Last week, our friends at AFP released the 2015 Fundraising Effectiveness Report. There is some really great stuff in the report that I urge you and your team to review together!

Here are a few findings that I just have to share:

  • For every 100 donors gained in 2014, 103 were lost through attrition. That’s a NET LOSS of 3%!
  • Every $100 gained in 2014 was offset by $95 through gift attrition! This nets out to a sad 5% gain.

With regards to donor retention, check out these numbers:

  • The donor retention rate was 43 percent in 2014 (Median). That is, only 43 percent of 2013 donors made repeat gifts to nonprofits in 2014.
  • The gift retention rate was 47 percent in 2014 (Median). That is, only 47 percent of 2013 dollars raised were raised again by nonprofits in 2014.

Here are some even more humbling numbers for the smaller non-profits:

  • Organizations raising $500,000 or more had an average 10.4 percent rate of growth.
  • Organizations raising $100,000 to $500,000 had an average 3.1 percent rate of growth.
  • Organizations in the under $100,000 groups had an average loss of -7.8 percent.

What do we do?

Seeing these results, coupled with my own gut feeling that things aren’t going to change too quickly, I really can’t stress enough how important donor stewardship is. A Donor series that leads the one time gift to a sustaining gift is well worth the effort.

The Donor Series is now a very important addition to your Welcome Series.

It steers folks into either a second donation, leads them to take action/advocate and in the best case scenario, or converts them into a sustaining donor. Try a sustaining brand/team concept to gain momentum. Brand the sustainers into a special team or group and treat them like the rockstars that they are. The point is to bring these new donors into the fold—make them feel like a part of your cause and a part of a team.

Food for thought: How soon, if at all, do you ask for a second higher level donation or ask them to become a sustainer?

It’s conversations like this that your team should be having.

Judging by the size of growth of the larger non-profits, I can tell you personally that most of them have strategic engagements with Digital Interactive Agencies and spend into the millions of dollars honing design, send times, segmentation, photo testing, stewardship, etc. But large marketing budgets alone will not bring a donor back. It’s about consistent messaging and storytelling that reminds your donors of the importance of every gift, because we can’t grow without them. We can’t scale our programs or our impact without their support.

Rally your most ardent supporters to advocate on your behalf and tap into new networks. Create a new donor welcome series that focuses on guiding donors to a second action. Have the hard conversations with your team. It’s time.


Mark has been with Blackbaud for over 9 years.  Starting out as an Associate Sales Executive with Convio, he was instrumental in building relationships with some of our largest clients. About 2 years later, he helped create the Client Account Executive team whose primary focus was to take sales and renewals away from the Customer Success Team so that they could focus on helping clients with their goals.  Having created and served on that team for almost 18 months, he moved over to the Customer Success side and has been lucky enough to work with some of the best nonprofits for the past 6 years.  Originally from Long Island, he relocated to Austin with his wife Jennifer in 1998.  They are now blessed to have a 13 year old son named Jake and two rescued dogs, Abbie and Brooklyn with them.

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