No Wonder Donor Retention Is Hideous
Rethink policies that jeopardize timely receipting at year-end
Alert — I am going to meddle. But seriously, I think one of the most harmful policies at nonprofits (and one of the few that doesn’t get filed and forgotten) is the “use it or lose it” by Dec. 31 vacation policy. I understand the accounting issues about the accrued liability of unused vacation time. I also am a firm believer in vacation. Anyone who has ever worked with me will be glad to tell you, I am sure, that I never missed a vacation day that I was entitled to. But December is not the time to basically close up shop. Donors need to be helped by someone with deep knowledge when they call to make year-end gifts. Receipts need to be sent every day. Handwritten notes need to be quickly sent to donors who give especially generous gifts. But none of that happens when the fundraising department is on vacation lest people lose those valuable vacation days that keep insanity at bay. Think about it: Can you encourage people to take vacation at slower times of the year or at least stagger the year-end surge out the door?
While there are certainly other reasons for declining donor retention rates, my experience is that receipting and retention go hand in hand. Your receipt package should ooze with gratitude and make it easy for the donor to give again (see my article on hardworking receipts for more information on this).
But for goodness sake, throw this old dog (and all your donors) a bone once in a while and receipt my donation. It’s all about building a relationship — a relationship that leads to deeper involvement (and more giving) in the future.
Pamela consults with nonprofits, helping them develop their fundraising strategy and writing copy to achieve their goals. Additionally, she teaches fundraising at two universities, hoping to inspire the next generation of fundraisers to be passionate about the profession. Previously, Pamela led the fundraising programs for nonprofit organizations. Pamela is a member of the Advisory Panel for Rogare, the fundraising think tank at Plymouth University’s Hartsook Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy, a CFRE, a graduate of Wheaton College (IL) and Dominican University, and holds a Doctorate in Business Administration from California Southern University. Contact Pamela at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @pjbarden.