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In fundraising, successfully encouraging people to make their very first gift is the biggest hurdle. Once gift #1 has been joyfully received, the name of the game is ‘donor retention.’ In fundraising, donor retention refers to activities that encourage people to continue giving after their first gift.
Donor retention strategies center on cultivating your relationship with the donor until the time is ripe to ask them for another gift. If you think about it, it makes sense. Donors are busy and they have limited resources – in terms of money, time, and interest. Many different organizations are competing for their attention AND their dollars. If you aren’t actively cultivating your relationship with your donor, then someone else will be.
Dating can provide a useful analogy here.
You build up your courage and finally ask that person out. They say yes. You go out and have a great time. Then you never talk to them again. Someone else asks them out and they end up dating for a while until they get married.
Wait, that’s not what you’re looking to do. Once you’ve gotten them to go out on the first date, you need to continue to court them, to woo them. Even once you tie the knot, you STILL need to continue to invest in the relationship.
So it is with donors.
You need find opportunities to thank them. Share with them what’s going on. Help them understand the good that their donations are doing. And continue to ask them for support.
The statistics clearly point to the fact that people who have already given are more likely to give than people who have never given. They have already made the choice, they want to think that it was a good enough choice that they’ll make the same choice over again. Don’t be the person who takes them out and leaves them with an, “I’ll never do THAT again” kind of experience.
In the Church, donor retention takes on special significance.
You don’t just want to inspire your donors to keep giving, you want to encourage an entire conversion of life. You want people who are attending your parish to be engaged in the sacramental life of the Church as well in the missions and ministries of the Church. Articles talk about how young people are leaving the Church in droves. This is a retention issue. If you aren’t continually evangelizing and encouraging your parishioners to live the Gospel, you better believe that the World is working overtime to snatch their attention and their souls.
In the parish setting, your donor retention strategy can’t be focused purely on the financial perspective. Parishioner retention is frankly a more important and pressing question than donor retention. If you are doing what you need to be doing to make sure that the Body is strong and healthy (and here I’m talking about the Mystical Body of Christ), you’ll find that the financial issues are significantly less pressing. If you’re main focus is on the spiritual health and well-being of the parish, you’ll find that the parish will grow and flourish. Healthy Bodies do that. And a healthy Body will also be much more receptive to all of your fundraising activities.