Donor Retention: How to Make Repeat Donors Out of One-Time Donors

Donor Retention

Did you know that a typical charity will lose 50 percent of its cash donors between the first and second donation?

Donor cultivation is too important, to expensive, and too time consuming to lose 50% of first time donors every year.

In this article we will discuss the current findings of donor retention mainly from the research of Adrian Sargeant, a donor retention and fundraising expert. Then we will discuss what your organization can do to retain more donors.

Plus, don’t forget about the workbook so you can really take action!

Donor Retention According to Adrain Sargeant

I don’t know if you have looked at much of the work by Adrian Sargeant, but he is an incredible source for donor retention and fundraising. I studied a lot of his research in college, and would like to share a few of his findings about donor retention:

According to Sargeant, even a small increase in donor retainment can have a huge impact on your donor database and fundraising efforts. Even retaining 10% more of your first time donors can build up your database by 50% because the effect compounds. If you have less donors who drop off this year, you can have less that drop off next year, and so on.

Why is this important?

Most organizations lose money on cultivating a donor because it is costly to get a new donor. But it is not as costly to keep a lasting donor.

Well then,

How can we retain donors?

According to Sargeant, some of the top ways we can work to retain donors are…

First, provide satisfactory service to the donor.

For instance, keep the donor involved and updated with your projects and you organization’s progress. Send them newsletters and updates.

Second, show the donor that your organization is committed to its mission and that the mission is being achieved.

Many one-time donors do not become repeat donors because they can’t clearly see that the organization’s mission is actually being met.

Thirdly, donors need to develop trust in your organization. 

They need to know that you will do what you say you will do.

For example, charity:water says it will donate 100% of your donation to building wells around the world.

How have donors built trust in that claim?

  1. charity:water is dedicated to transparency and you can find ALL of their financial data on their website. So, if anyone wants to look into where money is being allocated then they can just hop onto charity:water’s website.
  1. charity:water regularly updates their map showing where wells have been dug along with pictures and videos taken during the process. Anyone and everyone can see exactly what charity:water does with the money that they are being given.

Sargeant’s Action Items

Along with these ideas on how to retain donors, Sargeant also success some things that your organization can do:

1: You can give donors a choice in the communication they have with your organizations.

Do they want a newsletter?

Do they want updates on campaigns?

Do they want to be beneficiary’s stories?

Ask them!

Then, follow through with that service.

2: Your organization can change your fundraising metrics to reflect a desire to retain donors.

For instance, your organization can measure how many donors are retained or satisfied rather than only looking for new donors each year.

Sargeant  says we should be concerned about rewarding fundraisers for how good they make donors feel, just as businesses measure customer satisfaction.

Our donors are our customers and you want repeat, loyal customers in order to succeed.

All of these findings are great, but now what exactly can your organization do about it?

Here are 4 actionable ways that your organization can improve donor retention.

#1 Cultivate the Right Donors

First of all, you can work on cultivating the right first time donors. I discuss this in another article, so here is the link, but essentially, you want to cultivate donors who have a connection to your organization, a concern for your cause, and the capacity to give.

#2 Donor Funnel

Secondly, you want to put each first time donor through a funnel of support from your organization. You do not want any donor to give money and for them to never hear from your organization again.

Instead, you want to start sending them a newsletter. Connect them to your social media accounts, give them updates on projects and beneficiaries, etc. You want them to feel like they are now a part of your organization: that they are part of something larger than the amount of money that they donated.

I go into the specifics of creating a donor funnel (including a specific chain of emails or newsletters to send to every new donor) in the workbook, so be sure to download it!

#3 Mission Achievement

Thirdly, show the donor that you are achieving your mission.

This can be in your newsletters or elsewhere, but make sure it is clear to each donor that their money is being put to good use and that the mission is being achieved.

#4 Change Fundraising Metrics

Finally, Following the advice from Adrian Sargeant, you can also change they way that you measure the success of fundraisers in your organization.

You can create a new metric and determine success by how well the fundraiser treated your current donors, rather than just focusing on how many new donors they found or how much money they received from new donors. Keep the focus on the donors that you already have.

Before you go, don’t forget to download the workbook, which will take you step-by-step through putting these ideas into action within your organization!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *