Successful Retention Starts With Acquisition

Getting donors is tough. Keeping them can be even tougher.

Fundraisers know that successful retention of donors/members is a job requiring just as much work, if not more, as getting them in the first place.

Speaking during the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) International Fundraising Conference, Mikhael Bornstein of York University in Canada said that donor retention is something that should begin right along with acquisition, not after money has been secured and nothing else has been done. It is important to think of a donor-retention strategy as an effort that is not only just as important as acquisition but also an effort that is an integral part of acquisition, he said. In other words, think ahead, and think ahead of ahead.

Bornstein presented a look at both mistakes organizations make regarding retention of donors and what organizations do that works well for retention of acquired donors.

First, the four biggest mistakes:

  • Evaluating results on short-term metrics;
  • Treating acquisitions and retention as separate processes;
  • Basing decisions on past practices; and,
  • Lacking goals and strategies.

Then, the five characteristics of successful programs:

  • Looking at retention frequently;
  • Setting goals and measuring results;
  • Finding peer groups and benchmarks;
  • Making data acquisition a priority; and,
  • Having a donor-loyalty strategy.