TOOL KIT
February 27, 2015

Want Your Donors to Give Year After Year? Start Here.

There’s good reason why donor retention is a hot topic in fundraising. Encouraging existing donors to give again is far less expensive than attracting new supporters and can lead to a long-term payoff for nonprofits.

Yet donor retention is on the decline.

A 2014 study by the Urban Institute and the Association of Fundraising Professionals reported that the average annual donor-retention rate at nonprofit organizations is just 43 percent.

What does that mean in terms of dollars? For every $100 a charity raised from new donors in 2013, it lost $92 from existing donors who gave less or stopped giving entirely.

A well-run organization that focuses on holding on to donors should have a first-year retention rate of around 40 to 45 percent and a multiple-year retention rate of 75 to 85 percent, says Roger Craver, author of the book Retention Fundraising: The New Art and Science of Keeping Your Donors for Life and contributor to The Agitator blog.

Just a small uptick in the number of people who become repeat donors can have a big impact over time. Improving retention rates by 10 percent can increase the total amount of money donors give over the course of their relationship with the charity by 150 to 200 percent, according to Adrian Sargeant, a professor of fundraising and director of the Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy at Plymouth University.

To keep donors in the fold, organizations need to make time for building relationships, say fundraising experts. That includes timely and personal gift acknowledgments, continuing communication with supporters, and recurring-donation programs, all of which can improve the odds that donors will keep giving year after year.

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Where to start when considering a serious effort to retain your supporters year after year.

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Avoid these common mistakes when you’re trying to keep your supporters giving again and again.

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Donor Retention Numbers to Watch

The most important statistics for any donor retention program.

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How a Donor-Centric Newsletter Generates 20% of a Charity’s Revenue

The Nashville Rescue Mission’s monthly mailing uses storytelling to engage loyal supporters.

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Personalized Letter Helps Fraternity Keep High-Level Donors

Special invitations to join a giving society yield results for an academic group.

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February 27, 2015

After Newsletter Revamp, Irish Charity Sees Boost in Retention

Increasing the frequency of communications with donors—and giving them more information about programs—leads to a large payoff.

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A “Non-Gala” Direct Mailing Gets a Big Response From Mid-Level Donors

The mailing, which featured paper dolls, had a response rate of more than 13 percent.

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February 26, 2015

University Aims to Boost Retention by Welcoming Back Lapsed Donors

Whitworth University tries sending thank-you postcards that recognize changes in a donor’s behavior.

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February 28, 2015

How a Colorful Direct-Mail Appeal Paid Off for One Nonprofit—in June

During the summer giving slowdown, the American Farmland Trust got its highest response rate of the year with a big, bold mailing.