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Donor Stewardship: Bridging The Gap Between Passive & Active Supporters

The Plenty Team
June 3, 2015

Congratulations, a new donor just made a gift to your fundraising campaign. Go ahead, pat yourself on the back, you’ve earned it. New donors and fundraisers are great, but you know what’s even better? Repeat donors and fundraisers. Not only is it cheaper to retain past supporters than to acquire new ones, it is also beneficial to your peer-to-peer community as their ties with your organization are strengthened year-over-year.

Simply put, the first gift is great, but the second, third, fourth, and so on are just as important. This is why it is crucial for your organization to focus on donor stewardship just as much as donor acquisition. But as you know, it isn’t always easy to keep your donors and fundraisers actively involved as time passes, so we are exploring donor stewardship and sharing what you need to know to keep your supporters engaged.

The Facts
The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) recently released the results from their annual Fundraising Effectiveness Project, which revealed some eye-opening takeaways on donor and fundraiser retention. While average donor retention rates hover around 43 percent, less than 23 percent of new donors give again after making their first gift. That’s less than three out of every ten donors! After making a second gift, however, this number skyrockets to nearly 61 percent – or six out of every ten donors.

In other words, while the initial gift may just be temporary engagement, a second gift typically signifies more: an ongoing commitment. And as all fundraisers worth their salt know, donors in the latter category are the gold standard of constituents.

What Can You Do?
We have discussed the problem with slacktivism – catchy in name, ineffective in practice. So it should come as no surprise that slacktivism shares many of the same ills as passive giving, by letting donors feel “involved” without any actual, meaningful donor engagementSo how do you move donors from passive to active involvement? Consider these three simple ways to step-up your donor stewardship.

1. Show Your Gratitude
Your mother made you write all those thank you notes because it was the right thing to do, and because people like being thanked. It’s no different here. Showing gratitude is a critical part of the stewardship process. Organizations with successful stewardship strategies keep this in mind and thank their supporters quickly and often.

Think of every interaction you have with your donors and fundraisers as another opportunity not just to express your appreciation, but to build your relationship. Alec Baldwin’s Glengarry Glen Ross character might recommend the “always be closing” approach, but we find that “always be thanking” gets better results.

2. Be Visible
Keep the lines of communication open and ongoing. Don’t give your donors the opportunity to feel disconnected; instead, give them a chance to feel more engaged by communicating through a variety of different, yet consistent, channels.

This doesn’t mean you should ask for donations 365 days a year, but rather, you should listen, start conversations, convey impact, thank, and promote other opportunities to become involved. Everything from monthly newsletters to relevant events can be used to increase donor engagement. Donors don’t want to feel like a money tree. Invite them to become involved in other non-monetary ways, such as volunteering, joining an advisory committee, or simply filling out a survey or questionnaire.

3. Ask For It
Don’t assume a donor’s on the hook simply because they made an initial gift. We’ve shown you concrete evidence that that’s not the case. After receiving the initial gift and spending time building your relationship, you are better positioned to understand your donors and target them with appealing asks. Make sure your ask is specific, relevant, and personal in order to increase your chances of success.

Sure, it’s ultimately in the donors’ hands to choose whether to continue their involvement with your organization, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help them make the decision. You can either sit back, kick your feet up, and cross your fingers that they’ll donate again, or you can incorporate consistent and meaningful communications into your stewardship strategy and foster long-term relationships.

Learn more about how you can influence repeat participation and fundraising for your peer-to-peer programs with our new e-book "The Participant Gears: Understanding Why People Participate in Peer-to-Peer." Download your free copy today! 

Ebook call to action for Participant Gears E-book

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