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Is Donor Retention Your Priority?

What's your number one indicator of fundraising success?

As I travel across the globe preaching the amazing power of donor relations, I'm consistently surprised at how we measure fundraising success. If you're still counting number of donors and dollars, you're behind the eight ball. The TRUE measure of fundraising success is your retention rate. How many donors are STAYING with you? Let me tell you, many of you don't know. But the news isn't that great, in the recent report from Bloomerang, our retention continues to slide. When will we as an industry understand that retention and loyalty is THE thing for sustainable future oriented fundraising.

If the numbers don't startle you, they should. How come we all know the name of your biggest donor, but no one knows the name of your most loyal, consecutive donor? It's because we aren't valuing the right metric.

So how do you focus on donor retention? You put the donor at the center of your efforts, you focus on your ask to thank ratio and you move 10% of your acquisition budget to donor retention efforts! In other words, you make donor relations the priority in your fundraising operation and use it as your number one metric for fundraising success. Every interaction, every touch point should be conducted with the donor experience in mind. Thinking about what will retain your donors MUST be your number one priority. This requires an investment in donor relations and a shift in mindset away from transactions toward relationship based, long term interactions. 

In a world of the mega campaign and the surge for more and more dollars, our focus must be on the long term, not today's campaign but the campaign 3 decades from now. In higher education in particular we have 50-70 year relationships with our alumni, a lifetime to get it right and keep them happy and giving. Donor retention is THE solution to our diminishing alumni giving percentages, our ever increasing denominators and our 95/5 problem of fundraising where 95 percent of the money comes from 5 percent of the donors.  The first step is easy, figure out where you are, what are your numbers? What is your first time donor retention rate? What is your overall donor retention rate? Once you've figured those out, set upon a path to increase them over time. 

What do you think? How can I help? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Cheers, Lynne


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