Published online at Boosterland.com
The numbers have come in, and they don’t look great for booster clubs and other nonprofits. Recent surveys on charitable giving have found that engaging new donors will become more and more difficult:
Of the four generations surveyed, a majority in each group said they expected to give the same amount of money to charity in the coming year and to support the same number of charities.
Seventy-five percent of boomers said they would support the same number of charities in 2013 that they did last year.
A typical charity loses an estimated 50% of its donors between the first and second gift.
When the future looks grim, many nonprofits focus their energy on bringing in new donors — a worthwhile effort, but not when it comes at the expense of retaining existing supporters. And for booster clubs, who have more potential supporters appearing with each new class of students, it’s easy to forget the ones who’ve been around.
But it’s worth the effort: it’s estimated that improving donor retention by just 10 percentcan double the lifetime value of your donor database.
There is no shortage of resources for those looking to do so. A simple search for “donor retention” brings up pages and pages of tips and tricks to win the continued support of existing donors. All offer good advice, but most are band-aids on the bigger problem of declining donor loyalty. While many bloggers are quick to dole out solutions, few make an effort to understand the problem itself, and in doing so perpetuate the issues that harm retention.
The importance of understanding donor loyalty can be understood by looking at direct mailing. A2013 study of the future of charitable giving provides some insight into how each generation responds to direct mailing. While mature donors are likely to give in response to direct mailings, younger generations very rarely do the same. At one time, direct mailing was the “answer” to donor retention — it solved the immediate problems that led to a loss of supporters. In truth, it addressed the bigger-picture problems in a specific context. But the context changed, and direct mailing is now considered outdated. It doesn’t prompt long-term commitment in the majority of donors.
With more and more families tightening their belts and cutting unnecessary expenses, it’s more important than ever for booster clubs to cultivate the loyalty of those existing donors who are willing and able to lend their support. A few gifts given while a child is in school or on a team won’t compare in the long run to the continued support of a parent or alum with strong ties to your club.
To truly improve long-term donor retention, we must understand what creates real loyalty to an organization. If you develop a feel for what inspires loyalty in your donors you won’t need to rely on top-ten tip lists, or the “next big thing” in donor retention — you’ll know what your donors need, and how you can adapt your efforts to fit the ever-changing context of their donation.
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