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CONGRATULATIONS!

You’ve just generated a donation through your website or online giving platform.


You worked hard to secure that gift — either through an email, social media, P2P or, possibly, through a direct mail
campaign. And now your work as a fundraiser is done, right?

Wrong.

WHY RETENTION MATTERS


The truth is that the vast majority of the nonprofit sector is caught on an acquisition treadmill. As donors lapse, fundraisers attempt to bring new donors in through the door.

The problem with this strategy is that retaining a donor is much less costly (and more fun) than securing a new one.

According to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, a collaborative effort between the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Urban Institute, the median donor retention rate for the sector hovers right around 40%. This means we lose about 6 out of every 10 donors.

The news is even worse for first-time donors, who are typically retained only about 20% of the time.

“ Typically a 10% improvement in the level of loyalty now increases the lifetime value of the fundraising database by around 50%.”

— Adrian Sargeant, Bloomerang Chief Scientist

MEDIAN DONOR RETENTION OVER
THE PAST DECADE


Donor Retention Rates

32%

FIRST TIME DONOR RETENTION

64%

REPEAT DONOR RETENTION

Source: 2017 FEP Study

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WHAT DRIVES DONOR LOYALTY?


The topic of donor loyalty has been studied by numerous academics and consultants for many years. In his book
Retention Fundraising: The New Art and Science of Keeping Your Donors for Life, Roger Craver published the results of a fascinating survey.

Craver had 250 nonprofits poll their current donors with the hopes of finding out why they had remained so loyal. Each donor was given a list of 32 reasons why they might keep donating to the organization, and they were asked to rank them by order of importance.

THE TOP SEVEN REASONS A DONOR KEEPS GIVING
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  1. Donor perceives your organization to be effective in trying to achieve its mission.

  2. Donor knows what to expect from your organization with each interaction.

  3. Donor receives a timely thank you.

  4. Donor receives opportunities to make his or her views known.

  5. Donor is given the feeling that he or she is part of an important cause.

  6. Donor feels his or her involvement is appreciated.

  7. Donor receives information showing who is being helped.

If you were to search for a common thread among all of these data points, you could argue that it’s donor communication. How you communicate with a donor, particularly right after the gift is made, is the basis for the relationship going forward. Regardless of giving channel, gift size, and gift frequency, all donors want to feel appreciated, know their opinion matters, and know how their gift is used. They want to be active participants, not just ATMs. Luckily, your online donors may be the easiest to communicate to.

Online gifts are often generated by low cost, non-personal interactions. Unfortunately, our gift acknowledgements tend to be just as impersonal. This means that if you get a first-time gift online, the chances of you retaining that donor may be even lower than 20%. It’s unlikely that a bond has been created between your organization and the donor yet. Online gifts also tend to be a smaller revenue source. According to Network for Good, online giving represents less than 10% of total giving sector-wide.

When you combine those reasons with the fact that most of the initial follow-up processes can be automated, online donors are an excellent segment of the donor database to test and optimize your gift acknowledgement and stewardship practices.

It all starts with your donation page. Retention starts even before online donors make their gift.

Even if your donation form converts a visitor, the information you collect from them can mean the difference between loyalty and attrition.

DONATION PAGE CHECKLIST


01.
Recurring giving option

Securing a recurring gift (either daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly) is a fast and easy way to triple your donor retention rates. According to Target Analytics’ DonorCentrics US Recurring Giving Benchmarking...

DETAILS >
01.
Recurring giving option

Securing a recurring gift (either daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly) is a fast and easy way to triple your donor retention rates. According to Target Analytics’ DonorCentrics US Recurring Giving Benchmarking Analysis, donors who sign up for recurring gifts are typically retained in the 80th and 90th percentile. Compare that to the FEP average of around 40%. A recurring gift creates a massive amount of stickiness between you and the donor. Having the amount automatically withdrawn from a checking account or charged to a credit card is painless for the donor. Just be sure that you keep their payment information up to date!

CLOSE ×

02.
Contact info

Asking for contact information is a no-brainer, but how you ask for it can enable the donors to send you signals that will inform your future communication efforts. Mailing/billing address, email address, and...

DETAILS >
02.
Contact info

Asking for contact information is a no-brainer, but how you ask for it can enable the donors to send you signals that will inform your future communication efforts. Mailing/billing address, email address, and phone number fields are common, but don’t be afraid to ask for social media usernames and URLs, especially Twitter usernames. Because it’s an open system (unlike Facebook or LinkedIn) you can immediately strike up a dialogue. Try making them non-required (aside from billing address for processing reasons) and see if requiring them later on cuts down on conversions.

