Donor Recognition: The Real Key to Retention
Ever since the economy began to bottom out five years ago, the focus of the nonprofit fundraising world has been on donor retention. That’s not to say retention was on the back burner in years and decades prior. It’s always been integral to fundraising success. But with acquisition budgets getting routinely slashed and competition for donors’ attention reaching all-time highs, retention seems to be the biggest focal point for fundraisers from organizations of all missions and sizes.
Yet, fundraisers continue to struggle with donor retention. In fact, one reference point that Bill Sayre, president of full-service direct-response marketing company Merkle Response Management Group, likes to point out is “according to Chuck Longfield, senior vice president and chief scientist at [nonprofit technology provider] Blackbaud, three out of every four donors stop donating at the end of their first year.”
So what’s a fundraising department to do? How can you reverse this trend and retain more donors to fill your housefile with loyal supporters?
“The simple truth is that donor acknowledgment and donor recognition is the key to retention,” Sayre says. “There have been a number of studies done and statistics on if you properly recognize/thank donors, your ability to retain them is greatly improved.”
If donor acknowledgment is the key to retention, what are the keys to donor acknowledgment and recognition?
Respect thy donor
The most important thing fundraisers can do to retain donors and acknowledge them appropriately is to respect them and their wishes. If you can’t do something as simple as communicate with them in the channels they prefer, how can you expect them to remain loyal donors — particularly when it’s so easy in this day and age to find another organization and cause to support?
“The first thing we emphasize is to make sure the nonprofit is respecting the channel choices of the donor,” Sayre says. “We all have the ability to do a traditional paper, printed thank-you, a thank-you call, an online thank-you. You have to make sure where the donor has stated a preference that you’re honoring that. The reality is that we still probably do most of our thank-yous via mail, but I think it’s going to continue to shift and there’ll be more of a presence moving forward online as the younger donor base ramps up.”