On July 16h, Kirsten Bullock joined us for a webinar entitled “8 Steps to Fundraising Success.” Kirsten drew on her years of experience to present her guide to ensuring a more stable future for your nonprofit organization.
In case you missed it, you can watch a replay here:
Kirsten’s 8 Steps to Fundraising Success:
- Understand Your Environment
- Crystalize Your Vision
- Communicating Your Vision
- Who To Ask
- Get The Word Out
- Your Plan
- Build Your Team
Steven: Thanks for joining us. For those of you who don’t know Kirsten,
she’s a leader in the non-profit industry. She’s a founder of the Non-
profit Academy. She’s also an AFP master trainer. She’s worked with
organizations such as the AIDS Interfaith Ministries of Kentuckiana,
Presbyterian Women National Offices, Community Health Centers Inc., and the
Institute of Internal Auditors.
Her resume is just way too long for me to read. Those are the
nuggets I pulled off of her website. If you’d like to learn more
about her, you can check out thenonprofitacademy.com. Thanks for
being here, Kirsten. It’s really great to have you.
Kirsten: Thanks for having me.
Steven: Also joining us is Jay Love. He’s the founder and CEO over here
at Bloomerang. Hey, Jay.
Steven: Some of you may recognize Jay as the original co-founder of E-
Tapestry. He’s also currently a Senior Vice President at
Avectra. In addition to his duties over here at Bloomerang,
which keep him very busy of course. Thanks to you for being here
with us also Jay.
Jay: Looking forward to it.
Steven: Yeah, we’ve got a really great presentation planned. What’s
going to happen is Kirsten’s going to get us started off. She is
going to share her eight tips on effective fundraising, so the
namesake of our presentation. Really great information from what
I’ve seen from the slides.
Then after her short presentation, she’s going to hand it over
to Jay, who’s going to talk about how to hang onto those donors
after you’ve gotten them to donate to your organization,
following Kirsten’s tips.
Then what we do on all of our webinars is we’ll save some time
at the end for questions and answers. Probably about 20 or 15
minutes at the end. If you hear something as Kirsten’s talking
or as Jay’s talking, feel free to send a question over through
the chat functionality right there on the webinar window. I’ll
see those, and both Jay and Kirsten will also see those.
We’ll try to get to as many questions as possible, so don’t be
afraid to ask anything that you’d like clarified or maybe
explained a little bit more. We’ll try to get to as many as
Jay: Steven, they can go ahead and ask us questions in chat anytime,
Steven: Definitely. While they’re talking, whenever you want. You don’t
have to wait until 1:40 or so. Don’t be bashful.
Without any further ado, I’m going to hand it off to Kirsten
who’s going to get us started. Kirsten, go ahead and take it
Kirsten: OK, thanks so much Steven for that great introduction. One of
the easiest ways that I’ve learned to keep donors and to retain
our donors is to make sure that they’re acquired in a good,
positive way in the first place.
Throughout my presentation, I’ll be focusing a lot on how to
think what you’re planning in terms of keeping your donors for
the long run.
A little bit about me, because a lot of people are curious.
What’s my background, how in the world did I end up in
fundraising? Why should you listen to me? I’d like to share a
little bit about my background.
I was introduced to non-profits from a very young age, starting
between age two and 12, I spent summers at a camp for kids with
physical disabilities. I got to see first hand the positive
impact on all the kids who came, to be able to really have a fun
childhood, normal childhood experience as they were growing up.
My brother had muscular dystrophy, and I think that was really
instrumental in my decision to choose a profession such as
fundraising where I can really help empower people to raise
money and move their organizations forward in a really big way.
I think those two things were really instrumental in my decision
to pursue this path.
It was working on an undergraduate degree in stage management
where I was first introduced to the formal environment of
fundraising. My work study was in the Foundation office, so I
got to [inaudible 04:02] photocopies of information about our
famous graduates. Then they would put those into their donor
That was just an informal introduction. Then fast forward, ended
up getting my bachelor’s degree in social work. Ended up doing
my internship at a hospital foundation, and then the rest is
history. I haven’t looked back. The bulk of my career has been
working with non-profits, in a fundraising and overall non-
profit management board equipping kind of capacity.
That’s a little bit about my background. Now we can jump right
into the eight steps. These are eight steps to fundraising
success, so overall things to be thinking about as you’re
planning for your fundraising. If you’re in the early stages of
starting a non-profit, these are great things to keep in mind.
If your non-profit is more established, you’ve been around for
several years, these are things you can think about as you’re
revamping or looking forward to your overall planning.
The most important thing is to understand the environment that
we’re operating in, because if we don’t understand that, we
don’t know where the opportunities are, and a lot of ways are
going in blind. There’s a few different resources that I
recommend for that.
One is of course Giving USA, it’s the grandfather of all of the
different organizations and projects. They don’t do any
projection of giving. [inaudible 05:34] Index has something that
does that, as well as the Outlets of Giving. Outlets of Giving
is great, because they’ll do pretty much a 12 month projection
of how they see giving going.
Right now, giving is up for the year overall. They’re
anticipating a 6% overall growth in fundraising this year. You
can just Google ‘Outlets of Giving’ if you want to look up more
information about that.
