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Donor Retention and Attrition

A few key metrics can be detrimental to your mission success, and retention and attrition are two such measures. Donor retention measures the percentage of donors that return to donate to your organization from one time period to another. By comparison, donor attrition gauges the percentage of donors that are lost from one time period to another. Organizations should calculate retention and attrition rates to benchmark their performance.

Are you on top of retention? Read on to learn what this means for your organization.


Retention Tactics

Source: Blackbaud Institute 2018 Charitable Giving Report

Donor retention reflects how nonprofits keep in contact with their donors and how organizations build a pathway for continued support. It is a direct, quantifiable reflection of how you are engaging your donors and communicating your mission. Here are a few top tips to inspire your supporters and bolster retention at your organization. Research shows that fewer donor households are giving, but that those who are still giving are giving more. 1

This shows that there is more value than ever before in retaining the donors you do have. And retention rates in 2018 hovered between 22–29% for first-year donors and 60–64% for multi-year donors, showing that successfully securing a second gift vastly improves the chances of retaining your donors for the long haul.2

Consider these best practices for your organization:

Continually review each of the components that make up your donor journey. Think through the pipeline of someone being introduced to your organization, navigating your website, speaking with a team member, and making a first gift. Be on the lookout for opportunities to hear from your supporters about the relative ease and comfort they have navigating your channels and outlets. By examining each step that a supporter makes along their journey, you can continually adjust your strategy to ensure that the experience of giving is as simple as possible.

Ensure that your thank yous are prompt, sincere, and effective. Thank yous are absolutes within the social good sector. These should be leveraged as an opportunity to speak to your mission, communicate your values, and invite supporters to get more involved with your organization. A thank you can go a long way in securing a future gift. Head over to Creating Content that Works for more help here.

Keep benchmarking in mind. When you welcome donors new and old, be sure that you are inputting and maintaining their personal and financial data in accordance with data and privacy best practices. The quality of any future calculations depends on the quality of your data; maintaining this appropriately can ensure reliable applications in the future.

Acquisition Tactics

While retention is critical in any fundraising strategy, retained donors can’t comprise your entire supporter base. With each usable email address on your list worth $14.23 in annual revenue, you can bolster your performance by retaining current donors and introducing new supporters to your file.3

A successful acquisition strategy provides compelling imagery, a clear and compelling description of your organization, optimized donation pages, and most importantly, it gives potential donors an easy, straight-forward way to stay in touch. Explore these best practices to strengthen your acquisition strategy:

• Go mobile and optimize well.

• Assure that the story of your organization is clear, compelling, and confident.

• Make the landing stick. Ensure that your donation page is easy to use, encourages people to give (and give monthly!), and offers people a way to stay in touch.

• Follow up with new and potential donors!

• Start benchmarking your acquisition against others in your sector. Reports like the Blackbaud Luminate Online Benchmark Report can help evaluate your nonprofit’s acquisition performance for the year ahead.