Donor Retention: The Key to Non-Profit Success That Lasts

Detergent fundraiserWhen it comes to business, we’ve all heard the old adage that it costs far less to keep existing customers than it does to get new ones. Studies have shown that it’s true. In fact, according to an article by Forbes, a surprising 82% of companies agree that it’s cheaper to retain the customer base they have than execute the campaigns needed to draw in new customers. This is a vital concept for businesses in every industry, but this philosophy can also be applied to non-profit organizations. When you focus on building strong relationships with the supporters you already have, you can increase the donations from your existing donors and grow your donor base organically.

Fundraising is a continuous challenge for nearly every non-profit; while what you want most is to focus on your end goal, you have to keep a constant eye on maintaining the funds you need to get there. As you move forward and gradually gain loyal supporters, one of the most important things you can do, in keeping with philosophy above, is to keep those same supporters with you year after year.

How do you retain and strengthen your relationship with existing supporters? The first step is one that’s often overlooked: keep good records. From your very first fundraiser, keep close track of basic information about your supporters. Names, phone numbers, physical addresses, email addresses – while you never want to seem like you’re invading your donor’s privacy, you want to get as much information as your donors are comfortable giving.

When your fundraiser is over, use that information wisely. For supporters that purchased from you or gave a donation, consider sending a thank you note. No frills, no request for additional funds, just a simple note to tell them that you appreciate their support and are grateful. Use this opportunity to tell them exactly what you’re doing, and the progress that you made. For instance, if you were fundraising for a local junior girl’s softball team, the note could say: “Thank you for your recent support of our junior girl’s softball team. The fundraiser was a success! Thanks to you, we’ll now be able to afford new uniforms for every girl! In addition, every girl will now be able to participate in the upcoming state championship. Again, we appreciate your support. We’ll be sure to send updates as the year goes on.”

This simple gesture will cost your non-profit very little, just the cost of a note and some postage – or nothing at all, if you send it out via email – but what will it accomplish? As it turns out, it will accomplish several things, and all of them will benefit your organization. First, it expresses gratitude, something which often seems to be in short supply today. Most people enjoy giving to a good cause, and they feel even better about it if they know it’s appreciated, and that it makes a difference. That’s why you tell update them on how the fundraiser went, and exactly what you will be doing with the money.

Updating them about where the money is going, and keeping them updated about your organization throughout the year, makes them feel like an important part of your organization. After all, you couldn’t do what you do without your supporters. When donors and supporters feel like a part of your organization, and are reminded throughout the year of its importance, they are more likely to remain loyal fundraising supporters next year and every year after. On top of that, they are more likely to tell their friends and family members about your great cause – and to possibly volunteer to work with your agency in the future. It’s a win-win for non-profits and donors alike.

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