Donor acquisition is only part of the equation

donor acquisition

by George Rattin, Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutoins

An organization that I know was obsessed with gaining new donors.  They had good reason to be so focused on this subject as their giving percentage from their constituent base was very small.   The need was so great that the “acquire new donors” mantra quickly swept across the department and the organization.  However, in their zeal to acquire donors they put little attention into retaining the donors they acquired.  As a result their donor retention hovered at the 40% mark.

The organization forgot about the basics of customer service. This organization wanted to acquire a donor above all things and neglected the  stewardship aspect of giving.  The organization invested highly in acquisition, the most expensive part of the process, but forgot to invest in maintaining.  They tried to invest in donors but squandered that investment when they didn’t broaden the investment beyond simple acquisition.

Three donor retention habits to acquire:

  1. Show donors that their gifts have impact and make a difference.  Sure we all send thank you notes that acknowledge a gift.  Do those who receive benefit  from the investment (clients, patients, students) ever reach out to donors, share their story and their personal thanks?  This is a way to really show a donor that his/her gift is an investment in someone.
  2. Communicate with donors.  I have heard the lament of donors who say “I only hear from you when you want money!”  Is it true?  Take time to communicate with your donors–share news, call and check in on their life.  Take an active interest in your donors and they will reciprocate.
  3. Provide appropriate recognition.  Do you recognize your supporters?  Do you give donors an opportunity to give anonymously?  We know that when donors allow us to recognize their gifts, it provides a powerful testament to our mission. For many reasons, some donors may not want to be listed or might want to be listed differently than what is normal.  Take the time to find out the donors needs and follow his/her direction.

Donor acquisition is hard, time-consuming and expensive, but it is also necessary.  Do not waste your investment.  Invest in donor stewardship and retention as well as acquisition and your organization will grow and prosper.


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