Tips to Retaining Different Kinds of Donors
Donor retention is a huge issue for every nonprofit organization. Given the cost of acquisition of individual donors — not to mention major donors — it’s important that organizations properly steward current donors so that they’ll feel compelled to continue giving.
This is the focus of the book “Building Donor Loyalty: The Fundraiser’s Guide to Increasing Lifetime Value,” by Adrian Sargeant and Elaine Jay. In order to succeed in retaining donors, Sargeant and Jay advise that organizations proactively plan their retention strategies, which “involves far more than simply devising the communications that donors will receive” (Page 171). What kind of relationship will your organization have with each group of donors? How will you deliver and deepen these relationships over time?
Sargeant and Jay recommend different retention strategies depending on the method by which a donor gives. Monthly givers, regular givers and single-gift givers, for example, should be treated differently from one another.
* Major donors. These retention programs often are carried out by specially selected staff, board members or volunteers who have a personal relationship with the donor. They should receive a personal level of stewardship and recognition that involves face-to-face contact. Donor involvement is key.
“Occasionally the same event invitations, feedback vehicles and special appeals may be sent to major givers and to lower-level donors, but major givers generally receive an enhanced or more highly personalized version of the package,” the authors write (Page 87).
* High-value donors. These typically are donors who have given above the average gift levels but are not considered major givers. Sargeant and Jay recommend a retention program that “educates them about the cause and guides them toward a planned or major gift.” Focus on areas in which they’ve shown an interest, invite them to events, and send them courtesy and feedback mailings.
“Appeal packets should have a higher production value than the standard and may include additional items,” the authors write, adding that “all communications should be personalized, should refer to the previous giving history of the donor and should recognize the value of the previous contributions” (Page 88).
* Low-value donors. Make sure you’re not investing more in this group than is warranted given the level of gifts you expect from them over time. But the authors advise that they not be neglected, as “sizable bequests can come from donors who have given little during their lifetimes.”
Maintain enough of a relationship with them that you retain their loyalty while obtaining a positive ROI. Send them a limited number of appeals and updates each year and urge them to “convert their giving to a regular commitment in order to reduce administration and retention costs.”
* Planned-giving donors. Develop regular feedback, updates and courtesy communications, such as invitations to special events, with these donors and avoid excessive requests for additional donations from them.
“These individuals have provided to your organization in their wills probably the largest single gift they have ever made to a voluntary organization, and they expect their generosity to be rewarded,” the authors write (Page 88).
“Building Donor Loyalty: The Fundraiser’s Guide to Increasing Lifetime Value,” by Adrian Sargeant and Elaine Jay, Wiley, 2004. $36. www.josseybass.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-078796834X.html