5 Keys to Deeper Donor Relationships
Donor retention continues to be a hot topic. It was a frequent topic of lively discussion at the recent Association of Fundraising Professionals International Conference on Fundraising. The fact is, many organizations have donors lapsing as fast as or faster than they are retaining them.
When working on an annual-giving or comprehensive development plan, we always measure donor retention, by giving categories and the type of appeal (personal, direct response, etc.). Of great importance to every organization is having a plan to first shore up retention and then to improve it. There are a lot of statistics floating around for various surveys on donor retention. Be most concerned about your situation.
Keep trends on donor retention for your organization for the last few years; analyze, set goals and be sure that you can measure consistently going forward.
As Adrian Sargeant shares, “Improving donor retention by just 10 percent can double the lifetime value of your donor database.” Plan for increases in retention by using methods like the ones here:
Welcome donors with open arms
That first gift can be made with a lot of trepidation — it is like a first date. Sometimes that first gift comes because of a connection to someone — and not the organization (i.e., a personal fundraising campaign for a favored charity or a gift in honor or in memory of someone). Be sure that you welcome a donor with an appropriate plan tailored to his or her gift size and circumstances with the goal of retaining and upgrading the gift — making the donor a lifelong friend.
Get to know your donors
Whether direct-response donors or donors that you secure through in-person interaction, have a plan to deepen the relationship. Learn about them. Have a dialogue. As appropriate, begin to build profiles to include their birth dates, other causes that they support, professional and personal affiliations, family, and more. Reach out and learn through surveys, focus groups and personal visits. Consider regular wealth screening of your donor (and lapsed-donor) database.
Say thank you more than please
Yes, multiple asks work — especially for direct-response donors. But as donors become more connected, and as gifts increase in size, donors get worn out. Donor fatigue happens when your relationship is not deep enough to support the frequency or level of requests you are making.
Remember, timely and personal handwritten notes and calls to say thank you are inexpensive and priceless. Personalized invitations to special events and all forms of appropriate recognition pay great dividends. When major donors gets automated annual-fund appeals and invitations to several special events, they often begin to look at other organizations that better understand them.
Make it personal
Your donors are vital — show them how they are a part of your story. Develop a plan for how you will communicate with your donor over time — with multiple thank-yous — and be sure that with every thank-you and update you further involve the donor in the story.
Know your donors' preferences for communication. Know those who prefer statistics on your impact, and know those who prefer stories. And as a practice, share both, leading with the human-interest stories — show the life-changing impact that donors have.
Make it easy
Help donors get in a giving habit. For some, this may be monthly giving. For others, it may be the opportunity to make an annual gift commitment and fulfill it over the year. And don’t forget the options of multiyear commitments. Be sure to track electronic fund transer and credit card payments to alert donors of any lapses.
Your goal is to build long-term, deep relationships with donors. You want donors to look forward to that next call or visit and for donors to eagerly open that email or mail. Donors will celebrate their involvement when you pay them the attention they deserve and make them a part of your story.
Looking for Jeff? You'll find him either on the lake, laughing with good friends, or helping nonprofits develop to their full potential.
Jeff believes that successful fundraising is built on a bedrock of relevant, consistent messaging; sound practices; the nurturing of relationships; and impeccable stewardship. And that organizations that adhere to those standards serve as beacons to others that aspire to them. The Bedrocks & Beacons blog will provide strategic information to help nonprofits be both.
Jeff has more than 25 years of nonprofit leadership experience and is a member of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.