Donor retention is a topic of never-ending discussion in the nonprofit industry. Amazing consultants and bloggers all over the country (and the whole world!) have published countless articles and hosted scores of forums on the topic. If you’re overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information and strategies out there, there is one very, very easy way to start learning what your donors need to stay engaged.
Talk to them.
No one can tell you how to retain your donors more accurately than your donors themselves. There are tons of ways to talk to them, too — here are a few quick ideas:
Sometimes the most simple solutions are the most effective. You know that donor that gives to you regularly and supports your events? Give them a call. Ask them what motivates them, why they support your nonprofit, and what you can do to make them feel feel even more involved and appreciated. You’ll be amazed at the stories and ideas they have. And, on top of making your donors feel loved and valued, you might just come up with some fantastic ideas for future stories to tell to new audiences.
How easy is it for your donors to contact you? How often do you ever ask for their opinions, ideas, or stories? Facilitating discussion between your donors and yourself isn’t easy — you can’t just hope that someone talks to you when you don’t put yourself out there. Let your donors know that you want to talk! Add a blurb to your receipts and e-mails saying that you’re interested in learning why your donors give, or why your volunteers stay involved. Then link to your e-mail address. Post questions on Facebook. Build personal relationships with your volunteers that extend beyond their service hours. If you go the extra mile to talk to your donors, you’ll get much more engagement than if you just sit back and wait for them to come to you.
Why do donors give? What do they think of your website? How do they perceive your nonprofit’s work? What did they think of last year’s fall gala? What should you be doing differently? Your donors and volunteers almost undoubtedly have plenty of ideas. Ask them what they think, whether it’s in person, via e-mail, or on the phone. You can even try setting up a survey that they can take online. When donors give you their feedback, you’ll be able to see your nonprofit from your donors’ perspective, which will help you adjust areas that need work and make donors feel valued. It’s a win/win situation.
Adjust Your Focus
Focus groups are a valuable way to keep your donors engaged while test-driving new ideas and projects. While the phrase “focus group” can evoke images of new products or foodstuffs being tested in labs, your group doesn’t have to be that methodical. If you’re thinking about updating an event, a website, or other new products, run your ideas by a few trusted donors. They’ll let you know what they think, get their ideas about ways to make the new project more donor friendly, and help identify possible obstacles you may not have considered. This is especially useful for fundraising and donor-retention methods, but some donors might have ideas about other areas of your operation.
Talking to donors sounds simple in theory, but can take a lot of time and effort. The work doesn’t stop when the conversations are finished, either; you have to be prepared to follow up on your donors’ input. But, with retention rates stuck steadily in the toilet, a little extra work is worth it. After all, donor retention is the least expensive form of fundraising!