My mailbox leaves me wondering.
We’ve all been reading a lot about donor retention. Maybe so much talk it’s in danger of becoming just another buzz word.
But I think it’s critically important. And I’ve seen how powerful a really engaged donor base can be. Organizations benefit from more support, sure. But there’s also something about loyal donors that pushes the entire organization to do better work.
My experience is with smaller and medium-sized nonprofits. When I look at the big ones – via my mailbox – I have to admit to some confusion. Are the big guys taking donor retention seriously?
Smaller organizations have to take it seriously.
In a local market, there’s a limited pool of donors and potential donors. You have to do all you can to keep the ones you’ve gained connected. You also don’t have the resources to play the numbers game with acquisition. Mailing hundreds of thousands of pieces just isn’t in the budget. And you have the chance to meet and know your donors as people. The people within the organization and the people supporting it are all members of the same community.
But what are large organizations doing? A few pieces I received recently had me shaking my head and wondering. Let me show you what I mean. (I’ve blocked out names – I’m not trying to shame anyone here.)
Is this focused on donors and the difference they make? Or is it a ploy to scare people into opening the envelope? It might work. Obviously, I don’t have access to their results. But I wonder about their reasoning. And I wonder about its long-term effect on giving.
Then there are all the businesslike acknowledgments I get. Like this one. Notice how it’s all about the organization? I feel like they love – no, like – me only for my money. (But I’m comforted that my support is going to Where It’s Needed Most.)
Or this one from a few years ago. Note how the organization is the hero… they just want me along for the ride. The only time they get a bit personal is in the ask at the end!
Finally, there are pieces like this. Totally tone-deaf. Folks, no one but you cares about your annual appeal goal. It’s not a motivator. It doesn’t matter to your donor. It doesn’t tell me what great thing will happen if I give. No wonder they’ve got two free gifts inside.
Donor retention matters.
Donor retention is good fundraising and good sense. Treat donors like people, not ATMs. Talk to them often and sound like a person, not a machine. Ask for their thoughts. Thank them personally and promptly. Let them know they’re needed and show them how their generosity makes a difference. Ask for their help.