Donor Retention in a Free-Fall: How 2018 Looks So Far

I don’t like to post things that could cause panic but this is too important to not talk about…

The Fundraising Effectiveness Project recently released their second quarter report for 2018. And the results are not good.

Donor retention is down 6.4% overall… it’s down 18% for new donors (read: first-time givers) and 2.1% for repeat donors (read: givers who have donated at least twice before).

And no, it’s not because the first two quarters of 2017 were too good to top. Retention was down then also. Now it’s just worse.

How do your numbers compare?

If you haven’t calculated your retention rates yet this year, now would be a good time to get to it.

Data from the third quarter is likely being crunched as I write this. But given that Q3 is traditionally the slowest time for fundraising, I can’t expect to see great improvements from July – September.

Regardless, the rest of the year is going to be critical.

So what should you do to make the most of it? The same shit experts have been saying for years. There are no surprises here.

I recommend…

  • Thank your donors personally and quickly. Express gratitude for them, not their gifts…a subtle but critical difference.
  • Report on the impacts and outcomes possible because of their generosity. Let them know they made a difference.
  • Give credit for accomplishments and success to your donors, not your organization.
  • Craft your donor communications to generate feelings of joy.
  • Survey supporters to learn more about what they care about and why. Incorporate what you learn into your communications with them.

It’s simple stuff. But don’t confuse simple with easy.

It can require a shift in organizational culture and mindset, additional resources, and different priorities to make this happen. But if the results are an increase in donor loyalty and giving, it’s clearly worth it.

Unless you prefer losing three of four first-time donors. The choice is yours.

 

Tina Cincotti, owner of Funding Change, is a donor communications expert and general nonprofit nerd.
October 16, 2018

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