When I’m talking with non-fundraisers, they’re really usually
surprised that 73% of gifts come from individuals during their
lifetime. If you have not shared this information with your
board, it’s great for them to know that because then you’re
educating them to make good decisions about your fundraising
A lot of people who don’t have a non-profit fundraising
background, they assume that much more money comes from
corporations and foundations, so this is good information to
share with them.
Something that I’d like to cover and tap into is looking at
giving as a percentage of gross domestic product. Over the
years, if we look at the overall Giving USA numbers, they’re up
pretty consistently. Of course with the recession there has been
a bump, but those numbers are recovering.
If we look at giving as a percentage of GDP, see that it hasn’t
really grown any. We’ve gotten a lot more sophisticated in our
approaches, we’ve learned a lot, but we’re not growing giving
overall as a percentage of GDP.
I think retention and looking at our donors and trying to build
a relationship with our donors, rather than just seeing the
overall numbers, is one way that we can definitely make a huge
impact in that. [inaudible 07:27] we’re going to be talking more
about donor retention and building those long term
By golly, gentlemen, I think we found it. It’s the fountain of
funding, and I think this is what a lot of our boards want us to
find. They want us to be able to snap our fingers, and all of a
sudden money just explodes into the air.
We all know it takes a lot more steady plotting than that. The
first step is to understand the environment. The second one is
to really be clear on what it is that your organization is
trying to accomplish.
It’s not about what you’re doing, it’s more about the why behind
why you’re doing it. If you’re feeding people, you can say well,
we’re providing foods to kids. Really, vision is to make sure
that no child goes hungry. If we can clarify that and talk less
about what we do and talk more about why we do it, then our
donors will understand better and they’ll come alongside us to
help be part of that conversation, to help move that vision
Then it becomes about the vision, and then our organizations are
just a vehicle to make that happen. We’re connecting people who
have a heart for a cause with the people who can implement the
cause and make that happen.
I grew up in central Florida, and there’s a lot of folklore that
travels around about Disney, Walt Disney, and how he started the
parks. When he first came into Orlando, well one, nobody
expected Disneyworld to take off as much as it did.
All the locals were thinking there’s no way that people are
going to come, pay lots of money to come to the middle of the
swamps in the heat of the summer to ride rides. They thought
Walt Disney was crazy. I guess that’s the case with a lot of
When he was building the park, he wanted to make sure that the
workers in the park, in the swamps, in the heat, with the
mosquitoes, all of that wonderful Florida summer swamp
experience, he wanted to make sure that they would be able to
see the vision of what it is they were trying to accomplish, and
be a part of it.
The story goes that the first thing he built was the castle, so
that people would have that vision. It wasn’t about the castle,
it wasn’t about people coming on vacation, it was about making
dreams come true. The castle became the thing that everybody
could focus on, so they could all be part of that experience.
If you don’t already have a rallying cry for the organization
that you’re working with, some big vision that you’re trying to
accomplish, that would be a good place to start. Or if you’ve
been focusing more on what you’re doing, try to get the heart of
what it is you’re trying to accomplish.
I’ve done a lot of board exercises, and we’ll come up with
something, maybe it’s 20 words. Then once we have that general
idea it’s easier to boil it down. The goal is to get that down
to seven words or less. That’s a great board exercise to do if
you haven’t already done that.
Step three, we need to let people know, we need to communicate,
we need to let people know what it is they’re supporting. The
case for support is a great vehicle to do that. There’s . . .
the case statement [inaudible 11:23] four main parts.
It’s the need, and that’s not the need for the organization,
it’s the need for the community. If we’re going with the child
hunger, then we would be identifying what the need is in the
community as it relates to child hunger. Rather than talking
about well, our organization is overwhelmed and we need three
more staff people.
That could be the case, but the need is the needs in the
community that aren’t being addressed because you don’t have
those three additional people.
The need is really important. That helps people understand what
we already know. We can’t assume that everybody else knows the
same things that we do. The need, and really focusing on that
section helps us bring other people up to speed, and helps them
get to a point where they’re ready to come along side us and
help address that need.
The program of course is talking about the program and a little
bit about how it operates. Mostly in relation to how it’s
meeting that need, and the things that happen to help that need
of the community be overcome. How much it’s going to cost and
why you. That’s your opportunity to brag on your organization.
You can talk about awards that you’ve won, recognition that’s
been in the paper. Maybe there’s a prestigious foundation that
has given a grant to you.
That answers the ‘why you’ question. Why is your organization
the best suited to address that need? By sharing that case
statement, you can . . .
Historically the case statement was used in major gift asks.
What I see a really good use for that is the source document for
other pieces. Once you have the case statement drilled down,
once you’ve got everybody agreeing and on the same page for
that, then it’s easy to pull sections out of it and components
out of it and parts of it to build campaign appeals, to build
other pieces to your website brochures.
All of that. It becomes a source document for that. It’s not
just limited to use in major gift asks.
