Does your donor database have too many records in it? If your donor retention rate is low (below 40%), the answer might be yes.

The cause?

A lack of strong relationships being built with your donors.

Numerous other reasons (some may say excuses) can be offered, but the fact remains that donors stop supporting you when they do not feel connected to your organization, even if a passion for your cause exists. A standard thank you letter and a couple emails are rarely enough.

No matter what the reason for a low donor retention rate, it’s never too late to start building relationships. However, you must have a manageable amount of records in your donor database to approach this properly. You must also know how to segment your database in order to identify the best candidates for heightened personalization.

After all, 88% of fundraising dollars come from only 12% of the donors.

Here are eight steps to approaching this database pruning wisely and efficiently:

  1. Find and mark the 12% or so of your database that provided approximately 88% of your funding over the last two years.
  2. Create a cultivation plan to shower this group with personalized acknowledgements and extra touches, like donor surveys, volunteer invites and in-person visits.
  3. Find and mark the remaining 88% of your database that provided the 12% of your remaining funding over the last two years.
  4. Communicate regularly in the most automated, but personal manner possible. Yes, this will take a good fundraising system with built in email and direct mail processes.
  5. Find and mark the rest of your database that has provided zero funding over the last two years.
  6. Within this last group, mark the following accounts:
    • Prior board members
    • Prior above-average donors
    • Prior donors of any size who have given 3 or more times
    • Prior sponsors of events
    • Prior above average volunteers
    • Alumni if you are an education or personal experience group
  7. Survey the rest of this final group to see if they would like to still receive your communications.
    • Possible future legacy donors here!
    • Try 2-3 times to get them to respond if needed
  8. Remove completely or move to a back-up database the remaining members of this last group not meeting any of the credentials outlined in #6, as well as those who didn’t respond (positively) to your survey.

Moving Forward

You, you team and your fundraising database are now ready to be used in the most efficient manner possible.

Just think: no more wasted postage, and more importantly, very little wasted effort as you create and execute your relationship-building game plan with those who matter most.

Would reducing your database down to what has the highest potential for success make sense for your organization?

What would it mean for your mission if you were able to significantly increase the dollars raised?

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Jay Love

Jay Love

Co-Founder & Chief Relationship Officer at Bloomerang
A 30+ veteran of the nonprofit software industry, Jay Love co-founded Bloomerang in 2012. Prior to Bloomerang, he was the CEO and Co-Founder of eTapestry for 11 years, which at the time was the leading SaaS technology company serving the charity sector. Jay and his team grew the company to more than 10,000 nonprofit clients, charting a decade of record growth. Prior to starting eTapestry, Jay served 14 years as President and CEO of Master Software Corporation. MSC provided a widely used family of database products for the non-profit sector called Fund-Master. He currently serves on the board of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University and is the past AFP Ethics Committee Chairman. Jay is also the author of Stay Together: How to Encourage a Lifetime of Donor Loyalty.