Retaining donors is “job number one” for fundraisers.  Unfortunately, most fundraising professionals aren’t very good at this.  Between the time donors make their first gift and the second appeal arrives, two out of three donors have decided not to give again.  This is an abysmal retention rate.

How can we fix this?  Cygnus Applied Research has studied donors and their motivations to give for the past twenty years.  They recently released new research that helps answer this question.

The key to retaining donors is better communication.  In particular, Cygnus has discovered that there are two things that fundraisers can do to improve their retention rates:

#1: Acknowledge all donors promptly after they give with an authentic and gracious thank you letter.

#2:  Let donors know what their gift accomplished with an evidence based “report card” before asking for the next gift.

Donors need to feel noticed and appreciated and they want to see that their gifts are making a difference.  This is what leads to more gifts. 

Donors told Cygnus that they want an acknowledgement letter that (1) feels like it was written for me, (2) did not ask for another gift, and (3) acknowledged how my gift was used.  They also like these acknowledgment letters to be sent promptly.

They also told Cygnus what they’d like to see in a “report card.”  They suggest including (1) evidence-based results that were achieved with the donor’s gift, (2) stories about those who have been helped, and (3) they prefer brief communications.

Improving your nonprofit’s ability to do these two things will positively impact your retention rates.  Put them into practice and see what happens.