Dealing With the Dreaded 'A' Word
Of course, it could be nothing you are doing. Your biggest attrition problem could just be donor fatigue. So look for patterns. Is there a point in time when donors are more likely to stop giving? If so, you have a great opportunity to change this by giving them an extra dose of appreciation at that point.
For example, I received in the mail last week a special package welcoming me into a nonprofit’s faithful donor’s club. I’m not a major donor, but I have given to the organization every year for the last four years. Quite possibly, it has found that giving donors like me this extra “touch” after four years re-energizes them to keep giving the fifth year, sixth year, and on and on. I developed a similar program several years ago to honor donors after giving for three consecutive years; the result was a major turnaround in the attrition rate of three-year donors (which was our “leak”).
Depending on your donor file composition, you could consider a thank-you call after a certain amount of time, a small premium or another appropriate strategy. Monitor the results to see if it reduces attrition, and stop it if it isn’t making a positive difference.
When you recapture a donor who has not given for a year or more, consider a special receipt letter that welcomes her back, lets her know you have missed her partnership and invites her to call in if she has any questions. Reactivating a donor only so he lapses again in a year is costly, so be sure he knows how valued he is by your organization.
Of course, you’ll never completely end attrition, since donors do age and pass away. That’s why it is important to remind your donors about remembering your organization in their estate plans. This may be an attractive opportunity for a donor who has had to stop giving because of a fixed income, so promote this in your newsletter.