November 19, 2015 Douglas Shaw & Associates

The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), in their 2015 Fundraising Effectiveness survey, cites donor attrition at a staggering 54.3%. Across the board, not-for-profit organizations lost 54% of their active donors from 2013-2014! We all feel the pain of working to keep donors from drifting away, never to return again.

Donor retention includes many factors but one thing we know for sure is that effective listening and thanking goes a long way to re-kindle donor passion. The Christmas season inspires donors to give generously – and the next six weeks of end-of-year giving happens only once a year.  The art of creatively listening to and thanking donors – especially at this time of year – can cement the precious donor relationship and contribute to the all-important retention efforts going forward.

Conversations with donors should be question-driven.  Ask your donors to describe how they make their giving decisions and what motivates them to give generously. Ask how they would like to be engaged in the future.  Invite the donor to share their perspective on your mission and impact.

Some Douglas Shaw & Associates clients set guidelines for their donor relations staff to make sure their donor care (customer service) is in tip-top shape for the calls, inquiries, and special requests that are bound to come their way.  These include:

  1. have a live voice to take a donor call at all times
  2. respond to a donor request the same day
  3. write personal notes for select gifts
  4. send photos and testimonials of “life-changing” stories
  5. keep donors up-to-date on program metrics and goals
  6. make sure that staff are monitoring communication and donation channels up through midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Certainly, the excitement and celebrations of the Christmas season can make it challenging to go the extra mile with donors.  But attention to details – and the personal touch – will never go unnoticed and can have lasting effects on retaining a donor who already gives to your mission.

None of these ideas are groundbreaking, but the simple art of showing gratitude cannot be overemphasized. Thanksgiving and Christmas offer the opportunity to demonstrate how much we value our giving partners so that they, in turn, desire to give generously now and again and again in the months ahead.