Roadmap to Retention

By Natania

We’ve talked about ways to attract and on-board new supporters. Maybe you’ve started testing some of those strategies and set up a lightbox. That was a lot of hard work! Let’s take a break…

… and talk about how to cultivate those newbies so they don’t abandon ship. It’s called the honeymoon phase, and you need to take advantage of it while those contacts are feeling warm and fuzzy about supporting you.

Let’s back up a few steps. Think about the people in your life. You have tertiary contacts – people that are friends of friends, or vague acquaintances that you might see at a party and never again. Then, there are closer contacts – maybe they’re coworkers or people from class. You know them on the surface; some of their hobbies, general interests. You might even connect with them on LinkedIn, maybe Facebook. Then there are our closer friends; these are individuals you have a phone number and personal email for. They aren’t blocked from any of your social media accounts and you text each other frequently. You know each other on a deeper level and rarely find cause for disagreement.

This isn’t an exact parallel to the donor-relationship, but you get the idea. You want that donor to be happy to hear from you and for there to be a mutual appreciation. How can you create that type of relationship and feeling in this new contact?

Spoiler alert: there’s no ultimate, magic solution. You have to test and see what works for your audience. This won’t be the last time you hear me say this, either. The only way to determine what works is to fail early and often… until you don’t. The only way to do that is to test.

What we can do however is provide some basic guidance and make recommendations based on what we in the fundraising community have seen work for us.

  • Content: Keep it fresh and up to date on your website – give people a reason to keep coming back to you. This isn’t just of benefit to donors, by the way – refreshing content is good for Google crawlers. They’re responsible for presenting the best content in search results to end users. If your site or home page hasn’t been refreshed in some time, Google may not give you top billing in the search results. There’s a lot more that goes into SEO, but that’s a topic for another time. Bottom line is, don’t let things get stale.

  • It’s like the theme from the Golden Girls, “Thank you for being a friend” er, donor: Set up a stewardship series to be sure you thank your supporters for being awesome. You can’t do the vital work for your cause without them, so show your appreciation! All this money you’ve been asking people for is presumably going towards something good and valuable, share those successes – and make your donors the star.

  • Know your audience: Give them every opportunity to engage with you in the way(s) they want on the platforms they choose. You know your audience best (if not, we need to have a talk about that). If your file is comprised of an older demographic, you may want to hold off on a major investment in a social media push. Alternatively, if you have a younger audience of advocates, they might be more interested in events and ways they can actively participate with your cause online. Again: Know your audience.

  • Track your results: look for patterns (or direct feedback from contacts) in communication preferences. Monitor what gets the best responses as well as what doesn’t so you know what to repeat (or avoid) in the future, and build off those successes.
  • Basically, maintain contact in valuable, meaningful ways. The major reason why people stop supporting an organization, outside of death or changes to one’s financial situation, is due to poor communication. This infographic from Bloomerang is a couple years old, but still highly relevant:

Here are the top reasons why you’re really losing donors:

  1. Thought the charity did not need them – 5%
  2. No information on how monies were used – 8%
  3. No memory of supporting – 9%
  4. Never thanked for donating – 13%
  5. Poor service or communication – 18%

The good news? It’s totally within your control to make sure you don’t succumb to these pitfalls. Unsure of where to start with your content curation or how to create an editorial calendar everyone in your organization can use? The Lightbox Collaborative has put together a workbook that’s a great starting point. Still not sure what to make of all of this? We can help – contact us to learn more about our strategic offerings and how we can put you on the roadmap to retention.