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What does it REALLY take for your donors to stick around?

By November 14, 2012April 25th, 2014Donor Engagement

On November 7 Penelope Burk, researcher and author of Donor-Centered Fundraising, and I were plenary speakers at the first day of the Minnesota Planned Giving Council Conference. I always learn something new from Penelope and
what stood out for me this time was the focus on the power of thanking donors.


So as a follow up to last week’s post on donor retention & acquisition here are some powerful stats from Burk’s 2012 research about what it takes to retain your donors:

  • Thank you calls from the board to first time donors are KEY. Second gifts were 39% higher from donors who received thank you calls from a board member AND 2 years later over 70% were retained!

  • It DOES make a difference if the board calls vs. staff.
    A peer to peer phone call is deemed as more meaningful by the donor.

As noted in Burk & Cygnus Donor Survey 2012 when donors were asked: “What will it take to unleash your philanthropy?” responses fell into these three categories:

  1. Prompt, meaningful gift acknowledgment
  2. Designation of the gift to a program, service or project that is more narrow in scope than the overall mandate of the organization
  3. Hearing about measurable results of my previous gift BEFORE being asked for another gift

As you head into the season where you will (hopefully!) be inundated with contributions, make it easy and fun to have your board make thank you calls each week at the minimum to your first-time donors, if not everyone at a specific gift threshold and higher.

You may even want to provide the board with a few talking points. Give them examples of what will be done with the gifts generated this busy giving season. By doing that, with a single phone call, you can cover ALL THREE points donors gave for what it takes to unleash their philanthropy.

A phone call can stand out in the crowd of organizations where gifts are processed like a transaction and cause YOUR supporters to KNOW their gift matters.

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