Is Your Nonprofit Losing More Donors Than You’re Gaining?

By eleventy marketing group

Every 100 donors gained in 2014 was offset by 103 lost donorsLoyalty. Long-term relationships. Growth. These are the well-known keys to success for any nonprofit looking to not simply survive but thrive. You have to build a team of people who want to work with you to achieve your mission, who are so committed they will stick with you for decades in order to see it through.

To put it in visual terms, you need a large crowd behind you to make a big impact. If that crowd starts thinning out and dwindling—or doesn’t manage to grow—your ability to keep effectively moving forward will decrease over time. You will either end up marching in place or falling behind.

Which is what’s happening to the majority of today’s nonprofits. New numbers from the 2015 Fundraising Effectiveness Report do not paint a positive picture of the current state of donor retention. In today’s post, we’ll take a look some stats from that report and provide some handy resources to help you improve your nonprofit’s retention strategy.

About the 2015 Fundraising Effectiveness Report

The Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute established the Fundraising Effectiveness Project to conduct research on fundraising effectiveness and help nonprofits increase their fundraising results at a faster pace.

The 2015 Fundraising Effectiveness Report summarizes data from 8,025 survey respondents covering year-to-year fundraising results for 2013-2014. You can download the full report here.

10 Frightful Figures from the Fundraising Effectiveness Report

How is your nonprofit faring when it comes to donor retention? Are you bucking the trends found in this report—or is your organization seeing similar results?

  1. $3.611 billion in gifts from new, upgraded current, and previously lapsed donors were offset by losses of $3.438 billion through reduced gifts and lapsed donors
  1. Every $100 gained in 2014 was offset by $95 in losses through gift attrition
  1. The addition of 3.615 million new and previously lapsed donors were offset by losses of 3.713 million lapsed donors—meaning an overall loss of 97,649 donors
  1. Every 100 donors gained in 2014 was offset by 103 donors lost through attrition
  1. Growth rates varied greatly based on organization size in 2014:

10.4% average rate of growth for organizations raising $500,000+

3.1% average rate of growth for organizations raising $100,000-$500,000

-7.8% average loss of growth for organizations raising under $100,000

  1. The greatest losses in gift dollars came from lapsed repeat and downgraded gifts
  1. The greatest losses in donors came from lapsed new donors
  1. 43% was the median donor retention rate in 2014 (the same rate as 2013). That means only 43% of 2013 donors made repeat gifts to nonprofits in 2014.
  1. The gift or dollar retention rate increased from 46% in 2013 to 47% in 2014. That means 47% of 2013 dollars raised were raised again by nonprofits in 2014.
  2. Over the last nine years, donor and gift or dollar retention rates have consistently been weak—averaging below 50%

5 Key Resources to Help Your Nonprofit Retain More Donors

Are you looking to give your donor retention a boost in 2016? Check out these great resources for strategies, tips, ideas and best practices:

Always Be Looking for Donor Involvement Opportunities

One final thought to leave you with: Donor retention isn’t always simply the result of specific “retention strategies”. It’s the result of doing things on a consistent basis to strengthen nonprofit-donor relationships and making your donors feel more connected to the organization.

As Jeff Jowdy, Founder and President of Lighthouse Counsel, stated in the “Top Survival/Growth Tactics for Nonprofits in 2014 and Beyond” panel discussion a couple years back:

“We know that retaining donors is less costly. We also know that people give more to [organizations] where they’re involved, that long-time donors are more likely to consider a planned gift or ultimate gift. So always be looking for opportunities not only for donor retention but to engage your donors as volunteers, as advocates for the organization, no matter what your cause or your geographic reach.”

Every 100 donors gained in 2014 was offset by 103 lost donors