The last of the donations from your year-end appeal letter has been opened. Your final thank you letter has been dropped in the mail. Great job! Mark that off your list until next year right? WRONG!!
Saying thank you is just one action needed to retain current donors. The chance of a donor giving consistently for five years is only 39%. It takes more than a once-a-year thank you note to ensure that your donor retention rate exceeds that dismal percentage.
So what should you do? First of all, remember that successful fundraising is based on the development of relationships with your donors. Donors are more likely to “bond” with your organization when they hear personal stories of the challenges and successes that you face every day. Numbers and charts do not have the ability to pull at the heartstrings as well as stories that share the positive outcomes that donors fund. Such stories can be conveyed to your donors through handwritten notes, newsletters, or emails.
Public donor recognition is another way to strengthen your donor retention rates. This can be accomplished by:
· Establishing giving societies or honor roll categories. These are usually determined by levels of giving and appear in your print publications or on your website in order to communicate the contributions of individuals and organizations. The names listed must be carefully checked, however, to ensure that no names are forgotten or are listed in the wrong category.
· Donor profiles. Incorporating personal stories of donors in your newsletter, on your website, or in the local newspaper are very public forms of recognition. Such profiles can effectively share donor perspectives as to why giving to your organization is important as well highlighting their generosity. Make sure that you have secured permission from a donor before doing this, as not all donors are comfortable with such publicity!
· Donor recognition events. Events are an effective way to foster relationships with donors. Events can take multiple forms, from a one-on-one meeting to a small intimate reception to a large-scale dinner. Such activities help strengthen your connection with donors.
Finally, make sure that you report to your donors the impact of their gift on the mission of the organization. Use your newsletter, emails, and website to share this information. Keep the information relevant and personal. If it is possible and without violating confidentiality, let your donors hear directly from the people they have helped. And, after sharing the impact of their gift, take the time to ask your donors what you could do better. Show them that you value and respect their suggestions and concerns.
Your New Year’s Resolution for 2017 is to give more time and attention to your donors. Work to increase your donor retention percentage by 10%. If you achieve this, you will see a significant increase in donations by this time next year!
Dr. Jill Nilsen has more than 35 years experience working at Eastern Illinois University and was responsible for all of the external outreach to their many customers. She was responsible for marketing, communications, fundraising and building strong alumni relationships. She also is an active volunteer in the regional nonprofit sector having served as board president of the Charleston Area Chamber of Commerce, Excellence in Education Foundation for Charleston, Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center Board, and the Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Jill and her husband Hank reside in Charleston.