August 28, 2014


5 ways to validate giving decisions and drive retention

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Matthew Mielcarek

Special to Philanthropy Journal

With one-third of annual donations collected in December, many by first-time donors to an organization, retaining as many of those as possible into a new year is an invaluable strategy for your nonprofit.

However, the odds are not in your favor. A 2011 donorCentrics Internet and Multichannel Giving Benchmarking Report shows that 70 percent of first-time donors will not donate again. But with the right plan in place, your nonprofit can take the steps to actively retain donors. Here are five steps that can help foster the greatest number of lasting relationships.

1) First time donors are qualified leads. By giving, the donor has already shown that they support for your cause. The first donation is like an acquisition gift. Now you should work toward building on that initial interest. Implement a new donor conversion plan with the end-goal being to establish an ongoing relationship.

2) Be mindful of what a new donor may be communicating with you. Consider these metrics to gain insight to constituent behaviors: gift amount, billing city/state, solicitation campaign, and giving channel. Analyzing these key points are valuable. For instance, online acquired donors tend to have poor online retention. Therefore, a multi-channel communication strategy is important to implement. On the other hand, offline acquired donors are far less likely to cross the multichannel bridge and a single channel communication strategy may be appropriate. Tailor your agenda to the information they give you in the first donation.

3) Show appreciation for your donor. One NTEN and Charity Dynamics study shows that 21 percent of donors say they were not thanked for giving. Follow-up thank yous are essential to increasing donor retention rates. And no, delivering a end of the year tax receipt is not an adequate thank you. Tell them how your year ended in terms of its goals. Show them that their donation made an impact on your overall mission.

4) Be relevant when you engage. Beyond thank-yous, communicate with your donors and supporters on an ongoing basis. Communication is all about the details. Personalize messages based on constituent interests, affinities, and locations. According to the Nonprofit Donor Engagement Benchmark Report, a nonprofit's website is the main way donors learn about their charity of choice. Next is email and Facebook. Intermingle these channels to send the most relevant and engaging message to donors. Keeping websites up-to-date and engaging is a key element to achieving lasting constituent interest.

5) Drive to next stage of giving. All communication with a donor after the initial gift leads to this moment. The next step involves suggesting an affinity-driven gift -- whether that be a renewal gift, or an upgrade to recurring contributions. Use your relevant messaging, engaging content and thanks yous to expand into the next stage of giving.

While the new year brings the opportunity to launch new campaigns, don't forget about a separate, equally as important, donor retention strategy. Identity first time donors and commit to keeping them year after year.

Matthew Mielcarek is the VP of Consulting at Charity Dynamics where he leads the consulting team to deliver best practice solutions to nonprofits. He is also a contributor for the online consultancy, Software Advice.

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