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Repeat donors always welcome

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Bill Peck

Bill Peck

Bill Peck

You have received the gift. Congratulations. So, what is your organization doing to keep that donor?

No matter where your organization calls home, take a moment to consider how many nonprofit competitors are in your area.

In North Carolina, there are 10,000 501(c)(3) nonprofits with annual revenue of $25,000 or greater.

This figure does not include churches, hospitals or schools so, the competition is even greater.

Therefore, your organization needs to be keenly aware of how many other worthy competitors are clamoring for your donor’s attention.

Stewardship is the process of making a connection with your prospects and donors that results in giving. It is the end to a means of thoughtful, timely and meaningful communications.

Philanthropy reports indicate an average donor loss of 30 percent annually.

And given that it takes less time and agency resources to retain a donor than to find a new donor, understanding donor-retention rates is an essential element of annual fundraising planning.

Start your planning by researching your donor base and assuming you’ll retain 70 percent of the prior year’s donors.

That is a more realistic starting point than assuming a 100 percent retention rate plus a percentage for growth.

And in order to do a better job of keeping donors, it helps to understand their primary reasons for leaving, which include:

  • the inability to give due lack of funds
  • disconnection from the agency
  • connection to other causes
  • agency underperformance

To better understand why people stop giving, consider conducting a survey of lost donors every few years that asks why they no longer give.

You may be surprised by what you hear, and the feedback could influence future communications as well as help you reclaim lost donors.

So, what can an organization do strengthen stewardship efforts and thereby trim donor loss or, more importantly, increase donor retention?

Send a timely thank you letter within five to seven business days of gift receipt. If your thank-you letter is too far removed from the time a donor gives or pledges, the appearance of non-appreciation increases, while the appearance of need decreases.

Personalize your thank-you letter rather than using a standard form letter with an electronic signature. In this day of multiple technology touch-points, donors still appreciate that you cared enough to sign their letter.  As you get to know your donors better, determine if they prefer electronic versus hard-copy thank-you notices and communications.

Share stories that demonstrate how your agency is making a difference. Every touch point with a donor, including their thank-you letter, is an opportunity to share stories of real impact. Donors give and keep giving when they sense that a real impact is being made through their gift. Therefore, conveying the impact could help turn a $50 donor into your next $50,000 donor.

Don’t just ask, but inform. Create an annual communications plan, including solicitations, with at least seven touch points conveying your key messages. Your plan may include an update letter, newsletter, solicitation and emails, as well as updates through channels like Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and YouTube. Most importantly, keep your donors informed of your accomplishments and link their gifts to what you are achieving. When donors feel connected they are more likely to give, and continue giving.

Create opportunities for face-to-face visits. There is no better technique to influence a donor to give than seeing them face-to-face in their home or office, or at your service agency or in the field. Donors are more inclined to give when they are involved, so take the time to segment your donor base and determine who needs or warrants face time.

What’s the bottom line for your stewardship program? Most would answer that they see a cause and effect between donor relations and giving.

Wishful thinking is hard to measure, but strategic planning leads to tangible results. Follow these five basic rules to stay connected, demonstrate impact and inspire your donors to give.


Bill Peck is president and CEO of Organizational Solutions, a Durham, N.C.-based consulting firm that provides fundraising, marketing, training and capacity-enrichment services for nonprofits throughout the country.

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