The penultimate chapter of my friend Roger Craver’s new book “Retention Fundraising” – aptly titled “Cliffs Notes for Retention” – is literally a treasure trove of quick, easy and inexpensive methods to improve donor retention.
Yes, that means every nonprofit can put all of the methods into daily use!
As you read each one below, your first question may be: How do I make this method come to life at my organization? Thankfully, Roger has answered that very question for every single one of the methods outlined.
I took the liberty of adding a twelfth item to the list of methods (you will see why when you reach the bottom). I also took the liberty of adding my own quick thought for each one. Please dig in below and enjoy the wisdom and advice of one of the most respected veterans of fundraising.
1. Measure the Vital Signs
What is not measured will seldom be improved. No need to say more…
2. Focus First on Basics, Especially Your Organization’s Mindset Regarding Donors
Treating people and organizations that support your cause in a special manner should be second nature. (I knew there was a good reason my mom insisted I always hand-write thank you notes!)
3. Say Thank You Quickly and Personally
This is where the relationship either stays on track to grow or falls right off the rails. I am still amazed at how lackadaisical the majority of nonprofits are in this endeavor.
4. Pick Up the Phone
This is such a difference maker! Analyze the effort made to the future results and it is truly a no brainer.
5. Put More Money into Retention Today
Even the lopsided negative return math of acquisition can be made to look good over time if proper retention practices are implemented. (Roger spells most of them out for you!)
6. Start Discriminating
Unless you are quite small and can focus on every single donor, some level of segmentation must take place. Do the math here: a 10% improvement in the $1,000+ donor segment is quite significant compared to the <$25 segment. Also, please pay special attention to first-time donors. Most $1,000+ donors started much smaller.
7. Signs Donors May Soon Leave You
A mindset for donor retention includes watching for signs that donors may be leaving. Lapses in giving and downgrades are just a couple red flags.
8. Putting New Water in Your Less Leaky Bucket
Be both smart and careful with where you search for new future donors. There are many potential pitfalls to avoid.
9. Focus on Metrics that Matter
These range from metrics associated with acquisition, to the most important retention related metric: the “Lifetime Value of a Donor.” Once lifetime value is understood it is so much easier to fully appreciate the full net effect of improved donor retention.
10. Clean Up Your Files
Communicating to 30,000 names when only 2,500 have donated in the last 24 months is just not fruitful. Even worse is doing it without NCOA processing.
11. Ignore the Trivial, Remember the Donor
Yes, new methods and technology will always be forthcoming. However, keeping the donor first is timeless!
12. Educate Yourself by Reading Books on the Subject (A late addition)
Yes, blog posts and social media shares provide insights, but certain subjects like donor retention deserve a more detailed study. “Retention Fundraising” will fill in the many gaps of “How To” from the above list. Here are a few more to consider as you explore this vital subject.