Girls sharing secrets

5 Secret Nonprofit Donor Retention Action Strategies

Girls sharing secretsGiving is an emotional experience. It deserves an emotional response.

Be human.

Ever notice how sometimes when we put on our work hats we cease to be human? How we somehow morph into little robotic “professionals” and become enamored of jargon?

“Lybnts.” “Sybnts.” “Recaptures.”

Not that those things aren’t important. You need goals and objectives.

And given the dreadful state of donor retention in the U.S. today (and in the U.K and Canada as well), it’s vital you be able to measure how you’re doing. Because growth in giving is a factor not just of how many new donors and dollars you acquire, but also of how many donors and dollars you lose.

If you lose as many current donors as you gain new ones, you’re getting nowhere. Fast.

Treadmills Are Only Good in the Gym

Slow down.

Think about what you’re doing and why. You may need to change your frame of mind.

When you acquire a new donor, is it for that one-time transaction? If so, that’s not a very thoughtful strategy, because it costs more money than you make to acquire new donors. In fact, you likely won’t make back your investment for 18 months or so. You won’t make it back at all if you don’t renew that donor.

Nonprofits, sadly, have been on a non-stop treadmill. Donors in. Donors out. Donors in. Donors out. So… something about just measuring this stuff isn’t really working.

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Are You Rocking Donor Retention 101?

You love me. I love you. Let's hang out and rock!

You love me. I love you. Let’s hang out and rock!

 

Really, donors definitely want to rock and roll with you. It brings them joy and meaning!

Yet, I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s doubtful you’re rocking along with your donors unless you’re making robust use of your donor database for this purpose.

In other words, you must make donor engagement and retention a TOP priority.

Retention lives or dies in how effectively, or not, you use your database to support your relationship-building, loyalty-driving efforts.

If you think of your database as a largely undifferentiated mailing list, you’re not going to realize your potential to:

  • Boost renewal rates
  • Increase average gift size
  • Upgrade donors
  • Secure major and legacy gifts
  • Recapture lapsed donors
  • … and more!

Really, I just can’t bear to think of you not maximizing return on your investment.

And that won’t happen unless you focus on donor lifetime value.

And lifetime value will be very, very small — unless you retain and upgrade donors over time.

There are 5 Keys to Donor Retention

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Photo of a cobweb

What Does Early Spring Mean for Nonprofit Communications Strategies?

Photo of a cobwebThis week the groundhog told us it’s going to be an early spring!

Spring is always a good time for re-awakening, rebirth and just plain dusting away the cobwebs.  And what a dreary, grave, cobwebby period it’s been.

We’ve got a lot to clean up, reorganize and rethink. So much, in fact, it’s downright overwhelming. So, as I sat down to write today’s article, I thought about what you actually have within your power to do. Right now. And all throughout the coming months.

I know it’s been pretty hard to focus with everything going on in the world.

So I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and tried to pull together the various challenges I’ve seen nonprofit leaders, fundraisers, and marketers grapple with in the past year. Actually, the past years. Through elections, pandemic, climate catastrophes, shootings, war, unprecedented demonstrations of cruelty and inhumanity, and more. It’s a LOT.

But, the show — your good work — must go on. 

In  other words, your mission must move forward. People rely on you to do the critical work of the social benefit sector.

I thought: what can people do now to set themselves up for success as we move forward into high fundraising season at the end of this coming year? It may seem early to think about this, but it’s never too soon to put your best foot forward.

I’ve ended up with four tips I hope you’ll find relevant and timely.

  1. Big Picture
  2. Your Role as Helper
  3. Practical Guidance
  4. Strategic Advice

4 Timely Nonprofit Fundraising and Communications Strategies

1. BIG PICTURE: Message Confidently During Uncertain Times

Whether it’s a marketing or fundraising communication, keep these four messaging basics in mind.

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Valentine-Monterey-Aquarium-300x300.jpg

10 Strategies to Celebrate Nonprofit Donors on Valentine’s Day

Last year, you posted about sending donors valentines, which I came across a bit too late in the game, so I sent emails. But, this year, I kept that idea and planned for it, and sent handmade valentines to my top level donors. I felt like I was in 2nd grade with my glue stick and doilies, but the response has been amazing! Not only did my colleagues get in on the action, but I have received nothing but great comments via email and phone calls. Definitely a practice I’ll do every year. Thanks for the great idea! 

— Rebekah Cross, Special Gifts Officer, Guiding Eyes for the Blind

I love a good celebration.

And nothing is more worth celebrating than a holiday, and your donors!

You’ve still got time to send a little love your donors’ way! It’s been a tough, and for many a lonely, isolating and “othering” few years. Chances are good we’re still in for a long season of time during which donors could really use a little extra love from you. Many folks — your donors included — are love starved right now.

Why might this be something for you to consider, amidst all the other “to-do’s” on your plate?

If you don’t do a lot more donor loving, you’re going to do a lot more donor losing.

