How to get a lot smarter about donor retention

Do you have good donor retention?

The right answer to that is complex. There’s a lot of detail behind the big picture of retention, and knowing the details can make all the difference, as noted in a helpful post at Fundraising Report Card: Donor Retention: 6 Things You Need to Know.

  1. How to Calculate Donor Retention Rate. The percentage of donors who gave last year who gave again this year. It is the single most important measure of success for a fundraising program.
  2. Donor Retention Rate is Closely Tied to Donor Acquisition Rate and Cost. Great retention rate is not everything, though! Since 100% donor retention is virtually impossible, you also need to be getting new donors at the right numbers and at the right cost.
  3. High Donor Retention Doesn’t Always Signify High Donation Growth (and Vice Versa). Dying donor files typically have good retention — because all who are left are core, longtime, committed donors. It can give a false sense of security when the overall file is shrinking.
  4. Be Aware of Different Retention Periods for Donors. No matter how good your program, new donors have a lower retention rate than donors who have been with you longer. Monthly donors have amazing retention rates. Looking only at your overall retention rate can cause you to miss glaring problems — or incredible successes — with different groups of donors.
  5. How to Analyze Your Lapsed Donors. Lapsed donors have their own set of unique behaviors and metrics. If you watch them, you can improve overall revenue.
  6. How to Grow Donor Retention Rate. Big picture, the job is to fundraising smart, thank well, and consistently report back their impact. How you do those things specifically for your donors varies from one organization to the next. But you’ll know what works when you know the numbers!


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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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About the blogger

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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