Donor Retention: It’s Not Just A Problem In The United States (Business2Community) – Wherever you are, you’re not alone. During a visit to the AFP Bermuda Chapter, Jay Love was halted in his presentation to foster an ongoing discussion revolved around one slide in particular—donor retention rates. Donor retention isn’t confined to the U.S., but instead it’s a worldwide problem. However, others might be handling it better than the U.S.—a Bloomerang customer in the Bahamas shared that their fundraising staff has an unheard-of donor retention rate of 76 percent. What’s their secret?!

6 Steps You Can Take Today to Improve Your Donor Retention (FiredUpFundraising) – Sometimes you just need a refresher of the basics—the things you know you should be doing but they got pushed by the wayside. These six donor retention tasks can easily be incorporated into your schedule, and the ROI will be every bit worth it.

7 Ways to Make 2014 the Year of the Donor (NonprofitMarketingBlog) – Donor retention ultimately comes down to one thing: the donor. It’s their money, their decision, their move. So then, shouldn’t your efforts in retaining them revolve completely around THEM? Thought so. These seven tips will help keep you donor-centric, so they stay donors, period.

Donor Retention—Current Rates are Plummeting! What Every Fundraiser Can Do to Reverse the Trend (Slideshare) – The reality is, donor retention is down, but that can quickly become a thing of the past if you understand WHY it happened and refocus your efforts to fix it. From the ‘why’, to the approach, to the commitment and beyond—this slideshare will take you down a donor retention path. Go ahead—follow the yellow brick road to the Emerald City where donors are retained.

Sample Timeline for New Donor Retention (LoriJacob) – There are seven stages of a donor retention timeline: unaware, aware, interest, experience, knowledge, participation, and ownership and significant relationship. But what stage goes at which point of the engagement of a new donor, and how closely after does the next stage follow. And where do I start!? Deep breaths—this one-pager gives a timeline that breaks it all down for you, including a corresponding communication plan! Feel better?

Resources for Your Road to Retention

Itching for more involved resources on donor retention? As if the endless (and almost daily) articles on donor retention aren’t enough, the following will help you dig further into the weeds:

  • AFP’s Fundraising Effectiveness Project (FEP) concentrates on the growth in giving—the “effectiveness” (maximizing growth in giving), not the “efficiency” (minimizing costs) of giving. The FEP allows nonprofits to measure and evaluate their fundraising programs (like donor retention) against a set of over 100 performance indicators by five giving levels.
  • AFP's Donor Relations/Stewardship Hot Topic Page collects everything AFP has to offer on this topic in one convenient place!
  • AFP Planning to Keep Your Donors Workshop is exactly what it sounds like—a workshop to help your organization develop a donor retention plan based on what research indicates really works. The workshop is based on data collected via the FEP, which shows that nonprofits are losing nearly as many donors and gifts as they gain each year. This four-hour workshop can be hosted by your chapter or organization, and in addition to learning how to work on a fictional case study based on real donor retention data, your attendees will also earn 4.0 points of CFRE Credit in Category 1.B – Education.
  • AFP Webinars offer several presentations on donor retention, including Building Donor Loyalty: How to Double Your Major Gift Revenue with Rachel Muir, CFRE, on July 22 at 1 p.m. EDT. Not surprising, Rachel says the key to a successful major gift program is, yep, you guessed it—donor retention. You’ll also want to tune in to a webinar with Erik Daubert, MBA, ACFRE, on Nov. 18 at 1 p.m. EDT, where he’ll discuss the latest findings from the FEP. Erik’s webinar, appropriately named Growth in Giving/Fundraising Effectiveness Program, will help you understand donor and gift retention and how to utilize that information to change the behavior of you and your donor to ultimately raise more money and retain more donors.
  • And if you just can’t wait for the next release of the FEP, or hold off for a Planning to Keep Your Donors Workshop near you, or the next webinars on donor retention, you can get your fix now with AFP Conference Recordings. These recordings, taken live from the AFP International Conference, are offered as mP3 downloads that you can listen to on your computer or even on the go from your iPod. Each recording is synced with the PowerPoint that accompanies the session (where applicable). The Donor Relations/Stewardship track offers over 40 recorded sessions – many of which revolve around donor retention. You can purchase the entire track or customize your order with individual sessions. Order today and start listening to subject matter experts such as Frank Barry, Shannon Doolittle, Pamela Grow, Rachel Muir, Sandy Rees, Rosemary Oliver, Leah Eustace, Scott Fortnum, Harvey McKinnon, Daryl Upsall and so many more! 

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