For many, taking a donors-first approach made sense. “Make the donor the hero,” urged CauseForce’s Will Kirsop MFIA, while Outward Bound Australia’s Alex Green FFIA CFRE said: “First and foremost, fundraisers have to do what benefits donors. It’s important to base the retention strategy around donors, not the charity.”
Taking the time to understand your donors is vitally important, according to The Smith Family’s Lisa Allan MFIA. “If you were to sit them around a table, you need to think: what are they like? Why did they give to you? What are their key drivers and motivations? What do they need to know about their giving to ensure they see clear results and are inspired to continue giving?”.
Donor care is the remedy
For FundraisingForce’s Stephen Mally FFIA CFRE, relationships are key. “Whether the relationship is with thousands of donors or a single major donor, charitable organisations must deliver efficient and creative donor care, which is scalable and as personable as possible.”
Vikram Chowdhary of The Fred Hollows Foundation observed that the exceptional donor service team “never gets enough credit” and it was crucial to keep the team at the forefront of any retention strategy.
”Too often great customer service isn’t focused on because it is not sexy enough. People rarely get up at a conference and talk about ways they consistently give outstanding customer service. But all the data points to the fact that the organisation’s last interaction with a donor on the phone and customer service is more critical than the latest creative,” he suggested.
Donor Republic’s Marcus Blease MFIA believes authenticity is the main ingredient when it comes to retaining donors. “Whether you are large or small, no matter what your cause is or how big your team, the thing that resonates with donors most is authentic, well-told stories and information on how their donations are making a difference,” he explained.
CareFlight’s Trent Osborn MFIA said the donor journey strategy had to engage the donor right from the initial welcome communication. “Relevant, engaging content demonstrating real outcomes is important using digital and traditional platforms. We need to ensure, however, it’s not just about ‘us’ (the NFP), but rather how the donor’s support is making a difference to outcomes.”
Dive deeper into the lapsed donor pool
For some speakers, like Greenpeace’s Nicola Norris MFIA, it’s crucial to pay attention to what your research is telling you as there could be vital clues lurking in the pie charts that could help improve retention.
“Deeper answers may be there in any brand perception research,” she said. “What is their perception of the impact the charity is making in the world and do donor communications reinforce that?”
Nicola said fundraisers should test the hypotheses about why donors are leaving an organisation with clear retention strategies that are executed in a test/ control matrix over time. A good reactivation strategy is important too. “Even a small improvement in retention can have a massive impact. Charities should go much deeper into their lapsed donor pool as these may be better prospects than acquiring a new donor,” she added.
Don’t stuff donors around
For Ben Holgate MFIA from MS, not annoying donors is paramount.
“Elementary errors in the way you deal with your donors, through baffling responses to questions, banking errors, poor follow up on arrears, incorrect ‘thank you’ communications or an invitation to events in Perth, when they live in Hobart, is the best way to get that discontinuation call. Only after that, worry about engaging them in your cause,” he advised.
It certainly doesn’t help when donors are unhappy with your organisation. How do you overcome it? Several experts said it was important to listen, apologise on behalf of your organisation and then detail how you will fix the problem.
“It’s the old saying – treat them how you would want to be treated yourself. If they do something awesome – say thanks, and mean it. If they sign up for an event or experience – make it memorable. When you talk to them – make it specific and personal to them. Show them where the money is going and connect them directly to beneficiaries in any way you can so they don’t just know they’re helping but they feel that they’re helping. Something messes up – say sorry and fix it quickly. It’s all in the simple things", advised Act for Peace’s Karen McGrath.
Leukaemia Foundation’s Ash Knop summed it up neatly. “A bit of surprise and delight goes a long way. Donors get so used to being ‘taken from.’ Ask yourself: What are you doing to ‘give back?"