Retention matters! Here's how to do it well.

Posted by Mary Badovinac on Jul 27, 2016 11:13:37 AM

money-652560_12801-1.jpg Turn one-time donations into long-term relationships.

You’ve worked hard to acquire new donors. It cost you time and money to attract them. Now that they’ve donated, how do keep them engaged and donating for the long term?

Follow these tips.

Say thank you

Thanking donors for their gifts is critical, so be sure to express your appreciation as soon as possible. Ideally, your thank you letter should reach a donor within a month. Sending a thank you three months after the date of their gift is not nearly as effective. And if you fail to say thank you at all, you might as well be saying goodbye.  

When you do send the letter, be as specific as possible and directly reference their gift. So instead of writing "Thank you for your gift,” try something like “We are grateful for your gift of $40 on May 21, 2016.” Also, if their gift is tax deductible, remind them of that, and always enclose a reply envelope to give them the opportunity to donate again.

Keep in touch

All donors need nurturing, but especially new ones. Everyone likes to be remembered and appreciated. It’s also a great opportunity to let them know what you’re doing, the progress your organization is making, the obstacles you’re currently facing, and other important details that keep them informed. And while you have their attention, ask for another donation.

Be sure to measure retention efforts

I often ask affiliates who work with DRG on acquisition what their donor retention rate is. Specifically, I ask what percentage of donors are still donating one year after their first gift. Some affiliates know the answer. But many don’t. This is a problem that can negatively affect your overall retention rates.

According to the 2015 Nonproft Communications Trends ReportNonproft Communications Trends Report donor retention has jumped ahead of donor acquisition as a major communications goal. In fact, it jumped from 4th place to 2nd place in the list. Today, 53% of nonprofits now rate donor retention as a top goal. And they are correct to do so. 

But this is good news! Why? Because the ROI on fundraising efforts to donor names far exceeds the ROI on acquisition. Plus, it means that the affiliate is measuring response rates to their appeals and paying attention to donors, both old and new.

So be sure to keep in touch with your donors. It can make the difference between a one-time donation and a long-term relationship.

Topics: Fundraising, Nonprofits

Mary Badovinac

Written by Mary Badovinac

Mary has more than 30 years of direct mail experience including lead generation, membership programs, and customer acquisition. She has worked with Planned Parenthood affiliates across the U.S. on a wide variety of programs since 1988.