Fundraise Smarter

Donor Engagement = Donor Retention

Posted by Mark Shreve on Feb 1, 2013 8:51:00 AM

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I wrote a blog post two weeks ago about non-profit and charity giving trends in 2012. While I was researching for it, one of the statistics I came across really worried me:

Donors don’t feel acknowledged by the organizations they support. 20% of donors said they’d never heard back or been thanked for their donation, according to NTEN.

Combine this with my other least-favorite statistic I came across:

28% of Americans said they’d stopped making regular donations. The biggest reason given for this (besides a change in the donor’s personal finances) is “a feeling that the charity was not making the best use of its financial resources.” Another big motivating factor for this trend was “Access to information that proved the impact of their contributions.”

And you've got a perfect storm for donor loss. At its most basic level, donor retention requires donor engagement. These statistics shed light on the fact that even if they think they are, a lot of non-profits aren't doing enough donor engagement.

Acknowledging your donors in creative ways reminds them that you're thinking about them and that their donation meant something to the organization. Although not everybody wants recognition for their philanthropy, most donors will be more engaged with your organization if they feel you've personally acknowledged them - even rewarded them.

A common misconception about donor rewards is that you have to spend money up front to buy the rewards. Engaging donors through rewards doesn't mean breaking the bank. All-or-nothing crowdfunding campaigns mitigate this risk right off the bat: if your fundraising target isn't hit, no donations go through and you don't spend any money buying rewards. And when you do hit your goal, there's no overhead - no need to buy 100 tote bags and end up getting rid of 6 of them. You place your orders after your campaign has achieved success, so if the tote bag is the reward for a $100 donation, and you got 8 donations at the $100 level...you get the idea. In fact, if you're creative, your rewards can be win-win. Here are a few examples:

  • Thank you letters are great, but they're antiquated and cost postage. Have a webcam? Record a quick video thank you in front of your computer and send it to donors. It's free, takes about the same amount of time as writing, addressing & mailing a letter, and puts a face (yours!) on the organization. Personal touches = engaged donors. It's a great option as lower-tier reward.
  • If you're a membership-based organization, it's in your best interest to grow your member-base. Offer membership as a higher-tier reward. You're not actually spending any money to reward the donor, and you gain engaged supporters.
  • Do you have an interesting workplace, board member, celebrity friend, etc.? Give tours of your facility. Offer dinners, lunches, skype calls, autographed memorabilia. Get creative. Offer these as higher-tier rewards, the cost/benefit ratios speak for themselves.
  • Throw an annual event like a conference or gala? Reach out to your donors to make them soldiers for your cause. For example: A ticket your annual conference costs $250. Contact the people you know will attend, tell them that if they can get $500 in donations from their personal networks, their ticket is free.

Those are just a few examples. The bottom line is that rewarding your donors reminds them that you care that they care about your cause. It encourages them to not only donate more money more often, but to encourage people they know to get involved as well. Give back to the people who give to you.

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