We’re covering a lot of information here, so feel free to toss
in any questions that you have and we’ll be sure to get to
Step four is identifying who to ask. There’s three primary
things that we take into consideration, and if you’ve been in
fundraising for a while you’ve heard these before. It’s linkage,
ability, and interest. Are they linked in some way to your
organization already? Do they have an ability to give a gift in
the amount that you’re asking for? Do they have an interest in
My thought on this is I believe that each of us when we were
growing up, we had this big desire to change the world. To
impact the world in a positive way. I think we all had that at
some point. When I’m meeting people, when I’m talking to people,
that’s the perspective that I bring in that. That we all have an
interest in changing the world somehow.
In my mind, the job of the fundraising professional or the
person doing development is to help our donors tap into that,
and to revisit that feeling that they had when they were a kid.
Help them tap into a place that’s going to help them apply that.
In some instances, it might be the organizations that we’re
working for. In other cases that might be connecting that person
to another organization. In my mind, I think the biggest thing
that we can do is connect people with that passion. How they
wanted to change the world when they were little. I think that’s
just the greatest part of being a fundraiser I think, is being
able to connect people to that.
Step five of course is getting the word out, letting people know
about the organization. I can’t count the number of
organizations, people I’ve spoken to with organizations of all
sizes, from small local community groups to international
ministries who say we’re the best kept [inaudible 15:48] in
It’s our responsibility to let people know about our
organizations and what we’re doing. There’s a lot of different
ways that we can do that. Press releases, there’s a group called
HARO, Help a Reporter Out. You can just Google that, and then
you can [inaudible 16:09] reporters who are writing on different
The reporters are looking for assistance with the articles,
they’re looking for information. Then you’ve got people who have
information to provide, that’s you. Search out those reporters
who are looking for information that you can help them with, and
that will help you get the word out.
Then there’s a lot of different ways as well. Here’s just a few.
These are primarily focused on online type engagement items, but
they can give ideas for all levels.
I am going to take just a quick moment to go back to the case
statement. For [inaudible 17:02], the cost was, that’s how much
it’s going to cost to run the program that you’re asking for
funding for. Or it could be the budget for the whole
organization. I think I skimmed over that. When it says fill in
The name again for the reporter site was HARO, that’s Help a
Reporter Out. Their web address is not HARO, so I suggest that
you Google that. You could just do ‘help a reporter out,’ and
that’ll show up.
Step six of course is the ask. Because if we don’t ask for a
gift, people don’t know that there’s a need. At some point we do
have to ask, but it’s not begging. As I mentioned [inaudible
17:55] helping people tap into that desire to change the world,
and giving them a vehicle to do that.
For some people, that comes off as a no brainer. Of course for
other people that does require a little bit of shift in
attention. When we’re working with boards, when we’re engaging
other people in asking for money, we really need to make this
clearer. Because there is a misperception among a lot of people
not involved in fundraising that fundraising is just begging.
They’re going out and they’re arm twisting and they’re getting
one gift, but it’s not going to get a repeat gift. We really
need to let our board members know that it’s not about begging.
It’s really about helping people identify what they’re
passionate about, and connecting them with that.
I think too this is the biggest way that we can keep our donors
engaged with us, because then we’re going in in a trust
environment, rather than somebody feeling like they’re taking
Asking for a gift in a right way that’s comfortable for you,
that’s comfortable for the donor, is going to be the best way to
keep a donor long term.
Here’s another visual that you can use if you’re educating board
members about what fundraising’s all about, because a lot of
times we get frustrated. We want to get our board members
involved; they may or may not be interested in it.
There’s a lot of board members who will say, ‘I absolutely won’t
be involved in fundraising,’ but I’ve seen people start out with
that attitude, and then grow into the best fundraisers on the
board. It’s a matter of helping people ease into something, and
helping them understand how it works.
In fundraising [inaudible 19:47] 10% is asking for the gift. The
other 90% is stewardship, cultivation, thanking people, letting
them know what their gift could do, what they have done. Only
10% is the ask. The rest is the rest of the relationship
If we’ve been cultivating that relationship, we ask for a gift,
they give it, then it’s stewardship part. Then at some point we
start cultivating again for the next gift.
There are some people who will say the cultivating starts as
soon as the ask, as soon as you get a yes, so it starts again at
the end. In my mind cultivation is really about prep work. It’s
letting people know what the organization is about, finding out
what their interest is, what their needs are. Then the
stewardship is thanking them for the gift afterwards.
And using a lot of the information we may have gathered during
that cultivation phase. How does the donor feel thanked? How is
it that they get the feeling that they’re appreciated? Those are
great things to know ahead of time.
If there’s recognition involved, what kind of recognition do
they like, or do they not like recognition? If they’re saying
that they don’t want recognition, is that what they mean, or
what do they mean by that? Because there’s some people who say
that they don’t want recognition, and perhaps they might get
upset that they don’t get it.
Being really clear what people mean when they say different
things, we can’t assume.
I know you’re going to see this again later in the presentation,
but retention for donors right now is not very good at all.
Overall, we’re looking at donor retention of about 41% as
opposed to commercial businesses, who are keeping 94% of their
customers. There’s a big discrepancy.
Brand new donors, only 10% of brand new donors are giving
[inaudible 22:00] again the next year. Important things to
consider. If we’re doing the ask right, if we’re engaging people
in the right way, then the retention becomes a lot more
automatic. We’ll be talking a lot about, Jay will be talking a
lot more about retention at the end.
Jay: I do love that slide, Kirsten.
