A Realistic Look at Annual Funds
- Set a retention goal, and track it progressively. It’s not enough to know that you’re building toward 73 percent retention over time — you need to know that you retained 73 percent of those LYBNTS you contacted this week, next week and so on.
- Set retention goals, and work on them throughout the year. This positions the program to manage finite resources for the most important results. Many programs make a decision to limit the number of “attempts,” and they set this number for the entire pool. Essentially this amounts to a decision that LYBNTs are no more valuable than recalcitrant nondonors. Conserve resources for investment in your most important prospects.
- To manage retention you need to understand loyalty. Asking for an increase every year is insensitive and unresponsive to loyalty. Spend some time differentiating the message. This is more than varying the ask amount or the salutation.
New donors don’t have loyalty. They gave spontaneously. (Most annual giving is simply transactional.) You need to help new donors interpret and internalize what they did. For this you need a new-donor program. And this should start with the acknowledgment of that first gift and be reiterated in the next solicitation. Pushing them to increase before they understand what their decision to give really means risks sending the message that their new gift was just not quite good enough. Weigh the risks — when you push you can push them up or out. We know which is better, but do we know which is more likely?
Newly increased gifts deserve a new-level program. Many of the same ideas apply. A new level of giving may require interpretation, and you may need to allow the donor to get used to it.
3. Recognize that there will be some attrition. People die, their circumstances change, they find new causes, etc. Build a plan to focus on compensating for it. Better programs experience retention rates in the high 70 percent range. That means even the best experience attrition of 20+ percent. Instead of looking simply at acquisition, look first and more precisely at reacquisition. SYBNTs (Some Year But Not This) are generally closer than never-givers. And, some SYBNTs are closer than other SYBNTs.