Why, Oh, Why Do We Have to Keep Writing About Donor Retention?
Every, single day when I open my e-mail inbox or an industry publication, there it is — the word RETENTION. Just today I got an e-mail about retention strategies and a separate e-mail about retention metrics — not to mention the e-mail last week about the "secrets" to retention.
It's almost like "retention" is in my inbox as much as "weight loss solutions" — and, similar to losing weight, I ask, why is this so hard? In my opinion, there are three reasons this seems to be such a problem for the nonprofit industry:
- Focusing on growth as the priority vs. renewal
- Not running the numbers
- Inability to make changes in strategy
Problem 1: Focusing on growth as the priority vs. renewal
Over the last five years, we all know acquisition has taken a pretty big hit — cost is up, cost per dollar raised is up, response is down. It has been harder and harder to get more new people into the organization as donors outside of community events. The focus should be on making sure our programs and strategies are optimized to make sure that all the donors we have already are happy, fulfilled and continue to give.
Yet, I would argue that many nonprofits are still putting more attention and prioritization on growing the file. I've been in meetings recently where there were significant opportunities to improve the engagement plan for current donors and therefore improve average gift and/or response (and ultimately annual retention), yet the majority of the conversation was about how to bring in new donors. Is this just a habit we need to break?
I'm not saying we should stop doing acquisition, but I am saying that we've got to make sure the renewal programs are the best they can be versus placing a higher priority on bringing more people into the organization. To look at retention is to focus on the following items:
Vice President, Strategy & Development
Eleventy Marketing Group
Angie is ridiculously passionate about EVERYTHING she’s involved in — including the future and success of our nonprofit industry.
Angie is a senior exec with 25 years of experience in direct and relationship marketing. She is a C-suite consultant with experience over the years at both nonprofits and agencies. She currently leads strategy and development for marketing intelligence agency Eleventy Marketing Group. Previously she has worked at the innovative startup DonorVoice and as general manager of Merkle’s Nonprofit Group, as well as serving as that firm’s CRM officer charged with driving change within the industry. She also spent more 14 years leading the marketing, fundraising and CRM areas for two nationwide charities, The Arthritis Foundation and the American Cancer Society. Angie is a thought leader in the industry and is frequent speaker at events, and author of articles and whitepapers on the nonprofit industry. She also has received recognition for innovation and influence over the years.