Last week I pointed out the key potential problem and potential triggers causing a large influx of first year donors who are not truly committed to the mission of your non-profit. The major result is the appalling RETENTION RATE of just 10% for those first year donors highlighted in the graphic below:

Donor Attrition

You read about my hunches for a few of the underlying reasons and if you attended Bloomerang’s first webinar you heard them as well as other views. (Thanks again to those who took part in our first session!) You also heard about my hunch on how we can address this dire situation.

My instincts, NPO board experience, capital campaign chair experience and 30 years of working with finest fundraisers and consultants say we can literally have the best of both worlds! Here is the jest of what I mean, why not take advantage of the influx of first your donors by making the extra effort to build a relationship with as many of them as possible.

Is this possible you may ask? With the help of technology, particularly a database designed to bring the best practices in relationship building/donor retention into the forefront, my answer is a resounding yes!

You and your organization may have a dream come true with a large number of first year donors, many more of whom become multi-year supporters. In fact, utilizing the proper tools and techniques may mean a larger percentage than ever become passionate about your cause, migrate into major gift status and perhaps even into becoming legacy donors.

Two Powerful Methods to Improve 1st Year Donor Retention

Here are two powerful methods which are easy if you have the latest technology from Bloomerang you can use.

Relationships Matter

First, if the new donor enters via peer to peer fundraising, rather than just celebrating the large rise in the special event revenue, utilize the relationship tracking in a database like Bloomerang to capture the essential link to the person who solicited them on your behalf. That participant may be just the critical link in sharing the passion for your cause. So record that link and use it for the relationship build. Here is an example of where this is done in Bloomerang:

If the person who solicited the brand new donor is a recurring or major gift donor the % chance that these new first year donors are going to be one or both is GREATLY increased. Why not reach out to each and every one of them personally? Better yet, involve the original donor who invited the new donor to give in some manner. Yet again better, share the first year donor retention data with your entire fundraising staff and make it part of their goals and bonuses. Bloomerang makes it simple to track. We all know what is watched closely often improves dramatically!

Automatically Track Donor Engagement

Second, within Bloomerang determine who are the participants who are the most “engaged”. This is tracked easily via our “engagement meter” shown below.

Bloomerang automatically upgrades or downgrades the “Engagement Level” based upon a large number of common sense factors. The key here is the word automatically. We all know every fundraiser and executive director and even database end user are far too busy to keep trying to update the large multitude of fields in most databases. (Yet, they’re using that as buying criteria far too often, but we will save a rant on this subject for a later blog post!)

Experienced Fundraiser Hunches are Good, But Bloomerang Can Do More

Since, those fields and markers are seldom updated in 98% of the donor databases in use, everyone involved in fundraising must fall back to what we used before computers, namely “our hunches”. Now some hunches are spot on, but most lack the detailed data and evidence to keep so many potential new recurring and major donors from falling through the cracks. Hence the only 1 out 10 renewals of new donors and the loss of future major gift prospects.

Even brand new donors in your database can quickly move this engagement level in one direction or another in the first 3-6 months during the normal course of using Bloomerang. Here are just a few of the factors which are updated automatically, which could touch first year donors:

  1. Donor opens an email from you +
  2. Donor reads an email from you +
  3. Donor forwards the email to someone else +
  4. Donor opts out of emails –
  5. Donor supplied address and/or phone information +
  6. Donor visited your web site +
  7. Donor volunteers +
  8. Donor responds to a survey + (This should be done in the first 90 days for EVERY new donor)
  9. Donor “likes” your Facebook page +
  10. Donor mentions you on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn +
  11. Donor calls your office for any reason +
  12. Donor states communication preferences +

Seems obvious don’t they? So although we know we should follow-up with all new donors in some form or another, think how much easier it will be to focus on those with higher potential based upon their level of engagement. Bloomerang makes this possible based upon reliable and constantly updated data points that are truly relevant. If your fundraising team reaches out to these constituents and build a
relationship, so many wonderful outcomes are bound to happen!

Increasing Donor Retention Leads to Success

Think how much success will come to raising funds for your mission if we can raise the first year donor retention level to the same or higher rate of retention achieved with your other donors.

There you have it, two extremely easy yet powerful methods to impact first year donor retention. Let me know via the comment area below if you believe these can impact that 10% retention model. I would also love to know if you would like to hear about other methods in future blog posts.

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.