Smart Ways To Retain Donors

You work hard to attract new people to support your cause every year. But how many actually come back?

Across the country, 75% of all first-time donors don’t return to the organization the following year. What can you do to turn this statistic around? Mark Schroeder, certified benefit auctioneer, shared with us his strategies for retaining donors in our recent webinar, 7 Essentials to Fund-a-Need Success with Auction brio LLC.

Why such a high attrition rate?

It seems that donors tend to move around in their philanthropy, staying with one organization for an average of 1.9 years. And why shouldn’t they? If people give their hard-earned money to an organization, they want to know it was well used. If they get no feedback, they’ll move on to another cause.

Strategies for retaining donors

Retaining donors takes work, but it pays off with great dividends as more people stay with your organization for longer periods. Here are some strategies to let people know you value them.

  • Say “Thank You”—The most important thing you can do to keep people coming back to support your organization is to thank them. It seems simple enough, but in the flurry of activity before and after a large event, it’s an easy thing to overlook.
  • Say it Soon—When is the most powerful time to thank a donor? Within 48 hours of your event. Let’s face it. The event is over and everyone’s exhausted. But imagine what it could be like for your supporters. Within two days, they receive an email or a phone call thanking them for their donation and describing the impact it has had on your beneficiaries. That’s it. No sales call. No plug for more donations. Just a simple thank you. Wouldn’t you feel good about your donation?
  • Appreciate Them—By being prompt and direct with your gratitude, you create a bond with your donors. They feel appreciated. They feel like their money actually accomplished something. And, if they had a great time at your event, they’ll remember and they’ll want to come back.
  • Go the Extra Mile—Some organizations actually deliver their live auction packages personally to donors’ homes. Talk about building a bond! This has been transformational for some nonprofits. You could do the same with your silent auction packages as well.
  • Say “Thank You” Again—Keep in touch with your supporters and thank them again five to six months after your event, or when the Fund-A-Need project is completed. Tell them how well it succeeded and the impact it had. Celebrate with them how their donation made it all happen.

Improve your retention rate

Your donors are people. Like all of us, they appreciate being appreciated. If all of your conversations are about your needs and the funds you’re trying to raise, people start to tune out after a while. But if you also have conversations where you just simply thank them for their support, they will be more likely to stick with you and help you with your next project.

What’s your experience?

How do you thank your donors? What methods have you found most effective? What impact do these “thank you” conversations have on your staff/volunteers making the calls and sending the emails? Have you found creative ways to show your supporters your appreciation? Please share your ideas in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you.


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