Posted by Jay Wilkinson

This is fascinating: The 2012 Fundraising Effectiveness Survey that was done by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) reported that 59% of donors attrition each year.

This means that six out of ten donors who gave money to an organization the previous year did not donate again the following year.

Six out of 10. Think about this and look at it in real numbers. Let’s say we have 1000 donors for our organization, and 59% of them attrition every year for the next five years. That means we will have 12 people left at the end of a five-year period. Think about how much impact that has! It’s going to take a lot of work to go out and find new donors to replace the 988 that we lost.

That’s why donor retention is so important. Once we get someone interested in our cause, we need to do what we can to foster that relationship. The first step is understanding why people leave. If we know why they leave, it will help us know how to keep them.

We’ve done some major research on donor retention, and we’ve learned that the following reasons are typical among donors who stop giving.

  1. They’re no longer able to afford the support. (This was actually the smallest reason on the list.)
  2. They have no memory of ever supporting your organization.
  3. You ask for inappropriate amounts—and we’re not just talking about asking for too much, it can be too little as well. I’ve been on boards, and I’m sure some of you can relate to this, where every month another board member would ask us all to pitch in $5 to get someone a thank-you gift or a nice little plaque for their service. Month after month, they’d ask for “small” contributions. It would have been far better to collect a larger amount from everyone at one time and create a fund for things like this. Lesson learned: Little gifts are just as big of an ask as big gifts.
  4. Feeling that other causes are more deserving, or what I’d call a “flavor of the month” mentality—people supporting one organization this month, then jumping ship to support another the next.
  5. You said something that rubbed a donor the wrong way. For example, maybe I’m a donor and you wrote something in a newsletter that didn’t really jive with my personal beliefs—that could cause me to look elsewhere.
  6. A donor gave once, but you didn’t ask him to give again. (This is a common reason.)
  7. You didn’t keep in touch to inform the donor how his gift was used.
  8. Lack of connection. A supporter can really love your cause and support your mission, but still not feel connected with your organization.

These are the main reasons why donors leave. Next step: Build a donor retention plan that helps us understand how to stay in touch with these donors and follow up with them.

Stay tuned—I’ll talk about that next time.