In last week’s post, I discussed the net loss of donors – according to a Chronicle of Philanthropy report covering 2014 data, for every 100 new donors, nonprofits lost 103 donors. Granted, not all nonprofits feel this loss. Indeed, many are thriving in donor retention. What sets them apart? An organizational focus on stewardship, donor engagement, and deepening the donor relationship and buy-in they feel with the nonprofit and its mission.
Try some of these time-tested proven methods in your stewardship efforts:
Personal phone calls of thanks by staff and volunteers.
Few things make as positive an impact on a donor than a phone call from a staff member or volunteer just to express thanks for a recent gift – especially for a first time donor. Don’t ‘dilly dally around’, as my grandmother would say when a task needs to be done. By this, I mean say thank you in the first five to eight seconds. If the gift was made for a specific program or service, let them know how the gift benefits the recipients of your nonprofit’s service(s). In the event a volunteer makes the call, provide a quick fact sheet about that program or service, its accomplishments, outcomes, etc. And always a great touch is having one of the recipients make the call. S/he can tell a personal story about how their lives have improved because of the nonprofit and you, the donor, helped make it all possible. Penelope Burk, author of Donor-Centered Fundraising, has conducted extensive research on donor psychology and behavior and this research clearly indicates new donors who receive a thank-you call within two days of their first gift will give 40% more in the next year. So why would you not make these important calls?! Your donor may be in a talkative mood, once s/he understands the real purpose of the call.
Regular (monthly or bi-monthly) update from the CEO/Executive Director.
Think the old Kiplinger Washington Letter format – no fancy graphs, charts, pictures, etc. Just like Sgt. Joe Friday from Dragnet, you provide ‘just the facts’. Give the donor an insider’s perspective on what is happening in your nonprofit, trends in the industry, new research, new staff members, and new outcome data – and personal stories of success – showing (hopefully) the efficacy of your programs and services. One proviso – this is not a solicitation. You, as the CEO/Executive Director, are sharing your organization’s progress in fulfilling the mission via its programs. There is a time for solicitation, but not here.
Ask donors their wishes on communication (print, e-mail), frequency of those communications, what they want to know about your programs, other charities they support, etc. If you would like to see an example of one, let me know and I will send it to you.
To reverse this net loss of donors, we really have to put ourselves in our donors’ shoes. We can and must do a better job in donor retention. Stewardship is not just an ‘activity’, it is central to donor engagement. How can we expect to continue solving the many societal issues nonprofits tackle every day if caring for our donors is not one of our core competencies?