What makes some donors content to give just once to an organization, while others become ongoing supporters? How can nonprofits build loyal donor relationships that are strong enough to stand the test of time?
According to research by the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute, the average donor retention rate in the U.S. after the first gift is around 45 percent. What motivates donors to continue giving to an organization after that initial gift? The research focused on nonprofit organizations has typically looked at how to motivate donors to give an initial gift. But fundraising pros know that donor retention is the golden ticket. Three factors that drive donor loyalty are satisfaction, relationships, and trust.
Do Donors Believe Their Gifts are Making a Difference?
When a customer buys a product, satisfaction is measured by how well the product lives up to the customer’s expectations. While donors aren’t receiving a product in exchange for their money, they absolutely have expectations of the organization they’re giving to.
Donors give to an organization because they buy into the vision. They care deeply about a cause or an issue, and they see themselves as partnering with an organization to effect change. In order to create donor satisfaction, you have to show donors that they’re making a real impact through your work. Share what your organization is doing with the money they gave. There are many ways to do this, including update emails and letters, coffee meetings that provide a more personal touch, and donor cultivation events that allow donors to see the work firsthand.
Do Donors Believe They Are a Vital Part of Your Work?
Donors want to feel that they’re participating with your organization to accomplish something meaningful together. They want to know that they’re a vital part of your work. The more connected a donor feels, the more she or he will identify as a supporter of the organization and continue giving.
The best way to form this kind of connection is by getting to know your donors. Find out what they care about, and customize your communications accordingly. People are used to receiving tailored communications from brands and stores they frequent. Similarly, donors expect nonprofits to leverage what the organization knows about them to make their experience the best it can be. For example, learn what types of causes they support and share related programs they may be interested in. Learn how they prefer to give—whether via email, text, social media, or snail mail—and make the process easy for them. Learn when they like to give and time your requests appropriately.
Do Donors Have Confidence in Your Organization?
Donors will only give to an organization if they trust it. In order to grow a one-time donor into a loyal donor, you have to build a relationship that’s founded on trust. How can you accomplish this? Here are some ideas:
- Say what you’ll do, and then do what you say—particularly with communication frequency.
- Be transparent—demonstrate that you’re using donations efficiently.
- Communicate the specific impact that the funds are having and the plans in place to help make it happen.
- Ask for feedback and truly listen to that feedback.
- Respond to questions and comments promptly.
- Communicate your commitment to maintaining the relationship into the future.
Creating the conditions for donor loyalty takes focus and energy. But when your nonprofit is rewarded with loyal donor relationships and ongoing gifts, you’ll realize the value of committing to an exceptional donor experience.
Learn why the donor experience is vital to a successful organization and how to implement an effective donor experience program by downloading “A Better Donor Experience: Is it the Cornerstone of Donor Loyalty?”