The Power of Acknowledgement – Three Elements of Donor Retention

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Donor Retention - Fundrasing AdviceWhat is your philanthropy’s superpower? Every nonprofit has powers, but the most important one that eludes many organizations is the power of donor retention. Unfortunately many nonprofits expect to lose more than 60 percent of donors after their first donation.

It is time to take on high first-time donor attrition rates and secure donor loyalty. Studies show that over the long term, retaining 10 percent more of first-time donors can lead to a 200 percent lifetime return. Here are three nonprofit powers to help improve donor retention and turn one-time donors into life-long supporters:

Efficient Donation Processing and Acknowledgement

When a new donor makes a contribution they may feel they have fulfilled their duty to support your cause. Yet the power of speed – efficient donation processing and meaningful acknowledgement – encourages them to come back. Supporters expect timely, accurate and efficient processing of their donations. Whether outsourced or handled in-house, it is critical that donations are managed with care and precision.

Cutting edge technology can allow nonprofits to process donations faster and more accurately, allowing quicker donor acknowledgement. Automated mail extraction and high-speed scanning equipment helps minimize processing costs, while searchable web-based document image archive and retrieval systems allow donor inquiries about transactions to be researched more quickly and efficiently as well.

Saying Thank You

Once donations are processed, the next power to use is the strength of gratitude. A heartfelt thank you can help secure the second donation, turning a one-time donor into a life-long supporter. To super charge a thank you letter, nonprofits should personalize it to make it more meaningful. Nonprofits can do this by using the donor’s name, referencing the specific campaign that they responded to, discussing how their donation will be used, and even acknowledging repeat donors’ past gifts. Follow-up communications and solicitations can discuss more specifically how funds were used to make a difference. For example, if they gave in response to the recent earthquake in Nepal, specific information on the relief that was delivered and its impact can be provided along with an ask for an additional gift to continue the efforts or to have funds available for immediate use when the next disaster strikes.

Saying thank you doesn’t need to be limited to mail. Follow up calls are another way to say thank you that can make a significant impact on a donor and ensure their first time giving isn’t their last. Calls are easy to personalize and can truly show donors the importance of their contributions. Thanking donors via follow up calls strengthens donor relationships and leads to higher rates of donor retention, in addition to more frequent giving and larger gifts.

Whether saying thank you with a hand written note, a call, on social media, or through a video, nonprofits can make donors feel like superheroes by focusing on what they helped the organization to accomplish. It is the joy that comes from hearing the difference they made that encourages donors to stay involved.

Donation Security

Nonprofits are also responsible for keeping donors and their personal information safe, both physically and in the cyber world. By protecting donors in a world of breaches and identity fraud, nonprofits can safeguard valuable donor relationships.

Nonprofits can build trust through physical security of donor funds and information. A first step is to implement a 24/7/365 surveillance system to safeguard donations and donor information in the facility where donations will be processed. Additionally, tracking of the vehicles used to transport the mail from the post office to the donation processing facility should be used.

Once donors and their contributions are physically safe, nonprofits can focus on the cyber-sphere, starting with the basics. One of the first steps is ensuring standard data security software like firewalls, antivirus software, spam and spyware, data-loss prevention software and intrusion detection software are in place. Data encryption is also essential. End-to-end encryption should be used on all inbound and outbound data files creating another obstacle for hackers.

Additionally, all organizations that deal with donor credit card information should be Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) compliant, ensuring credit card information is being handled appropriately and securely. PCI DSS provides a framework for data security that covers prevention, detection and reaction to security incidents, holistically safeguarding donor information.

These security elements are critical to maintaining your nonprofit’s reputation with both first-time and life-long donors. Having the strength and ability to protect donors creates a sense of trust.

Donors can be a nonprofit’s biggest believers or their kryptonite. These three elements of donor retention – efficient donation processing and acknowledgement, appropriate donor recognition and robust security – can help retain new donors and make them feel like superheroes. As a helpful resource, we encourage you to take our donor retention assessment to discover your nonprofit’s retention opportunities.




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About Bill Sayre

Bill Sayre is the president of Merkle Response Management Group, a full-service direct response processing and fulfillment company that works with nonprofits including Operation Smile and the Heritage Foundation. Bill has over 20 years’ experience in remittance processing, and all of his operational facilities have received awards and recognition for world-class results and operational innovations.

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