Retention is the New Acquisition

publication date: Nov 25, 2014
author/source: Danielle Johnson-Vermenton

Danielle Johnson-VermentonLack of stewardship has a price, and nothing proves that more than the AFP Fundraising Effectiveness Survey. While organizations focus on their development goal and raising money through major gifts, events, direct mail, grants and online, we continue to see is a lack of focus on stewardship and retention.

Consider that for every 100 new donors gained, 105 donors were lost through attrition.   While we raised more money, a $34 million net growth-in-giving, for every $100 gained through new, renewed or increased support in 2012, $96 was lost in 2013.  Yet, according to Adrian Sargeant and Elaine Jay, a 10% increase in donor retention can enhance the lifetime value of your donor base by up to 200%.  

Those are sobering statistics and make it pretty clear what we should be focusing on.  Every organization needs to increase their investment in stewardship and retention. Poor stewardship comes at a hefty price: the loss of money, the loss of donors and, based on my 13 years of experience in the field, the sanity of the organization’s employees.

Great stewardship requires your organization to shift its focus away from raising the next dollar to keeping the next dollar. In everything you do, ask yourself “What do I want the donor to think, feel and learn about the impact they are making?” If you can let that guide your communications and activities, you will be on your way from good stewardship to great stewardship.

Here are 10 tips that any and all organizations can implement with the proper planning and resources.

  1. Add a stewardship component to every campaign, appeal, event and activity at your organization. There is always a reason to say thank you.
  2. Start at the beginning and implement an offline and online donor welcome series for first-time givers
  3. Add to the campaign mix: customize campaign donation form autoresponders, add a thank-you email to appeals, and for larger appeals do a six-month and one-year follow-up
  4. Create mission moments by telling stories that elicit a response. Make your mission tangible and focus on the donor’s impact
  5. Ditch the annual report book and start doing an annual infographic. What are people more likely to read – a 12-page book or a jumbo-size postcard?
  6. Use short videos (no more than two minutes) to tell a story and say thanks
  7. Hold a multichannel thank-a-thon two or three times a year
  8. Treat your monthly donors with a little extra TLC
  9. Engage, thank and give supporters a voice via social media
  10. And finally, have a plan with measurable goals, a timeline, and tracking

I don’t know who originally said it, but I couldn’t agree more, “We need to stop measuring our success by whether or not we meet the needs of our annual budget.s. With every point of contact it’s about thanking, stewarding and growing a relationship with donors.  Just think of it this way – by increasing your retention success, you are actually boosting your acquisition of loyal donors.

For ideas on online donor retention, download the free eBook: Show the Love: Donor Retention Strategies.

For a thorough analysis of donor stewardship and retention read Adrian Sargeant and Elaine Jay’s text  Building Donor Loyalty: The Fundraiser's Guide to Increasing Lifetime Value, 2004.

For the past three and half years, Danielle has been part of the Go! Team at Blackbaud. Prior to that, Danielle worked for more than 13 years in the nonprofit industry at organizations such as the American Red Cross, PBS and the Boys & Girls Clubs. A former speaker at BBCON, AFP Planet Philanthropy, the Boys & Girls Club Southeast Regional Conference and numerous webinars, Danielle’s passion is inspiring nonprofits to have a plan for today with a grand vision for tomorrow. You can follow Danielle on twitter at @DJVermenton.

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