donor retention strategy, donor reading thank you letter

Improving Your Donor Retention Strategy

An all-too-common issue that affects long-term fundraising is poor donor retention.

This frequently leads organizations to take on an even more significant challenge: attracting additional new donors. The fact is that these efforts cost significantly more than a properly executed retention plan. Studies have shown that the retention rate for new, first-time donors is 22.9%, while the rate for repeat donors is 60.8%. Improving your donor retention strategy is vital for your foundation’s success. 

Download the Donor Retention Communication Guide!

So why do donors leave in the first place?

The number one reason a donor only gives once and not again is that they weren’t appropriately thanked for their donation. A close second to this is that they’ve been asked for additional contributions too soon or too frequently. Completely understandable. Plus, donors have a desire to hear how their donation is helping. This is often lacking in any post-donation correspondence.

Setting up an effective communication plan is critical.

Every first-time donation needs to trigger a series of effectively timed follow-ups. This will ensure a positive relationship with your donor is built and, ultimately, provides the best chances of retention.

donor retention strategy, thanking donors, donor recognition

Within 48 hours of receiving the donation:

The donor should receive a response — complete with a receipt and a heartfelt thank-you — regardless of the donation’s size. This initial communication must be made through the same channel as the donation was made. For example, if the donor sends a check in the mail, the response should be made through the mail. This recognizes and respects their preferences. For communications that follow, it is acceptable to use a variety of channels.

Within one month of the donation:

The donor should receive a second thank-you, as well as a warm welcome into the donor family of your organization. This will further illustrate your gratitude and build the relationship, ensuring they feel like an essential part of the organization. Again, this could be as simple as a postcard or short email.

Within three months:

The donor should receive an impact thank-you. This is where the real story of what their donation is doing should be told. It’s where the donor becomes the hero — learning how their contributions are helping. Perhaps it’s how a particular child’s wait time for an MRI was cut to just two weeks. The more specific the impact, the better. This could be done in a letter, an email, or an email that includes a short video. To today’s donors, this can be a very motivating correspondence.

Within six months:

A personal phone call to the donor, thanking them for their generous gift, is in order. This call could be made by a staff member, a board member, or even a volunteer. It’s the personal touch of this outreach that’s so important. It’s a kind gesture that solidifies your gratitude.

Within nine months:

Another impact report would be sent, only this time, it outlines the bigger picture of the progress that has been accomplished for the cause. This could be done through one channel or a combination. If holidays fall within the first nine months, appropriate holiday greetings should be sent to the donor.

A year after the donation:

Ideally, the next ask for a donation should be made around the first anniversary of the initial gift. It should be positioned to show how the donor can help. You want them to feel like the hero, not simply that they are supporting your organization’s cause. This communication should show the impact that has been accomplished so far and, most importantly, what still needs to be done. In other words, showing the vital role their donation will play in achieving a goal.

The objective of these steps is to foster a positive relationship with your donor. Note that none of these include another ask for a donation. Instead, we work to ensure they have been sufficiently and sincerely thanked — and show how important their gift has been to those who have benefitted.

The Recognition Paradigm Shift has shown us the importance of communicating with your donors, recognizing and embracing the sufficient  appreciation, and conveying the impact of their donations. These are all motivating factors for future contributions.

By following BrookGlobal’s donor retention strategy, you can not only retain your existing and first-time donors but increase donations and create a culture of philanthropy within your community. Contact us today to discuss how we can help!


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