Does something look wrong about your 2021 fundraising results?

2020 was an amazing fundraising year for many organizations. Donors stepped up in the time of crisis and gave a record-breaking levels. Surprisingly, new donors showed up in unusual numbers.

The result: Super high revenue, and big jumps in total donor numbers.

(This is true for those organizations that stayed on top of things through the crisis. Some organizations worked from the assumption that they should cancel fundraising and bury their heads in the sand. Those orgs had a terrible year.)

What about 2021? The good news is most of us have a lot more donors now than before the pandemic. But you may have noticed something slightly disturbing in your overall retention rate.

If you’ve seen this, don’t panic! It’s normal, and this great post at the Analytical Ones Blog shows us what’s going on: Mid year fundraising check up.

Suppose you started 2020 with 1,400 donors. Then, with so many donors showing up for the pandemic, you now have 1,800 donors. Yay!

But your overall donor retention has dropped — from 60% in 2020 to 54% in 2021. What’s going wrong?

Its those new donors. They are less likely to give again than your multi-year donors. About half as likely. The influx of new donors drags down overall retention.

It always works this way. When you got a lot of new donors, retention drops the following year.

There’s not much you can do about it, other than keep your eyes open and make sure you don’t see a drop in the retention of multi-year donors. That would be a sign of trouble

The good news after a good year is this: Even though retention has dropped, you’ll still come out ahead. Look:

  • 2020: 1,400 donors retaining at 60% = 840
  • 2021: 1,800 donors retaining at 54% = 972

More donors means more donors, even with the drop in retention. Things will be okay!


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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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