Donor Retention: Stop Talking, Start Doing
It's hard to pick up a publication, read an e-news or go to a conference without being confronted by the ugly fact: Donor retention is at a crisis level. Perhaps three in four first-time donors never give again; this is a massive group of "one and done" donors, and a significant loss to nonprofit organizations. Overall attrition is often in the 50 percent to 70 percent range, and acquiring donors seems to get more expensive every day.
Yep, we sure are talking a lot about this. But what are we doing? And why are we not doing a simple thing that can have a significant impact on whether or not a donor sticks around to give again?
When did receipting donors become just more overhead to cut? When did it move to "do when you get around to it" instead of one of the highest — if not the highest — priority? And why has saying thank you become the exception, not the rule?
On Dec. 18, I mailed eight checks for year-end gifts. (I often give online, but I also mail in checks so I get the full donor treatment.) In every case, I used a mailing that had been provided to me by the nonprofit organization, returning the reply form in the provided envelope. (Am I not obedient?!)
Eighteen days of mail delivery have gone by, and still I wait for five of these eight organizations to even say thank you. Yes, I know there were holidays and lots of companies have a "use it or lose it" vacation policy. I know mail volume is up in the second half of December.
But I also know that year-end is one of those events that is scheduled; it didn't sneak up and catch us all unaware. And a lot of the organizations I chose to support managed to send me plenty of mail in December — but sending a receipt simply didn't get the same level of attention.
Pamela Barden is an independent fundraising consultant focused on direct response. You can read more of her fundraising columns here.