How to improve donor retention

If your nonprofit had a successful Giving Tuesday, you may be happy with your strategies. However, donor retention needs to be a focus at this time so you can expand on these results in the future. While it's easy to pay attention to new donor acquisition during the busy holiday season, retention needs to receive at least as much thought. Continue driving contributors to your online donation form, but consider how you will reconnect with them in the future. 

In 2012, the average retention rate for new donors was 22.9 percent, according to an infographic from Pursuant. This means the vast majority of new contributors will never give to your organization again. It isn't just first-time givers who are at risk of never returning. Nonprofits lost 105 donors through attrition for every 100 contributors they gained, which shows databases are shrinking over time. In addition, retention rates have fallen in the past few years, dropping from 50 percent in 2006 to 39 percent in 2014. While nearly all fundraisers know what donor retention is, only 69 percent have an established strategy for it. 

Steps to boost donor retention
A 10 percent increase in donor retention can contribute to a 200 percent rise in the lifetime value of your database, npENGAGE reported. You don't have to let poor stewardship efforts slow down the progress of your organization. There are a number of changes you can implement into your campaigns to improve retention rates, including the following:

  • Include stewardship elements in every campaign: Sometimes retention is as simple as thanking donors. If someone makes a gift or attends an event, be sure to send a brief thank-you note. This increases the chances that they will participate in your efforts in the future. 
  • Assess your current donor retention rates: Low retention may stem for nonprofit employees not having a good idea of where the rate stands. Measuring attrition is the first step to decreasing it, the infographic pointed out. You need to assess retention rates across all levels of giving. This allows you to identify the areas that may need the most attention.
  • Establish benchmarks for donor retention: Not only does establishing a minimum gift in your donation form prevent fraud on your website, but it can also help you meet specific giving goals. You need to create short- and long-term goals for donor retention and giving totals. Both types of objectives help you gauge your progress.
  • Add more variety to your campaigns: Increasing communication with your constituents can encourage them to give again. You can add a thank-you note in email appeals, customize the autoresponders in your donation forms and send six month and one-year follow-ups, npENGAGE suggested.
  • Share impact information: Telling donors about the financial implications of their gifts can cause them to give again, but you need to approach this process the right way. Just sharing financial details may not inspire people to give again. Telling stories that display impact will motivate donors. 
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