I hope by now you know donor retention is the name of the game. It costs so much more to acquire a new donor than to keep an existing one. Yet too few nonprofits have serious, intentional donor stewardship programs in place. Because of that, on average, nonprofits lose roughly  8 out of 10 first-time donors and close to 6 out of 10 of all donors.

Don’t be one of those “take the money and run” organizations!

If donors only hear from you when you want something from them, they’re not likely to give more. Or even give again.

Be generous! Show donors how much their support means to you.

Really, donor love should be like breathing for you. In and out. Out and in.

  • They love you, and show you (usually by giving a monetary gift).
  • You love them, and show them (usually by offering an intangible “feel good” like prompt, personal and repeat gratitude).

You’ll be amazed at how a little love can go a long way.

This year why not dedicate Valentine’s Day to giving, not asking?

If you can’t send valentines to every donor, select a segment or two.

Think about those donors for whom you’d like to show some special love, because they showed you some. Show them you noticed! They could be:

  • Major donors.
  • Monthly donors.
  • Donors who’ve given faithfully for five years or more.
  • Donors who increased their giving this year.
  • First-time donors of $100+.
  • Donors who also volunteer.
  • Board and committee members.
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10 Strategies to Actively Build Nonprofit Donors Trust

trustTrust defines the credibility and legitimacy not only of your organization, but of the entire social benefit sector. Yet too few organizations make the effort to operationalize this construct into their fundraising and marketing planning.

You should.

Without donor trust and confidence in philanthropy there’s no future for social benefit organizations.

Donor retention guru Professor Adrian Sargeant has spent 20+ years researching the relationship between trust, philanthropy and continued donor commitment. And he has found, unequivocally, that trust is the essential foundation of the philanthropic relationship.

Ignore this at your peril.

Actively Build Donor Trust

The Donor’s Bill of Rights is a great starting point.  But simply using it as a checklist is not enough.  Too transactional. I encourage you to go above and beyond. Because the best predictor of future giving is when people feel good.

You can make giving to you a transformational experience. How? By actualizing what you learn here into a series of multi-step plans for:

  1. Gift Acknowledgement that Satisfies Donors

  2. Donor-Centered Communications that Instill Happiness

  3. Useful Content Marketing that Offers Gifts

  4. Consistent Branding that Instills Confidence

  5. Relationship Fundraising that Creates Meaning and Builds Loyalty

If you take these five steps, implementing the 10 strategies incorporated below, I can guarantee you’ll steadily build trust and make donors happy. They may seem simple, and they are. But honestly ask yourself if you really do these things right now? Trust must be earned, and it can be fragile. So, I’m going to guess you could do better. Please read these action steps with an eye to what you might do to make your donor retention plan – what I prefer to call a “donor love and loyalty plan” – more vigorous. It’s up to you to establish trust and magnetically pull your donors toward you so they never let go.

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Sign: Thank You! You Are Essential

13 Top Secrets of Donor Thank You Letters Revealed

"Thank You You Are Essential" signLet’s begin with a question: What do you spend more time on? Asking or thanking?

You’ve probably just completed a quarter hyper-focused on asking. I’ll bet you devoted a lot of time to this endeavor.

Now… you should be devoting at least as much time to thanking the donors who responded to your appeals, with the goal of retaining and upgrading them over time.

This is especially true with first-time donors, who cost you much more to acquire than you receive (on average, you spend $1.25 to raise $1.00). The only reason to acquire these supporters is to sustain them over timeso their lifetime value to you merits your investment in them.

Alas, the lion’s share of nonprofits spend a lot more time asking than thanking and reporting back on impact.

Thank you’s are often left to the last minute. They may be delegated to a lower-level support person. They’re treated as a realtively unimportant affterthought. And they’re often carelessly written, coming across as little more than a transactional receipt or a pre-printed Hallmark card with nothing more than a signature (often, also, laser printed).

It’s a BIG mistake.

The number one reason donors don’t give again is they aren’t properly thanked!

You may think you have a proper thank you letter template. But, if your thank you looks like this, it’s not helping you bond with your supporters.

TYPICAL THANK YOU LETTER TEMPLATE

Dear [donor name],

Thank you for your generous donation of $[donation amount] to [nonprofit name].

Your donation is making a difference. Because of your $[amount] donation, we are able to [impact of donation].

[this paragraph usually gives a general description of what the organization does]

Thank you again for your contribution! [nonprofit name] relies on the gifts of donors like you to make a difference.

Sincerely,
[name and title]

Look familiar?

Wah, wah, wah (sad trombone).

Most thank you letters are simply boring.

This could come from almost any nonprofit. It’s generic, not specific.It looks like a form letter.

You can do a lot better, and it’s not hard.

To Retain Donors, Stand Out from the ‘Get Go’

Believe me, most donors aren’t sticking around. Your own retention rates may be better or worse than average (do you know them?), but generally only 19% of new donors give again. For ongoing donors, it’s just 43%.

The time to nip this in the bud is now.

Did you know a study from Charity Dynamics and NTEN found 21% of donors say they were never thanked at all? My hunch is some of these supporters did receive something from you, but it was so perfunctory they didn’t really take notice.