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03.
Communication Preferences

As you may recall from Roger Craver’s survey, one of the top reasons donors stay loyal is because they know what to expect with each interaction from your organization. Communication preference or channel is a...

DETAILS >
03.
Communication Preferences

As you may recall from Roger Craver’s survey, one of the top reasons donors stay loyal is because they know what to expect with each interaction from your organization. Communication preference or channel is a big part of this. Adding a dropdown option labeled “communication preference” pairs nicely with asking for contact info because you can sync the two options.

 

For example, if you get all of the requested contact info from a donor who indicates their preference is social media, you’ll know they’re a good candidate to reach out to on Twitter. If you don’t get a phone number (because it was not required) or they don’t list phone as their communication preference, you know not to call those people! Knowing a donor’s communication preference can allow you to segment your future communications more effectively, which also can cut down on direct mail costs in particular.

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04.
Giving ladder with impact statements

Sometimes called a “gift array” or “giving ladder,” suggested donation amounts take the guesswork out of the donors’ minds and help you dictate their giving levels. They also represent a great opportunity to...

DETAILS >
04.
Giving ladder with impact statements

Sometimes called a “gift array” or “giving ladder,” suggested donation amounts take the guesswork out of the donors’ minds and help you dictate their giving levels. They also represent a great opportunity to communicate how the gift will make an impact. When donors know how their dollars are being used, they’re more likely to feel like active participants in the organization’s mission. Coburn Place, a nonprofit organization that serves victims of domestic abuse, explains how it uses donations of varying amounts in a message to donors. Here is an excerpt:

$15 provides one night of safe haven for an adult and two children.

$60 provides an hour of therapy to help restore a survivor’s self-esteem.

$100 provides a support group session to help adults learn the warning signs and cycle of abuse.

$450 provides one month of safe haven for a family.

$6,300 provides utilities for the apartments of 35 families for one month. 


Your gift of ANY amount provides HOPE. 

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MAKE A GREAT FIRST IMPRESSION

Once a donor has clicked “submit” on your donation form, three things should happen almost immediately. If the person is a new donor, they should receive three communications from you. However, two are usually completely overlooked.

The formal follow-up (usually a letter in the mail) is almost ubiquitous, but the confirmation page and email receipt represent sneaky-good ways to engage your donor. Depending on what technology you use, this also can be totally automated! Each of these three communication vehicles has the opportunity to convey all top seven drives of donor loyalty listed in Roger Craver’s survey.

CONFIRMATION PAGE

After the donation form is submitted, the donation page will redirect to the confirmation page, sometimes called a “thank you” page. This is literally the first thing that donors see after making their contributions.

At a minimum, the confirmation page should communicate that the transaction was successfully completed. You don’t want to cast any doubt in the donor’s mind, especially if this is a first-time donor. This is why it’s so problematic when a nonprofit doesn’t have a confirmation page. If the donation form just disappears or redirects to the homepage, the donor is left wondering whether the donation actually went through.

Beyond just communicating a successful transaction, the confirmation page also is a great place to say thank you, communicate gift impact, and keep the donor engaged on your website. After all, you spent all that time and energy (in other words, money) getting them to your website. Why not encourage them to stay even after they’ve donated?

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GENERATE A SECOND INTERACTION

The worst thing that can happen is for a person to leave your website immediately after making a donation. You spent a lot of time and energy a) getting them to your website and b) getting them to donate. Since they’re already on your website, give them something enticing to do next.

Be sure you don't give website visitors  so many options that they end up choosing something at random that may be meaningless to them.

FINAL THOUGHTS


Digital donors want what all donors want. They want to feel valued, assurance their dollars are well spent, and that the organization they support truly does good in the world.

The only difference is how they sent their gift.

But if you try some of the ideas listed above for optimizing the automated and personal follow-up processes, I know you’ll see results in the form of enhanced donor satisfaction and loyalty among your digital and online donors.

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MEET THE AUTHOR


Steven Shattuck

STEVEN SHATTUCK

Chief Engagement Officer at Bloomerang

steven.shattuck@bloomerang.co

NCDC Twitter            NCDC Linkedin

A prolific writer and speaker, Steven is a contributor to "Fundraising Principles and Practice: Second Edition"
and volunteers his time on the Project Work Group of the Fundraising Effectiveness Project and is an AFP Center for
Fundraising Innovation (CFI) committee member. He got his start in the nonprofit sector producing fundraising videos and other
digital content for organizations like Butler University, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, and the American Heart Association. 

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