Anatomy of a Committed Donor
Everyone acknowledges the significant issues with acquisition — namely costs going up, yields going down. There also are significant issues with retention — namely not enough of it. This really is two sides of the same coin: (1) the increasingly expensive-to-acquire donor coming in (2) has little motivation to stay.
The financial argument for trying to keep donors is well-known — it can cost up to 10 times as much to bring in a new donor as hold on to an existing one, and it takes, on average, 18 months for a new donor to cover the cost of acquisition.
If the problems of acquisition and retention are related and severe, and the financial imperative to fix them so clear, then why are the trend lines getting worse, not better? Why aren't more donors giving a second gift?
The answer lies in the reasons people donate. First, let's posit that no donor on the planet engages in altruistic acts. They all want something. That something may be very abstract and ephemeral (e.g., to simply feel good, to know they are making a difference), but nevertheless real. You ignore the "something" at your peril.
Your organization has, in all likelihood, delivered part of this "something" in order to get the first gift. It has even succeeded in establishing the tiniest modicum of trust since most donors never know if the money was well used. However, in most cases, as the retention data reflects, this first step is also the last. The nascent relationship is over.
That's right — the "R" word
No, not every donor wants a relationship; some simply make that first gift on a never-to-be repeated whim thanks to creative that struck a chord, lighting in a bottle or some other non-repeatable event. But many more donors do want that relationship. And as long as the cost to establish the relationship is less than the gain and it costs less than acquiring a new donor, why wouldn't you make it an organizational imperative to do so?