The Secret to Retaining Donors

• manage fundraising performance • donor retention • performance expectations
Ellen Bristol

Want to double your income from philanthropy?  Just retain your donors.  

Want to get more money from current donors? Retain them in the first place.

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What are you losing if you don't retain your donors? Well, about half your possible income for starters. And who knows how many referrals, how much enthusiasm, how many new, fresh, open-minded candidates for volunteering, for board service, for new ideas and innovations.

So why is it so hard for nonprofits to retain their donors? We've been aware of the low levels of donor retention ever since The Fundraising Effectiveness Project got started in 2005; over the years rates have averaged 40%. Some years retention has been in the negative numbers, like in 2013 when for every 100 donors acquired, 102 donors were lost through attrition.  The FEP recommends great analyses of the numbers, but fails to give the one recommendation we think is mission-critical: establishing Key Performance Indicators for retaining donors.

If you want to retain more donors, tell your fundraising team three things:

  • That you EXPECT them to do so.
  • How MANY donors you want them to retain.
  • Then TRACK THEIR PERFORMANCE against plan to ensure that they do so.

Oh yeah.  There's another thing. You have to help them by coaching them, giving them the right training, tools and resources so it's easy for them, and let them know - often - when they're doing a great job.

Read more about retaining donors here:

Secret to Retaining Donors

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