Most of the reasons your donors leave are your own fault

Why do donors go away?

Here’s some research at Know Your Own Bone: Why donors stop giving to cultural organizations: data.

The finding includes the top reasons donors stop giving:

  • Not acknowledged/thanked for previous gift: 244
  • Not asked to donate again: 199
  • Lack of communication about use of funds/result of gift: 174
  • “Forgot”: 138
  • Gave instead to another organization: 120

(The numbers are index numbers; anything above 100 is above average. The 244 means it’s cited nearly two and a half times more than the average reason.)

These findings are almost exactly the same as those for other charitable sectors.

Notice how the top three reasons people give for not giving again to cultural organizations are the fault of the organizations: The failed to thank, failed to ask, failed to report back. (Or possibly, did those things in ineffective ways that made no impact on the donors.)

And I’d even blame the final two above-average reasons on the organization: donors “forgot” or chose someone else because the organizations failed to be present, relevant, or interesting enough.

Here’s what you should carry away from this research: The main reasons donor retention is so bad is almost entirely our fault. It’s because so many fundraisers are failing:

  • Failing to thank donors (or failing to thank them well — and promptly).
  • Failing to ask (or failing to ask well or often enough).
  • Failing to show donors that their giving makes a difference.
  • Failing to be relevant.
  • Failing to be noticeable.

Want to keep your donors? Start doing those things well.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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