3 Ways to Get Current Donors to Invest Again This Year
You’ve probably seen the stats. According to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, retention across the U.S. is 46 percent—and about half that for new donors! You work too hard to have more than half your donors disappear, never to be heard from again.
I wonder if this has happened to you… Four and a half months ago, I invested in a local organization and received the requisite auto-generated confirmation of my donation. It was well done with a custom message. I haven’t heard a peep since; no emails, no calls, no mail—nothing. I wonder what they’re up to. I wonder if my donation was too small to matter. I wonder why I should invest again. Maybe they’ll contact me at year end…
If you’ve been fundraising for a while, you probably know that:
- It’s cheaper to retain donors than to acquire new ones.
- You must get the personalized donor “thank you” right.
- Donors want to hear impact stories.
- What is written down and measured gets done.
- When you invest your resources of time, wisdom and money in the activities that support donor loyalty, your retention rate rises, you raise more money and you create more change.
Your donors are speaking with their money—they believe in what you do, and they’ll continue to invest if they are treated well. So, what’s the hang up? Let’s break it down.
Here are three things you can do now to increase the odds of your donors investing again during the last half of this year:
- Focus on the right things. How do you know what the most effective stewardship activities are? If you don’t, you’re just spinning your wheels, and you’ll be leaving money (aka impact) on the table. I will assume you have a written development plan. In that plan or as an addendum, write out your simple, but detailed, donor stewardship plan.
- It’s important to segment your donors to employ different strategies for different types of donors. If you’re a small shop, maybe you only segment your donors by size of investment and how they gave (event, social media, direct mail, etc). If you have a fancy CRM, then use the functionality and segment deeper by age, geography, program interest, first-time donors, etc.—whatever is going to have the most value for you.
- Then work through your list of what you know to be best practices and decide which activities will have the best odds of being effective for each of your donor segments. This can be inviting donors to behind the scenes tours, asking them for advice about an upcoming project, conducting a donor survey, adding them to your newsletter list and/or sharing impact stories (see No. 2).
- Then (this is the part that matters most), evaluate the results. Don’t just hustle on to the next thing on your list—track the behavior of these donors closely. Did they become a volunteer? Did they engage on social media? Did they donate again? Did they respond and ask questions about your email? Did they bring a friend to your event? Did they ignore you?
When you pay attention to what has changed as a result of your efforts, you’ll know what to continue and what to adjust.
- Tell your stories of impact from various points of view. Saying that you “transform lives” isn’t good enough. Keep in mind that not all donors are the same and they may want to hear different things, so share different stories. Think beyond the traditional method of the executive director spouting the results of your work.
- Beneficiaries: If you serve kids, get kids on videos, have them draw pictures for donors with a thoughtful message, show pictures of them enjoying your services and more.
- Beneficiary spokespeople: Sometimes anonymity is essential for your beneficiaries (e.g. with domestic violence). Be creative about how their family members or friends can speak for them and share their story.
- Beneficiary networks: If you serve seniors, interview the caregivers and other service providers who spend time with them and can speak specifically to the positive change they see.
- VIPs: Allow an elected official, for instance, share their perspective on why it was important to them to pass legislation that created a new funding source or to showcase a collaboration they led that affected the population you serve through your organization.
- Partners: It can be powerful to hear how other collaborators are leveraging your work. Other service providers, volunteers and corporations that involve employees in strengthening the community through your organization can provide great testimonials.
Brainstorm who various groups of donors might want to hear from and how they want to hear it (video, mail, email, social media, website, event, etc), then schedule the communication throughout the year.
- Invite them to invest again. Pretty funny, huh? You’re thinking, “Well, duh.” But this is about language—don’t ask them to give again. As you’re telling the story, you’ll that point out because of their investment and their support, you have been able to do ABC. Remember to strive for a donor-centric approach, so you’re connecting in ways that matter most to them. Then you’ve earned the right to invite them to invest in your beneficiaries again.
Added bonus: Your volunteers feel more comfortable with subtle language change also.
When donors feel personally responsible for making change in the world, you create a sense of pride, and they are more likely to stick with you for the long haul. Imagine that lifetime value!
Or you can treat your donors like I was treated recently and watch your donors walk away. If I received even one communication that gave me an update of some sort, when they invited me to invest again, I probably would have.
Bottom line: Your retention rate depends largely on you. You have more influence over your donor’s decision making than you may realize. They already demonstrated they believe in what you do—don’t let them down.
Cindi Phallen works with nonprofit boards and executives to build healthy boards that raise more money and execute on their vision. She is an author, educator, speaker, president of Create Possibility and a former ED. Known for asking the tough questions, she is on a mission to change the mindset of nonprofit leaders, so they move from intention to execution and maximize their impact.
Her popular book, “The Impact Triangle: The 3 Essentials to Accelerate Your Nonprofit Enterprise,” is recommended as mandatory reading for executives and volunteers. Cindi teaches fundraising at the University of San Diego, serves on various boards and is a Viewpoint partner for Social Venture Partners.
Cindi spends her free time jogging on the beach, snowboarding or watching her beloved Philadelphia Eagles!