Kirsten: I’m sure you do, and I’m using it a lot. With giving credit, of
Jay: No problem.
Kirsten: Step seven is what’s your plan? We have to be intentional about
putting together specific things that we’re going to be doing.
We’ve all heard the old saying, if you fail to plan you plan to
fail. If we can have specific things that we’re doing,
especially when we’re working with boards.
I think in major gifts, asking the board is involved a lot more.
They need to have really specific tasks that they’re doing so
they can help in a way that we want them to and will be most
fulfilling for them. Having a specific plan that you’re
There’s an added bonus to this as well. It’s easy to get side
tracked on different types of approaches, different types of
things. If you have a plan in place already, then when somebody
comes with one of those ideas, then you can assess it against
the plan and say OK, what are we going to stop doing so that we
can make [inaudible 23:27] happen. Because we only have so many
That’s the planning. This is not a plan. [inaudible 23:40]
funding mess, I call for each house and Senate member to sell 12
boxes of candy bars [inaudible 23:45]. This came out in 1998.
It’s been [inaudible 23:51], and the author agreed to let me
That’s not really a good plan, because we all know the whole
pyramid of giving, and I’m not going to get into that, because
that’s a whole different conversation. Typically we’ll have
different people giving different amounts at different levels. A
one size fits all approach won’t work very well.
Then of course step eight, build your team. That could be people
who are staff members, it could be volunteers, it could be
people in other departments who are your informal advocates that
you can educate and get them on board with the whole plan.
Because fundraising does not happen in a vacuum. It requires
assistance from all different areas of the organization, and
small organizations . . . I’ve worked with a lot of one person
shops, where it’s one person doing everything. The only way to
create more time is to find people to help train them up.
It’s really important to build a team, find people who are
passionate about the cause, who want to help build those
relationships. Those are those eight steps.
To summarize really quick, you’ll get the slides, but step one
understanding your environment. That’s the local environment
that you’re working in as well as the overall national market.
Crystallizing your vision. Knowing what it is that you’re trying
to accomplish. Knowing how to communicate that to donors in a
way that they feel like they can be a part of it, and they feel
like they can get excited about it.
Step three is telling your story or communicating your vision
through the case for support. In that way you’re engaging
people, giving them the information that they need to make a
decision to be part of the organization.
Identifying who to ask, so that you have specific people in mind
that you’re going to talk to. It’s not, I’m going to go out and
talk to everybody. It could be I’m going to talk to people who
are active in the business community, or I’m going to talk to
people who are active in their church community.
Or you’ll identify 20 specific people who you’re going to call
in the next month to see if there’s any interest in getting
together to learn more about your organization. Specifically
knowing who to ask.
Step five, getting the word out, raising awareness. Step six,
asking. Step seven, having a plan together, and finally step
eight, building your team.
I just want to mention really quickly, and then I’m going to
pass it off to Jay. You guys are the first people to see this.
It’s $20 basically to cover the shipping and handling cost. It’s
five different recorded webinars, but you can go to
helpforsmallnonprofits.com/goldmine to learn more about this.
I’m just really excited about all of the resources that are
available in that. I think you’ve had a couple of the . . . Kent
Struman [SP] is one of the webinars, Sandy Reese [SP] is one of
the webinars. I think that you’ve had both of them on the
Jay: Yes we have, yes.
Kirsten: Yeah, OK.
Jay: Been wonderful partners to present with.
Kirsten: Yeah, they’re fabulous, they’re great. Jay, I would like to go
ahead and turn it over to you, and learn through all of your
Jay: All right, well thank you very much, Kirsten. We appreciate those
eight steps that you were talking about there. What we’re going
to be jumping into a little bit further now is doubling the
lifetime value of your database.
If you’ve raised money from people, you’ve got a certain value
in there. What I’d like to share with you is some concepts and
ideas that can literally double that lifetime value over the
course of the time that people are donating with your
When we talk about lifetime value, let me first of all define
that. That’s the total net contribution that a donor generates
during his or her lifetime in the database, and that’s always a
wonderful, strategic session to have with your board. Some of
the best board meetings I’ve had with non-profits have been when
we’ve introduced this concept and talked a little bit about it,
and figured out . . .
Because many board members have no idea what the average gift
coming into your organization is, and the average number of
years that a donor stays with you. In fact, some of them are
quite appalled when they realize that the average time that
someone stays in your database may only be two or three years,
and what the actual retention percentages are. We’ll talk more
about those as we go.
I like to really think about lifetime value equaling donor
commitment. If you don’t have much of the commitment and the
passion from the donor, then you’re not going to really build
that lifetime value part of the equation.
I love the definition from 101 Fundraising. Active donor
commitment is enduring passion for your non-profit, inspiring
donors is the key for loyalty.
Think about the keywords that are in there. Loyalty, passion,
inspiration, commitment. Those are all wonderful qualities that
come in to building that lifetime value to the highest level
possible for your organization.
Let’s talk a little bit about the retention rate there. Some of
you may be very familiar about your retention rate, but you may
not realize what a small change and a small increase in that
retention rate can mean in terms of the lifetime dollars raised.
