Being Donor-Centric Leads to Donor Retention


by Kristin Short, Senior Consultant–HUB Philanthropic Solutions

In the hustle bustle of our busy lives in the world of development, we can forget the importance of stewardship – everyday relationship building activities.  Keeping our current donors is one of the most important tasks of our development operations.  It is much easier to keep a donor than to acquire a new donor.  You simply need to be donor-centered in all you do!  Embrace these top 10 ways to be donor-centered and you are on your way to seeing an increase in your donor retention.

1. Send acknowledgment letters/receipts promptly and in a meaningful way.

When I served as the Director of Donor Relations, personalized acknowledgement letters were my top priority.  It may appear obvious, but if you wait too long to thank donors, it sends the message their gift does not matter.  Send a meaningful thank you letter within 24 to 48 hours.

2. Have accurate data.

This too is an absolute given.  Make sure you spell names correctly, the title of the Scholarship or program is correct and the gift amount is correct.  Take your time and have a system in place so that every letter is double-checked.

3. Assign every gift to a specific program not to the mission as a as whole.

Every donor wants to do something that makes a difference.  Show what gifts at all different levels will do for your constituents.  In proposals for major gift asks or even for annual fund requests, be specific about the impact each level of donation has on the constituents you serve.

4. Refer to you donor — use ‘you’ often.

Whatever you are doing, being donor-centric means using the word “you” often.  Make sure the story includes the donor.  Your donor makes everything possible.

5. Make your newsletter about donors.

Your newsletters should report the change that happens because of your donors.  Your donors made all the great things we do possible.

6. Provide a report on accomplishments before asking again.

Send out an Impact Report or an Annual Report that shows how the investments made an impact.  We cannot ask again without sending this report first.

7. Invite to a mission-driven event or provide a tour of your organization.

Send a personal invitation to an event showcasing the impact of the gift.  Even if your donor is unable to attend, there is value in sending a personal invitation to an event.  Highlight your donors at the event.  Should donors be unable to attend, follow-up with them individually to provide an update.

8. Create a communications plan for your donors.

Our development offices should have communications plans for each level of donations.  Phone calls, email communications, tickets to events, permanent recognition, recognition gifts, and more.  Have a plan in place that can be readily implemented.

9. Have an interactive website.

Show videos, list calendar of events, show your mission at work.  Make it easy to make an on-line gift and show the importance of that gift at different levels.

10. Dream big – Do great things.

Be an organization that does great things and has big plans for the future.  People should feel the excitement and enthusiasm around your organization and want to be a part of it all!

In summary, “doing something for donors in between appeals is certainly better than doing nothing, but certain stewardship activities are highly effective while others leave donors cold,” states Penelope Burk in her book, Donor Centered Leadership.  “Not all stewardship activities are created equal, at least according to donors.” Donors want to know they are making an impact and if you can effectively show that impact, they will continue to give and your donor retention will continue to rise.

For more inspiration on being a Donor-Centric Development Office, check-out Penelope Burk’s book, Donor Centered Leadership.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s