  • Maybe you just sent a form receipt.
  • Maybe you took them to a thank you landing page; then called it a day.
  • Maybe you sent a brief, formal email that confirmed the gift, but didn’t make them feel particularly special.
  • Maybe you sent a letter, but talked more about the ongoing need than the impact of their gift (i.e., it sounded like another fundraising appeal).

If you don’t have a killer thank you letter prepared to send to the folks you hope will be giving to you again between today and next year, now is the time to right this wrong.

If you thank well you’ll see retention rates increase significantly.

In fact, research from Penelope Burk, author of Donor-Centered Fundraising, found 70% of donors reported they would increase their giving if they received what they needed from you.

Brilliant, warm, authentic, personal communication stands out and leads to renewals. And this is a much less expensive strategy than new donor acquisition which, again, costs from $1 to $1.25 to raise a dollar. Whereas renewing a donor costs only 20 cents on the dollar  — if you prioritize this as a strategy.

By now you may be thinking: Sounds good, but how do we stand out? There must be some specific strategies that incline donors towards giving again, but what are they?

Today I share my top secrets with you. They’re simple and foolproof.

Ready?

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Thank you note writing

Don’t Blow Your Post-Holiday Opportunity to Thank Your Nonprofit Supporters

Thank you note writingFor good things once a year is not enough. Why do so many of us only eat turkey once a year?  Or pumpkin pie? I’ve no idea! It’s surely not rational. These are special foods we value and take great delight in. Yet we get into a bad habit of thinking on auto pilot. If it’s not Thanksgiving, the idea of roasting a turkey or making cranberry sauce doesn’t even enter most or our heads. And egg nog, hot mulled cider, panettone and stollen are mostly Christmas things. And then there are the once-a-year only potato latkes. Why are we missing out on an opportunity for greater joy and satisfaction?

When things are good, they bear repeating.

And this is most certainly the case with expressing gratitude to your valued supporters!

It’s not rational to thank your donors only annually.  They keep you going all year long. They deserve your gratitude all year long as well.

What better time to thank supporters than right now, and all through the coming weeks, after a holiday season filled with gratitude?

The much-anticipated “holiday season” is pretty much over. There’s a natural let-down for many.  Wouldn’t it be lovely for your donors and volunteers to get a call from their favorite charity? A call that simply expresses gratitude? 
            Joe, how was your holiday? I just called because, in thinking over the past few days about all for which I’m grateful, I realized I’m grateful for you and all you do to make our community a more caring place. I just wanted you to know how much your support is appreciated. Thanks so much, and may the new year bring many blessings.
My hunch is there’s nothing better you could do with your time today. Or early next week if you’re taking some personal (or shopping the sales?) time today.

All the “strategies” in the world can’t substitute for a genuine, personal connection that comes from the heart.

Connect!  Express your thanks! Don’t let weeks and months go by. Don’t wait until you’ve got a perfectly crafted letter, email or insert piece. That’s called procrastination, or “letting perfect be the enemy of the good.” Sometimes, timing is everything.
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Thankful for Thanksgiving

Happy Days of Thanks(for)Giving

Thankful for ThanksgivingThis Thursday folks in the United States will celebrate what I consider to be the social benefit sector holiday of the year.

So it’s time for my annual Thanks(for)Giving post!

Just think about what ‘Thanksgiving’ means.

Literally, it’s a day for giving thanks for the blessings given to us.

Who, and what, do you count among yours?

I’ve noted when we go around the table at my family Thanksgivings, saying what we’re grateful for, most folks respond with people-based answers. Yes, gratitude for the feast in front of us is mentioned, yet what folks are most grateful for are caring friends, loving family, embracing community, and simply for being together sharing the warmth of good company. This year, with parts of the world completely unbalanced by barbaric acts of war, extreme poverty, and a spreading global divide teetering on the edge between democracy and autocracy, giving thanks may seem like a stretch.  Which is why leaning into your connections with people, and all the good things you share with them, are more important than ever.

But not all connections are around a Thanksgiving table with family and friends.

A lot of connections for nonprofit workers are with donors, volunteers, clients and co-workers.

Gratitude in the social benefit sector extends to all the people working to restore balance and repair our world. It’s difficult work, to be sure. Rather than fall prey to doom casting, tears and hand wringing, let’s take a moment to breathe deeply and welcome gratitude into our hearts. And let’s extend that gratitude to the people who care (including yourself). As Margaret Mead famously said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed individuals can change the world. In fact, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Who are you grateful to at your organization?

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Halloween skeleton

8 BOO BOO’s! Are You SCARING Nonprofit Donors Away?

Halloween skeleton

Is this how you’re making your donor feel?!?!

 

BOO!

Halloween is creeping up on us, so I’ve got some really scary stuff for you!

Don’t get too spooked. There are also a few treats.

In fact, you’ll get eight delicious goodies — in the form of “to-do’s.”

But first… the bad news.

No bones about it, you’re frightening folks away if you’re committing any of these 8 boo-boo’s!

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