Donor retention is low across the nonprofit sector. According to the 2018 Fundraising Effectiveness Report, the donor retention overall donor retention rate for nonprofits was 45.5%. That means nonprofits retained less than half of the donors they gained. And the news gets worse from there. The area of largest growth in gift dollars was new donors… and failure to retain those donors was also the biggest source of losses. “Gains of 5.989 million in new and previously lapsed donors were offset by losses of 5.908 million in lapsed donors,” the report says. “This means that there was a growth of 81,023 donors, and every 100 donors gained in 2017 was offset by 99 lost donors through attrition.” Ouch. 

To help nonprofits improve their donor retention, Mightycause created a new tool that makes it easier than ever to track your donor retention rate and reach out to donors in danger of lapsing.

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What is Donor Retention and Why is it Important?

Donor retention is a measure of how many people who donate to your organization come back and donate again. Since the key to building sustainable support for your nonprofit is building relationships with donors and increasing their involvement in your nonprofit (often called donor stewarding), a nonprofit’s donor retention rate (which is the percentage of donors who give to your organization year over year) is an important indicator of your organizational health.

graphic explaining how to calculate donor retention rate

Your donor retention rate is a simple mathematical equation, but it tells you a lot more than just a number. It tells you how well you’re engaging donors, whether your outreach is effective, whether people are getting involved in your cause on an ongoing basis. It can also help you find holes in your fundraising strategy. If people aren’t being retained, what’s going wrong? Where are you losing them?

Donor Retention Tips: End-of-Year Appeals

Why Nonprofits Lose Donors

It’s important to note that it’s normal for nonprofits to lose donors, year over year. And it’s often something the nonprofit has no control over. People’s email addresses, phone numbers, mailing address, interests, and financial capacity can change from year to year. Every lost donor is not a failure on the part of your nonprofit.

But there are specific reasons why nonprofits lose donors that are within their control:

  • Poor follow-up. These new donors simply don’t get the attention they require to retain them.
  • Insufficient tracking. People move and change phone numbers and email addresses, sure. But nonprofits can also lose track of donor’s information with inadequate donor management that allows them to fall through the cracks more easily.
  • Failing to close the loop. The donor experience doesn’t end when you send the receipt. Donors want to know that their contribution had an impact, especially if they donated for something specific, like a program or project. And when nonprofits fail to do that and instead just move to the next ask, it can lead to donors being dissatisfied, and not returning.
  • Too much focus on acquisition. Donor acquisition is the flipside of donor retention, it’s the process of getting new donors to make their first gift. And unfortunately at many nonprofits, there can be an intense focus on bringing them in. But without following up and trying to retain them, those donors typically end up being lost over time. On average, it costs much more to acquire a new donor than it does to retain an existing one. So it doesn’t make good financial sense to focus on acquisition when your retention game is weak, but that’s where some nonprofits can get stuck spinning their wheels.

Donor Attrition: Why Nonprofits Lose Donors (And How to Bring Them Back)

Mightycause’s Donor Retention Tools

If you don’t have a heavy duty CRM, calculating donor retention can be a pretty involved process. For small nonprofits in particular, anything manual simply may not get done due to limited resources. So it’s essential that they have access to tools that simplify and streamline. Which is precisely what Mightycause’s donor retention tools have done.

Donor retention reports are available to ALL nonprofits on Mightycause, free of cost.

Check your donor retention rate

On Mightycause, tracking your donor retention rate is as simple as logging into your nonprofit’s profile. We take the math off your plate and display your donor retention rate on your nonprofit dashboard’s home screen:

That means that every time you log into your Mightycause account, you can check in and find your year-over-year donor retention rate. You can stay on top of any changes, celebrate increases in that rate, and take action if you see it dip.

Pull a donor retention report

So, if you check in and see your donor retention rate is a little low, or you’re gearing up for campaign to re-engage lapsed donors, what do you do? Well, instead of pulling spreadsheets and sorting the data manually, we’ve made it easy. You can quickly pull a report of all the donors you haven’t retained. Just click the little icon next to your donor retention rate:

Mightycause has put together a donor retention report with all the stats and info you need to start re-engaging these donors.

donor retention report

You can filter your report, see quick stats, and export a comprehensive report with everything you need to know to reach out to these donors.

Strategies for improving donor retention

Mightycause’s donor retention report makes it simple and easy to make sure you’re retaining donors. Whether you’re looking to make a big impact with an annual campaign, giving event, or year-end fundraising effort, we’ve made it easier than ever to make sure you’re not forgetting any donors.

Annual campaign

Do you have a campaign you run every year? You can custom filter your donor retention report to find out exactly how many donors you’re retaining for that campaign, and export a report with the donors you haven’t managed to retain.

Giving events

When you’re participating in a giving event, it’s easy to focus on acquisition. That’s one of the big perks of a giving event! But beyond your first year with the event, attention must be paid to donor retention. Are you leveraging the giving event to build sustaining support from your community? Are you engaging donors each year? Is your nonprofit using the event to build on success each year?

Having the donor retention report makes it easy for your nonprofit to make sure you’re getting the most our of the event. You can easily export a report of donors from theprevious year, email them, and get them to come back to donate again.

Donor retention for year-end

Get your metrics in tip-top shape before the new year! And make sure you don’t let any donors slip through the cracks! Keep track of your donor retention rate throughout December. You can prep emails to send to unretained donors, pop onto Mightycause to export a list, and hit send!

How to Make the Most of Your Donor Retention Report

So, what do you do with it, once you’ve got the donor retention report downloaded? How do you turn a list of names into more donations for your nonprofit?

  • Send a blast email. Plug the contacts into the email marketing program of our choice and send them a blast asking them to make a donation to your campaign! Using messaging like, “We need your help again” and “We know we can count on you,” that acknowledges that they have donated previously, is especially successful at getting people to come back and donate again.
  • Identify people in need of personal outreach. Over a certain threshold, it makes sense to reach out directly instead of (or in addition to) a blast email. Sort your list to find your biggest donors who are not yet retained and start getting in touch!
  • Use the email icon on your Donor Retention view to send an email through the platform. Did you know you can send emails right through the Mightycause platform?! You can! Make outreach easy as can be by just utilizing the email icon and sending a message right through Mightycause.

Ready to start retaining more donors?

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