A Loyal Donor is a Retained Donor
Donor retention boils down to loyalty.
“If you have a loyal constituent, you are able to retain them,” Blackbaud enterprise solutions engineer Samantha Cohen said at a Blackbaud Delivers event about donor retention held last week in Philadelphia.
“A donor will talk about a hospital, a symphony, an animal-rescue organization that they support. A loyal donor will talk about my hospital, my symphony or my animal-rescue mission,” she said. “That my is a shift to loyalty. They are emotionally invested in that institution.”
Every nonprofit should be striving for loyal donors, Cohen said. Organizations can achieve this by building relationships with donors and showing them the benefits of their contributions. A good start is to understand the difference between retention and loyalty.
When a constituent is loyal, Cohen explained, they have a multifaceted relationship with an institution. In addition to donating, they also might volunteer or interact in other ways.
According to Cohen, one simple way to promote loyalty is to send a letter of recognition. Another inexpensive way is to draw attention to donors who have given consistently for a number of years. For example, when putting out an e-newsletter that includes a list of donors, Cohen suggested, put the names of those who have given for five or more years in italics — regardless of how much that donor has given each year. Research has shown that 70 percent of all planned gifts come from those who have given less than $1,000 a year, Cohen said, adding, “It’s not just about dollar amounts, it’s about longevity.”
Cohen said organizations also need to market their fundraising programs and give donors a chance to “plan their philanthropy.”
Marketing fundraising efforts creates excitement, shares information on programs that donors are supporting and tells a story about those being helped by contributions.
Cohen suggested explaining fundraising efforts in the annual report, outlining all of the programs the organization will need help with throughout the year. This gives donors a chance to determine what programs they want to support, how much they want to give and how often. Knowing what organizations need ahead of time might help donors decide whether they want to give once or a few times throughout the year.
Cohen said good planning will build awareness and enhance involvement, adding, “Donors give more often and larger amounts when they can plan their philanthropy.”
“‘Crisis fundraising’ prompts immediate giving, but average donations are smaller and overall annual contributions remain static,” she added. “Impulsive donations are like impulse buying and create a quick high rather than deeper contentment.”
Loyalty programs also are important.
Organizations should think of loyalty programs as a way to bring constituents closer. Cohen says a great way to reward a donor is to include her in monthly conference calls. She suggests inviting donors to call in and sit in on a conversation with an organization’s executive director or a person who is running a particular program.
It gives donors a chance to hear about the nonprofit’s accomplishments and to ask questions. Cohen said she knows of one organization that did this and saw a 22 percent gift increase in the first six months.
Another good way to recognize loyal donors is to profile them in one of your communications. Cohen said it is especially important to profile someone who has given $25 or $50 donations per year over a long period of time.
“This is very relatable,” Cohen says. “Someone looks at this and thinks, ‘That’s me. I do this.’”