I’ll ask a rhetorical question here, but what does a 10%
increase in donor retention rate mean in terms of lifetime
dollars raised? Does it change it by 50%? 100%? Or 150 up to
For those of you that are familiar with some of the work of Dr.
Adrian Sargent [SP], you’ll know that it’s that last option
there, the 150% to 200%. That’s what a change of the retention
rate by 10% can mean. We’ll actually show you some of the math
behind that here in just a moment.
Hopefully that peaks your attention to quite a nice degree here,
because it does make a huge difference. Let’s take a look at it
in one way mathematically here.
The opposite of retention is attrition. If your attrition rate
is 20%, that means your retention rate’s 80%, and if you’ve got
an 80% donor attrition rate, you deserve a medal, an award, a
first place card, whatever they want to give you there, because
that is well, well above the industry norms.
Take a look here. If you’ve got 1,000 donors in your database,
we’re going to start off with 1,000 there. If that attrition
rate’s 20%, these are the number of the donors that you’ll have
at the end of the first year, second year, third year, fourth
year and fifth year. You’re down to 328.
Let’s do this again though with where people are more likely to
be right now. If the retention rate’s 40%, that means your
attrition rate is 60%, and those 1,000 donors move to 400, to
160, to 64, to 26, to down to ten donors at the end of a five
That’s what places so many non-profits and so many fundraising
professionals on this treadmill of bringing in new donors,
because they’re losing just as many out the backdoor as they’re
bringing in the front door. That treadmill can be exhausting for
people to try to bring in so many people to keep that up.
Kirsten already alluded to this, but this infographic that we
put together really shows what happened over the five year
period. We’ve seen it go down to this level that you see here,
all the way down to 41%.
Don’t be totally dismayed, because there are some organizations,
you can see here there’s some that have had retention rate as
high as 70%. We’ve seen that happen. We get the good fortune of
helping people move their databases into the Bloomerang product,
and we were moving along for month after month after month, and
we didn’t have anybody with a retention rate about 40%. We were
averaging about 35 to 38%.
Then lo and behold, we had a group send us their data from the
Washington DC area, and it came in at a 72% retention rate. I’m
very, very anxious to find out more about that organization and
what they’re doing to make their retention rate be more than
twice what the average is that we’ve been seeing around the
When we’re talking about addressing the retention problem, I’ve
got to ask this question. Is it a donor relationship problem? Is
retention and attrition and everything that’s surrounding that
really all about the relationships that we’re building or not
building that is causing those percentages to be there?
I always find whenever you want to find out the answers to some
questions, it’s best to queue up the experts. The clinical
research expert and the person who’s gathered so many of the
stats and done so many studies is Dr. Adrian Sargent, and we’re
very, very delighted to work closely with Dr. Sargent. He’s
become a very good friend. He’s written several books on donor
loyalty and donor retention and several papers.
If you’ve not researched any of his work, I suggest that you go
out and Google his work and try to read some of the papers,
because it’s got some very good insights.
I’m going to share a few of those, and then on the
communications side, we work very closely with Mr. Tom Ahern
[SP], who’s become sort of the world renowned authority on donor
communications in many, many ways. Has authored several books
and has been winner of several awards about that. We’ll be
sharing a few of his insights.
That 10% improvement in retention, doubling the lifetime value,
is really a quote from Dr. Sargent. I remember after sitting
through one of his presentations and asking him, I said, ‘You’ve
been doing this research for 20 years and written these books,
and you’re speaking at every national conference.’ I said, ‘Are
you making an impact?’
There was this long pause from Dr. Sargent, and he came back and
he said, ‘No, Jay, I think it’s actually going the other
direction. I think we’re seeing retention rates continue to
fall, because people are not doing all the right steps to make
that change and make that happen.’
I said, ‘Well, Dr. Sargent, can we get your help on helping
build some of those factors in?’ He said so much of it revolves
around building loyalty through donor engagement. We’re going to
come back to that concept of donor engagement, but make a note
of that on how we go about that.
The question that someone was asking was how do you figure the
retention rate? Well believe it or not, you could not have asked
a better question, because that’s my very next slide.
Calculating your retention rate is a fairly simple mathematical
formula, although nine out of ten non-profits that I talk to
every day have no idea what their retention rate is.
You basically take the number of donors that you had in the
prior 12 months, and use that in the bottom part of your
division there, and put above it the number of donors in the
current 12 months that came from the same pool.
If I had 1,000 donors in 2011, and 400 of them came back and
donated again in 2012, that would be 400 over 1,000, or I would
have a retention rate of 40%.
There’s several ways [inaudible 35:41] this because sometimes
you want to make sure that you’re figuring it out not only
overall, but you want to figure it on first year donors, and you
want to also figure it on the donors that are there on multiple
This can be done by the number of donors, or you can replace
that number sign there with this. You can do it based upon
dollars. If you do it based upon the dollars on both sides
there, and my dollar signs are not very good, but you can do the
same thing. Norman, thanks for asking that question as we’re
going along here. That will allow you to see what the retention
rate is based upon dollars versus number of donors.
Obviously, that should push your retention rate up a little bit,
because you’re going to have your loyal larger donors and major
donors that’ll be part of that equation that will take that rate
Let’s show you a little bit about how the math works. This is
taking a look at if your original retention rate’s 41% and you
move it up to 51%, this is what mathematically has happened with
just those original donors.
