The Donor Retention Project

I recently received my copy of 90 Days to Larger Gifts and Lifetime Donors, aka The Donor Retention Project and knew right away I wanted to start a series highlighting my learnings.  I like doing this because it ensures interesting articles for MJA Resources readers, but also because it reminds me to listen for the less obvious advice from these esteemed fundraising professionals.  The nuggets that can improve one of our reader’s campaigns or turnaround thinking about what once worked for an organization but now needs refreshing.

I can’t share every idea from the thirty-minute interviews or action guides, but I hope you get some fresh ideas to mull over.

Week 1 – Adrian Sargeant

Most of you have heard the common theories on donor retention.

  • It’s five times harder for your nonprofit to find a new donor than retain a previous giver.
  • Be donor-centric.
  • Monthly giving is better than one time giving to an annual fund.

Adrian Sargeant, the Robert F. Hartsook Professor of Fundraising at Indiana University is fascinated by statistics (his action guide includes seven and a half pages of sources) and how these facts can be catalysts for change.

Here are three of the many theories that are fundamentally game changing from his conversation with Marc A. Pitman, the Fundraising Coach:

  1. In the US, on average, we lose 70% of donors between the first and second donation.  If that is the average, does that mean that some organizations are losing 80% or more?  Do you know what your organization’s retention rate after an initial gift is? Do you know what you can do to change your current rate?
  2. Monthly (aka sustaining) donors are worth 600 to 700 times as much over time than an annual donor who gives by cash or check.  Wow—that makes encouraging monthly giving programs a bit higher priority, doesn’t it?
    • Note: If you are considering your database to strengthen or expand your donor pool, focus on the characteristics of monthly donors.  At what point in their relationship to they become monthly donors?  Is there a certain period of time that more sustaining donors stop giving?  What are their demographics and where can you find similar people?
  3. Many nonprofits have changed their language to be more inclusive.  It is pretty common to read letters that include, “We at Organization ABC have done this, that and the other thing thanks to generous donors like you.”  But what if you turned around that phrasing.  “You, Jane Smith, have achieved this, that and the other thing this year.”  You couldn’t have done what you do without the donors.  By putting the donor first and not the accomplishments of your agency, “the donors are the achievers.” That is a winning idea that will enhance donor retention.

If you are interested in learning more about Adrian Sargeant’s piece for 90 Days to Larger Gifts and Lifetime Donors or reading ahead on what you will learn from my series, Click Here to purchase your copy today.