3 Simple Steps to Donor Retention
Now that the flurry of end-of-year donations has died down, you can finally sit back and relax, reveling in the stupendous increase of individual gifts your scathingly brilliant direct-mail and e-mail campaigns brought in over the last several weeks of the year, right?
Donor attrition rates are notoriously abysmal for nonprofit organizations, with many surveys pointing out that for every $6 charities raise in new gifts, they lose $5 through donor attrition. Can your organization afford such losses?
The last thing you want to do right now is rest on your laurels. Give your donors, both new and loyal, the tender, loving care they deserve, and watch them return year after year.
How? Small nonprofit organizations often have a tendency to focus more on their lack of resources than solutions and opportunities, when often their small size can actually prove to be an advantage. If you're at the helm of a one-person development and marketing shop, your day-to-day tasks probably seem overwhelming.
Take these steps now to seal some of those money leaks:
1. Create …
… a stewardship plan, one that includes sample thank-you letters for any eventuality (annual fund, monthly giving, in memoriam, foundation grants, etc.), as well as regular updates to all of your correspondence. How will you thank your donors via social media? Write it down! How can you involve your board in thanking donors? One organization I work with scheduled a brief "thank-you letter intermission" during its annual meeting. Board members were given note cards, names, gift amounts, sample scripts and asked to pen their own handwritten thank-you notes.
2. Schedule …
… a minimum of 30 minutes a day twice a week (preferably daily) to phone donors and thank them. Don't make the mistake of limiting your calls to only your largest givers — run a report of your most loyal donors. That "$50 a year every year for the past 12 years" donor easily could segue into a $10 a month/$120 a year monthly giver — or leave a substantial bequest.
3. Update …
… your organization's thank-you letters. We're all only too familiar with the annual "mystery donor" reports where a firm or individual sends anywhere from 10 to 20 gifts to a variety of nonprofit organizations to gauge the (usually meager) return on thank-you letters. Missing in the equation, however, is the quality of the thank-you. Does it inspire? Bring about a flicker of emotion — be it a smile or a tear? Does it make the reader read beyond the first paragraph before tossing the letter in with her tax receipts? Chances are probably none of the above.
Think of your thank-you letters as donor-retention letters, and check out the following articles to learn more about crafting the perfect thank-you note:
- SOFII's famous "Thank-You Letter Clinic"
- "Does Your Organization's Thank You Letter Suck?"
- "How hopeFound says 'Thank You' (And how they can help you say thank you too)"
Your organization's thank-you letter is not an afterthought but rather one of your most powerful tools in true donor cultivation. Spend some time on expressing your gratitude, and you'll discover that even a small change in donor retention could be worth some big dollars. FS
Pamela Grow is the publisher of The Grow Report, the author of Simple Development Systems and the founder of Simple Development Systems: The Membership Program and Basics & More fundraising fundamentals e-courses. She has been helping small nonprofits raise dramatically more money for over 15 years, and was named one of the 50 Most Influential Fundraisers by Civil Society magazine, and one of the 40 Most Effective Fundraising Consultants by The Michael Chatman Giving Show.