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10 Steps to Retaining New Donors

By August 14, 2013April 25th, 2014Donor Engagement, Guest Post

Guest post by Jay B. Love, CEO and Co-Founder of Bloomerang

This week we have a terrific guest post by Jay Love of Bloomerang. Jay is also our featured guest in this month’s Ignited Online Fundraising Community webinar What Every Fundraiser Can Do to Stop Falling Donor Retention Rates on August 22.

jayloveRecently, I shared the podium at a gathering of nonprofit leaders in the San Francisco Bay Area with the CEO of one of the fastest growing peer-to-peer fundraising firms. The topic revolved around two key areas:

  1. New Donor Acquisition
  2. New Donor Retention

Peer-to-Peer Fundraising is Revolutionizing New Donor Acquisition
When you compare the statistics being compiled regarding new donor acquisition costs and growth via peer-to-peer it is not hard to be impressed.

However, the phrase “easy come, easy go” can often be used if peer-to-peer acquired donors are not handled with tender loving care. Let’s explore how many of those peer-to-peer donors can be converted into lifetime donors. By the way, this applies to all new donors of any source!

What Can Be Done to Improve New Donor Retention?
First, you will be glad to know there are no deep secrets or extremely expensive technology tools required to change this picture if you have less than 1,200 new donors per year. Twelve hundred new donors per year equals 100 or less new donors per month, or an average of five-per-day! My estimate is that such a flow or less of new donors is the case for 67% or more of the one million plus registered charities in the United States.

I mention the number of five-per-day to totally place in perspective the amount of personal attention and time needed to make each and every new donor feel special. Just five small actions per day can make every single one of those five new donors feel special.

If a New Donor Feels Special Their Retention Rises
All of us in the nonprofit sector find ourselves so caught up in the multitude of activities facing us each day we often forget a few small gestures and actions would make new donors feel special. We will explore several of those possible gestures below.

Sending a Standard Thank You Letter is Only a Start
Being a purveyor of fundraising software for 30 years has allowed me to help thousands of nonprofits create and store their thank you and appeal letters. For some, it is quite an improvement to be sending out a professional letter or email in a timely manner. Frankly though, it is just bringing you up to average or the expected standard in the eyes of the new donor.

For the new donor to feel special and for a relationship to flourish, you must be above average. This is precisely why the thank you letter is just the beginning!

New Donors Know What is Automated & What is Not
Simple gestures and actions make such an incredible difference in allowing the new donor to feel special. They know you or someone affiliated with your organization made an extra effort to start a relationship. If you can do three or more of them over the first six months they will remember you and will be 2-3x more likely to become a multi-year donor. Here are a few:

  1. Add a handwritten personal note or P.S. to the thank you letter
  2. Better yet, send a separate hand written note with personal items within
  3. Call and thank them
  4. Invite them for a tour of your facility either in person or an on-line virtual version
  5. Have either the Executive Director or a Board Member call to thank them
  6. Invite them to lunch or dinner to thank them (usually above a certain dollar amount)
  7. Send a short survey asking their opinion (short being 5 questions or less)
  8. Send a picture or article depicting what their gift is specifically achieving
  9. Invite them to volunteer in some manner
  10. If they were a donor due to the actions of another donor or board member ask the connector person to communicate why they, the connector, support your mission

Building Donor Relationships is Just Like Personal Friendship Building
Think back to your most recent personal friendships which blossomed. Did they not involve multiple manners of communications in a wide variety of settings? The process should be fun for both parties. In fact, the more fun and special the new donor has and feels the faster the relationship flourishes.

Higher New Donor Retention Leads to Even Higher Overall Donor Retention
I know the above statement is common sense, if not, common knowledge. I trust you agree there were no hidden secrets or expensive new technology to make them come to life. The axioms can be used for all new donors, but are even more vital for peer to peer event donors. Most are gestures and actions, which have been used for centuries in building human relationships. Please evaluate the myriad of daily tasks at your nonprofit to see if these simple gestures could be implemented. The results and rewards will justify their use over and over!

Jay B. Love is CEO and Co-Founder of Bloomerang. He currently serves as the Senior Vice President of Avectra. Both organizations serve the nonprofit sector only. Jay was the CEO and Founder of eTapestry for 10 years. You can follow Jay onTwitter at @JayBarclayLove or check out the always helpful Bloomerang blog.

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