You can see if I start off with 5,000 people at $200 each, this
is how many I would have at the end of year two at a 41%
retention rate. $451,000. Over here, you would have $561,000.
You can see the difference is in excess of $110,000 already.
Then that just keeps happening on down through here. But notice
the difference here, that if you have a retention rate just 10%
higher, the average donor stays on four additional years. What’s
really special about those four additional years, that’s where
it comes into the value pyramid here.
The longer someone is with you, the more likely you have of
pushing them up through this pyramid and moving them from the
bottom two tiers up to the top three tiers for that. Because
very seldom does someone come in at this level up here. If they
do, obviously we want to treat them much differently than we do
the people who come in down here.
In fact, one of the items we tried to build into the Bloomerang
software is if a gift comes in that’s above your average gift
amount . . . let’s say the average gift amount for your
organization is $234.79.
If someone comes in with a gift above that, let’s not go through
the normal [inaudible 38:11] of sending the same thank you
letter. Let’s try to get them where we’re reaching out and
calling them on the phone, or setting up a personal visit. We’re
doing something special because they just did something special
for that. It can make all the difference in the world in
building a relationship.
I always share a test that I ran, and I wish I would’ve kept the
statistical data. In my previous company, a donor management
company by the name of E-Tapestry, one of the ways that I helped
train every new employee, and each of you out there can do this.
Grab a pencil and jot this idea down.
I gave each brand new employee $100, and I asked them to go make
ten $10 gifts, with two rules. They could only make half of them
online, the other half they had to do via the mail. Half the
donations were to go to charities in the local area, and half of
them would be to national charities.
I wanted them to report back to me at the end of 90 days, at the
end of three months, and let me know which one of those
organizations built a relationship with them or started building
a relationship and which did not.
It was like getting an MBA for these new employees. They quickly
found out how organizations built relationships with them in a
very nice and wonderful manner. If each of you out there do
that, you can garner those same tips and tricks and good
practices that come into play that are in use by these
To this day I still have some of those employees that I know and
I’m friends with on Facebook and those other places that are
still supporting those charities that they made that initial $10
gift to. That charity was able to take them right on into being
a long term donor and have a much higher lifetime value.
Now figuring retention rate, I’m going to only show a couple
slides from Bloomerang, but this is our dashboard. The first
thing you’ll see every time you login is exactly what your
retention rate is here. We figure that from one day to the next,
because we’re always going back exactly 365 days.
You can see if you’re moving that retention rate up or down,
over the next week or two or month as you’re using the software,
and you can start to see the differences that come into play
there. Because those differences can make a huge difference in
the resulting lifetime value.
Now let’s share a little bit of Dr. Sargent’s research here.
First of all, I thought I would talk a little bit about why do
retail customers leave? Think in terms of a dry cleaners, a
restaurant, a pizza parlor, etc., for that. Think about why
those customers leave.
Well, 1% of them never come back due to death. Relocation is 3%.
Won over by a competitor, believe it or not, is only 5%. Bad
complaint handling was 14%, but the remaining 77%, the largest
majority of the percentage by far, was due to lack of interest
I often share the story of the local dry cleaners that’s near my
home. I have been going to for 14 years, and I have yet to be
called by my first name by the owner, or by any employee of that
I cannot imagine, because every single week I hand them my debit
card and it has ‘Jay B. Love’ listed right on there every single
time. I started doing an experiment. I found out what the name
of the owner was, and the employees, and I called them by first
name every time I walked in the store.
Still did not make a change to that. By the way, Mr. Dry
Cleaners, if I’m going someplace else down the road you know
Let’s talk about why donors leave. These are slightly different
but yet there’s some similarities here. No longer able to afford
support, that was one of the ones that we heard most often in
No memory of ever supporting. That’s crazy, that means somebody
did not really ever get back and let you know. I can go with my
experiments with the employees that were giving ten of those
donations out. Over 25 of those donations were never even
thanked. No thank you in any way, shape or form.
The organization asked again, but for inappropriate sums. People
felt that other causes were more deserving. They were not
reminded to give again. Wow. Communication issues.
The organization did not inform how the monies were to be used.
That’s a little bit scary too, that that’s something that donors
want more often. Overall, when you add it all up, they just did
not feel connected to the organization. There are so many ways,
and we will be doing some future sessions on communication
methods and methodologies for doing that.
Steven, and I know Tom’s going to be with us actually in
September. You’ll be hearing more about that, and you’ll get a
chance to know about that first hand.
All these levels of connection really lead to the engagement.
What we’re talking about with the engagement level, and this is
one of the screens there in the Bloomerang product, we’re
actually measuring the engagement automatically based upon all
of these different factors.
Part of these factors are based upon their giving and types of
giving and number of years, and whether they upgrade or
downgrade. Part of it’s based upon their communications, whether
they’re opening emails, clicking on links, forwarding emails,
unsubscribing, stating their communication preferences.
Part of it is just whether people are attending events, like you
see here, or whether they’re volunteering, all these are levels
of engagement. Even being able to track whether or not they’re
liking you on Facebook or saying something about you in other
forms of social media.
