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New Approach to Improve Donor Retention

One of my favorite quotes from Maya Angelou speaks to the heart of new research on donor retention.

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

People give because they are asked. They give again because they were thanked and made to feel appreciated. While fundraising is often considered both an art and a science, reviewing donor data can tell us so much about how our donors want to be approached and recognized.

Interestingly, a lot of research is being done on donor behavior. A recent report by the Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy tells us that our instincts are right. People feel good when they give and feel even better when they are thanked. Click HERE for ways to appreciate your donors.

Some of the best strategies to keep your donors and grow your donor retention are:

  • Thanking donors quickly

  • Reporting outcomes to donors

  • Communicating personally with phone calls and handwritten notes

  • Peer-to-peer campaigns

An approach to improve donor retention can be taken from customer relations practices in the commercial sector. For example, the 3 C’s of customer satisfaction are: Consistency, Consistency, Consistency.

How does the relate to donor retention?

  • Consistency in being mission focused. Don’t “chase the money.” Don’t add a new program that does not align with your mission just because funding is available.

  • Consistency in your outreach to your donors. Distribute your monthly or quarterly newsletter at the same time each month or quarter.

  • Consistency in your solicitation schedule. Don’t send your spring appeal in June.

Donors want to be appreciated and they want to know that they have been heard. We need to be mindful of what is important to that donor. If your donor asks to send no direct mail, then mark their record to exclude them from direct mail, don’t delete them from your database.

Ask yourself, what are you doing to satisfy your donors’ expectations. These are some factors that influence customer satisfaction and can be applied to donor satisfaction.

  • Convenience. How convenient is it for your donor to donate on your website or find volunteer opportunities?

  • Response Time: How long does it take for you or your team to reply to a donor’s question or inquiry?

  • Simplicity: Does your website and other marketing material include jargon and acronyms? If so, change your messaging so that the average person can understand what your organization does and what you need.

These are just a couple of ideas taken from the arena of customer relations, but it all comes down to treating your donors with respect and gratitude.


Michelle Crim, CFRE

Dynamic Development Strategies can help. We offer coaching, grant writing, and fundraising services for our nonprofit clients. We specialize in small to mid-size organizations because we understand your challenges. Please contact us for more information.

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