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Donor Participation Project

Combating Donor Attrition: Strategies to Improve Retention Rates

Nonprofits struggle with donor retention, with many organizations losing 60-80% of new donors after the first year. This “leaky bucket” costs nonprofits a significant amount of money and time as they work to replace donors instead of cultivating current ones. However, there are several proven strategies organizations can implement to improve retention rates.

First, nonprofits should focus on donor acknowledgment and stewardship.

According to research, sending new donors a thank you call, note or email within 48 hours of their gift can increase the chances of a second gift by up to 10% and raise 33% more money. Nonprofits should also create multi-channel welcome communication streams to make new donors feel appreciated and part of the mission right away.

Second, monthly giving or sustainer programs lead to much higher retention rates.

When donors give monthly through secure credit or debit card charges or electronic fund transfers (ETF) from their bank account, retention rates jump to 60-80%. The regular contact and convenience of monthly programs foster loyalty and long-term relationships. To start a monthly program, get leadership and staff buy-in, choose a payment processing partner, and promote the option across all channels.

Third, nonprofits should invest in ongoing engagement and education of existing donors.

Send current donors updates about the impact of their gifts, hold special events, and call on them as organization ambassadors. Provide opportunities for deeper involvement through interaction with people directly served, offer behind-the-scenes access to programs, and invite input on new initiatives. Engaged donors stay longer and give more.

While donor attrition is a persistent problem, proven solutions exist. Focusing on stewardship, monthly giving, and long-term engagement are three strategies that work. By valuing existing donors and giving them meaningful ways to stay involved, nonprofits can build life-long champions and ensure financial sustainability. With care and effort, donor retention rates can be turned around.

View the full recording of this session in ourĀ Resource Library.

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