All of these factors come together to move this engagement
needle up and down. We now have this magical meter that can tell
you when [inaudible 44:20] engaged enough to ask them about a
major gift or multiple gifts in the same year.
One of the things we’re really excited about, and we worked
really closely with Dr. Sargent, is tracking all of these items
behind the scenes so you can just do your day to day work, and
those engagement levels will be tracked automatically for you.
Let’s talk about six key retention drivers that can help you
double that lifetime value. Number one, as you saw from reasons
from people leaving, really drip feed mission performance data.
Do that in a very personal manner. Let the people know that are
donating to you what they are doing that’s having an effect on
Connect often, but connect in the manner that they would like to
see connected. Be personal. You’ve got to be able to segment
that. Even something as simple as your thank you later.
I have helped probably 10,000 non-profits move onto database
systems over the years. I remember going back to a non-profit
that I helped that was in Chicago that will remain nameless, but
it was a non-profit that I helped install. I went back seven
years later, and they were still using the exact same thank you
They had not made a single revision, and they were still sending
the same thank you letter whether you were a first time donor, a
major donor, a capital campaign donor. That same letter went out
to every single person. That would be something that you can’t
hardly fathom that they wouldn’t have changed that and made that
Develop donor relationship much like you would a good personal
relationship. That means on multiple levels with multiple
vehicles. Whether it’s written communication, electronic
communications, via the telephone, via in person, at events, not
at events, there’s all sorts of ways of building that
relationship so you’re connected in many different ways.
One of the best ways to get that going is to use as many human
connectors as possible. This usually starts with our board
members and helping them bring people into the fold. But you’d
be surprised. People that are back in that donor pyramid, that
have been with you for years and years, think back to that
mathematical spreadsheet that we were looking at.
Someone that’s been with you ten years is more than likely going
to be bringing other people to the fold that can be a way of
building retention. Study after study has shown in the
workplace, the number one reason that someone stays and works at
a company for years and years and years, and some of you may
have heard this, I always thought it was very insightful the
first time I heard it.
It’s because they have a best friend that works there. When you
think about this in the non-profit world and donors, if your
events are fun because their friends are at them, or they’re
talking with their friends and they’re both donating to your
cause, the chances of that person staying with you year after
year after year have been increased demonstrably.
Then last but not least, always, and I use the word always with
a double underline there, communicate what their funds and
monies are being used for and what they’re doing. Be specific as
possible for them.
I’ll wrap mine up here, I know we’ve got some good questions
here. Strive for donor satisfaction via donor commitment and
engagement, which results in donor trust and donor loyalty.
If you can, close your eyes out there for just a second and
think about, if you could double the lifetime value of your
donor database, what that would mean to your mission. There are
certainly ways to do that, because all you have to do to double
that is move the retention up 9 or 10% and you can actually
With that, Steven, why don’t we move into the question and
answer period? Do we have any questions that have come in to
Kirsten or myself?
Steven: We do, we’ve got a few. That was a great presentation Jay, and
Kirsten, really great tips as well. It seems like people were
reacting pretty well to them. Yeah, we’ve got about maybe ten
minutes, so we can get through a couple questions.
If anyone has any questions that they haven’t asked in the chat
room, feel free to send those over. I’ll see them, I’ll just
field them one by one.
Kirsten, thinking about your eight tips, you work with a lot of
non-profits in your career. Where do people skip tips or maybe
not focus on one instead of the other? Where do you think people
ignore the things you talk about? What do you think, what are
you seeing there?
Kirsten: One of the biggest ones that I’ve seen is skipping over
strategy and going right into method. Without trying to think of
who you’re reaching and what the right strategies are to reach
that particular audience. Jumping into figuring out what to do.
Skipping that step of being strategic first, and doing
everything for a reason and because it’s going to help connect
with the right audience. If that makes sense.
Steven: Yeah, definitely. What do you think Jay? You’ve worked with
Jay: It’s hard to pinpoint exactly one. I would have to agree with Kirsten
to that they skipped over that. A lot of people that are on
board and are involved with it have not really figured out how
the whole fundraising process works.
I think just having them be part of it in some way shape or
form, one of the ways I’ve found that helped people get involve
and know what was important, they actually had us at one
organization, at a food bank I’m on the board of, actually write
thank you letters, personalized, hand written letters.
During the course of the meeting we would write a few thank you
notes to people and send them out. We got ot know those donors
on a little bit more personal basis. I think that helps bring us
back to the case statement and all the other key steps that
Kirsten was talking about.
Steven: Great. Conversely, Rachel was wondering if any non-profits come
to mind in terms of people who do this the right way in terms of
engagement and retention. Are there any non-profits that come to
mind when you think of people who are doing it the right way,
who are really great examples of this?
Jay: Without naming specifics, I could certainly name some of those, but
two categories have come to mind. If you talk about most major
universities, they have a pretty good idea of how to build that
relationship and what the retention levels means to the
Also they have gotten to a pretty good level of doing that. When
you’re talking about small and medium sized non-profits, which I
know a lot of our audience is, two groups that really come to
mind in that arena are faith-based organizations that bring the
tithing concept into play, and make sure that they keep a lot of
good communication going.
Then groups that are involved with advocacy related areas. That
group I was talking about that had a 70-some percent retention
rate was a group that was very, very active in advocacy issues
in the Washington, DC area. As you can imagine, those are people
that are pretty involved and quite fervent with their emotions
about the non-profit that they’re supporting.
Steven: What about you? You mentioned Charity Water in the chat room.
Is there anybody else that you see who really gets this?
Kirsten: There’s one that’s a good example, and it’s not really
technically a non-profit. It’s definitely not a non-profit. It’s
Kiva [SP]. Because then people can give loans, it’s a micro-loan
to a specific person. The people who are giving the loans are
able to specifically track who’s getting it, what it’s being
used for, and then the loan is repaid at some point.
As far as telling a story and connecting people into individual
stories, I think that’s a great example to look at, even though
it’s outside of the non-profit sector. Charity Water I usually
reference in most of my presentations, just because they’ve got
everything down to a science.
It’s not really quite your question, but I think this is where
smaller non-profits can really have a step up, because there is
an ability to connect with people personally and not just on
that macro level, through the mail, through email and all that.
It can be really, really personal. We can connect a specific
board member with a specific donor, and they can build a
relationship. I think with smaller organizations, if we’re
taking advantage of the ability to meet personally with people,
we can come steps ahead of other organizations.
Steven: Definitely. While we’re talking about smaller organizations,
Dawn had a question in the chat room. She was wondering what
advice you would have for a one person non-profit, so someone
out there on their own who’s trying to raise money. Would you
suggest anything different to them in terms of someone who’s
just out on their own?
Kirsten: I would suggest the first thing is to find a board member who
can be a partner in the fundraising effort. Not necessarily to
be doing all of the fundraising, but somebody to be a champion
who’s not on staff.
With a one person organization it’s so important to have the
board engaged, providing some training, some background to them
so they can help in a way that’s going to be productive.
Having one person on the board who’s that conduit between the
organization and the board, and the board and maybe the
community, that can help. Having a board advocate in place can
Jay: You took the word right out of my mouth. If you’re a one person
operation you’ve got to have a strong board. I also think it’s
very important to find a few other mentors in your own community
or own area of other small operations that are very well run and
Then I wouldn’t be a technology vendor if I didn’t mention it,
but I would hope that you could find some easy to use technology
tools that make you look and feel like you’re a much, much
I’ll never forget one of my first customers back in the 80s on a
product called Fun Master [SP] was a one person operation, and
it was a Save the Bay, and it was a smaller bay in one of the
This particular person, with their database and their
communication tools, you would’ve thought that you were dealing
with Greenpeace. It was amazing what this person was able to do
with the right technology behind them.
Steven: Great. We’ve probably got time for one question. I know we’re
approaching the 2:00 hour and I don’t want to take up anymore of
anyone’s day. This has been really great. I guess if we could
leave it on this question it’d be interesting to hear both of
What do you think is the best way to welcome a first year donor
so that they return? So keeping retention in mind, what would
you communicate to a first year donor or first time donor to
ensure that they do return to your organization?
Jay: Want me to try first, Kirsten, and let you chime in next?
Jay: OK. I’m a big believer that unless you’ve got hundreds of them coming
in in the course of a month, if you’ve got just one or two
first time donors that come in per day, make that a very special
welcome to them.
If at all possible, reach out and give them a call, or at least
leave them a voicemail message. More importantly, make the thank
you letter have something personal in the letter itself. Whether
it’s a hand written PS, whether you write the letter from
scratch, whether it’s a hand written email.
Something to let them know that you know that it’s their first
time and you’re very, very appreciative, and you want to
communicate with them more often.
Kirsten: I would definitely second that. Just to add a component, it’s
to have a system in place where you’re communicating back to
that person the impact of their gift throughout the year. You’re
having regular, consistent contact with donors that’s
appropriate to the level of their gift.
Steven: Makes sense. Well, we’re just about out of time. I know there’s
a few questions there in the chat room that we couldn’t get to.
I would encourage those folks to reach out to us separately.
Obviously Kirsten can be reached by email. Jay, he’s a big
Twitter guy, so don’t be afraid to tweet him questions if you’re
also on that network.
Just in the two minutes we’ve got remaining, I want to give
Kirsten the last word so she can tell folks how to learn more
about her and maybe get that $20 offer once again. Go ahead,
Kirsten: OK, thanks Steven. Just to sum up, I provide training for
organizations to help them reach their fundraising goals faster.
You can learn more about me at thenonprofitacademy.com, as well
as on your screen, you can see growingyourdonors.com.
Feel free to reach out, call. I’d love to talk more with you
about your challenges and the opportunities that your
organization might have.
Steven: Great, well thanks for spending an hour with us, Kirsten. It
was really awesome to have you. Jay, as always for explaining
the donor retention math. I know that chart is always shocking
every time I see it, it’s just really interesting.
For those of you still listening, I will be sending out the
slides, to expect to see those hit your email box later this
afternoon. We’ll cut it off here and we’ll say thanks. Hope you
join us again for our next webinar, which is actually next week.
You can find more about that on bloomerang.co/resources. You can
register for all of our upcoming webinars, actually.
Thanks again everyone for joining us, and have a great rest of
Jay: Thanks, Steven.
Kirsten: Thank you.