Retention is the New Acquisition | npENGAGE

Retention is the New Acquisition

By on Dec 8, 2014


Donor Retention Ideas

Lack of stewardship has a price, and nothing proves that more than the AFP Fundraising Effectiveness Survey. While organizations focus on their development goal and raising money through major gifts, events, direct mail, grants and online, we continue to see a lack of focus on stewardship and retention.

Consider that for every 100 new donors gained, 105 donors were lost through attrition.   While we raised more money, a $34 million net growth-in-giving, for every $100 gained through new, renewed or increased support in 2012, $96 was lost in 2013.  Yet, according to Adrian Sargeant and Elaine Jay, a 10% increase in donor retention can enhance the lifetime value of your donor base by up to 200%.  

Those are sobering statistics and make it pretty clear what we should be focusing on.  Every organization needs to increase their investment in stewardship and retention. Poor stewardship comes at a hefty price: the loss of money, the loss of donors and, based on my 13 years of experience in the field, the sanity of the organization’s employees.

Great stewardship requires your organization to shift its focus away from raising the next dollar to keeping the next dollar. In everything you do, ask yourself “What do I want the donor to think, feel and learn about the impact they are making?” If you can let that guide your communications and activities, you will be on your way from good stewardship to great stewardship.

Here are 10 tips that any organization can implement with the proper planning and resources:

  1. Add a stewardship component to every campaign, appeal, event and activity at your organization. There is always a reason to say thank you.
  2. Start at the beginning and implement an offline and online donor welcome series for first-time givers
  3. Add to the campaign mix: customize campaign donation form autoresponders, add a thank-you email to appeals, and for larger appeals do a six-month and one-year follow-up
  4. Create mission moments by telling stories that elicit a response. Make your mission tangible and focus on the donor’s impact
  5. Ditch the annual report book and start doing an annual infographic. What are people more likely to read – a 12-page book or a jumbo-size postcard?
  6. Use short videos (no more than two minutes) to tell a story and say thanks
  7. Hold a multichannel thank-a-thon two or three times a year
  8. Treat your monthly donors with a little extra TLC
  9. Engage, thank and give supporters a voice via social media
  10. And finally, have a plan with measurable goals, a timeline, and tracking

I don’t know who originally said it, but I couldn’t agree more: “We need to stop measuring our success by whether or not we meet the needs of our annual budgets. With every point of contact, it’s about thanking, stewarding and growing a relationship with donors.  Just think of it this way – by increasing your retention success, you are actually boosting your acquisition of loyal donors.

For ideas on online donor retention, download the free eBook: Show the Love: Donor Retention Strategies or join me for my webinar where I’ll be talking about taking your donor retention strategy from good to great!

For a thorough analysis of donor stewardship and retention read Adrian Sargeant and Elaine Jay’s text  Building Donor Loyalty: The Fundraiser’s Guide to Increasing Lifetime Value, 2004.


This article was originally published on Hilborne


Danielle Johnson-Vermenton, CFRE, is the Director, Nonprofit Strategy at PMX Agency and is often called to present at events like Digital Leap, AFP Planet Philanthropy and BBCON.  Prior to PMX Agency, Danielle worked in nonprofit technology at Blackbaud for 7 years and for 13 years with boots on the ground in roles such as director of individual giving at Boys & Girls Clubs, leadership giving manager at the Red Cross and director of development at HUGS for Kids. Danielle’s passion is inspiring nonprofits to have a plan for today with a grand vision for tomorrow. You can follow Danielle @DJVermenton and on Facebook at

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