Treat your donors like family … and they will keep coming back
by Susan Ross
I had 20 at my house for Christmas dinner. As always, the family meal marked the passage of time, with a core group of regulars bookended by loved ones missing and by promising new relationships.
Why do we value these celebrations so much? It’s not my food, my decorations, or my presents. I’d say it is because people find joy in spending their time where they are welcome and where they would be missed if they didn’t show up.
Perhaps our donors feel the same way.
Donor retention is a hot button in fundraising these days, because new studies have shown that we are losing donors in far greater numbers than in the past. Has our preoccupation with major gifts led to a falloff in our rank-and-file donor feeling valued and needed? If so, how can development professionals stem this tide?
My cousin is a busy professional who lives out of town, but she will always be at Christmas dinner, because she knows she is integral to the celebration and that we are all counting on her. Plus, she knows that she’ll have fun.
Do your donors feel that way about you? Let’s break it down:
Do they think you would be fine without them? If you only have a direct mail relationship, look for ways to make it more personal. One of our clients asks every member of the staff (from top to bottom) to call five donors every week, just to check in. We are great believers that simple phone calls are an under-used tool in fundraising today.
Do they believe you are counting on them? Tell them how important their gift is to your success, not just in a mailer but in ways that feel authentic and targeted to who they are. A quick personal email checking in at the time of year when a donor usually gives will show that you do indeed notice them, and that this $100 gift matters to you. You can copy/paste a lot of these in an hour, and each one will feel like one-to-one communication.
Do they get pleasure out of the dollars and hours they share with you? We all make time for things that bring us joy, so help your donors get that feel-good experience from their interactions with your nonprofit. UNC donor and campaign co-chair John Townsend talked about the “transcendent joy of philanthropy” when announcing his fabulous gift this fall. Donors who are experiencing that kind of happiness by their association with you will never be donor retention problems. What can you do to be sure they love being part of your great work?