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How do you foster loyalty in a downturn?

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[Publisher’s note: The Philanthropy Journal does not necessarily endorse the opinions, products or services offered or cited in this paid advertorial.]

ResultsPlusThese are tough times — for everyone. But there are several things you can do to keep your donors committed and connected.

These days almost all organizations, including nonprofits, are feeling the effects of the economic downturn. In its two most recent survey years, the Fundraising Effectiveness Project showed significantly less increase in giving rates than in previous years. What can your organization do to maintain donor loyalty and foster relationships in this climate?

When donors “hang on” during a downturn, it’s because they believe in your organization’s mission. You can engage them in this mission by doing the following:

  • Acknowledge gifts as quickly as possible. Many donors lose interest when a gift is not acknowledged; they interpret lack of response as an indication that their contribution isn’t important. Don’t give them that impression. Handwritten notes are great, but a printed note with a little personalization — a few words and a signature — can go a long way towards making a good impression – and conveying your appreciation. Respond promptly.
  • Let your donors know what a difference their contributions are making. Let them know how your goals are proceeding and the impact your organization is having, thanks to them. And don’t wait for the next gift to share updates; keep in touch. The more your donors know of your activities, the more engaged, loyal, and committed they will be to your mission.
  • Use your fundraising management software to keep your donors engaged.
    • Identify lapsed donors. Most fundraising management applications offer LYBUNT (last year but unfortunately not this year) and SYBUNT (some year but unfortunately not this year) reports. Take advantage of these features to identify at-risk donors.
    • Use donor-retention tools. Stay in touch with emails, mailings, phone calls, or face-to-face meetings. Your fundraising software should take you directly from identifying at-risk donors to contacting them; if it doesn’t, you need an upgrade.
    • Pay attention to what works. As you fine-tune your efforts to reduce donor attrition, keep track of the strategies that make a positive difference.

Cultivating donor loyalty will help sustain your organization in good times and bad. Don’t ever stop letting your donors know how important they are and how much you value their contributions.


Metafile Information Systems in Rochester, Minn., provides fundraising software for nonprofits–including ResultsPlus–that tracks, processes and manages constituent data. To read more about the topic covered in this article, click here.

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