Keeping Donors

There are two immutable facts about fund raising. The first is that it is all about relationships. The second, which follows seamlessly on the first, is that your best prospect is an existing donor--if you have treatedthat donor well. A third undeniable fact is that donors cease to donate to an organization mainly because the organization has not responded appropriately to that donor's generosity.

In fund raising, how you treat your donors is called Stewardship, and it is arguably the most important part of fund development. And yet, too many nonprofit organizations never bother to steward their most important assets: their donors.

In the US, donor attrition-the rate at which donors cease to be donors-is scandalously high. Over 65% of first time donors don't ever make a repeat gift. By year five only 10% of donors remain active. This is costly. Most studies show that getting a new donor is about 7 times as expensive as getting a follow on gift from an existing one.

Taking care of your donors, therefore, is not just the right thing, it is a smart thing.

So how do you steward your donors. Here are 10 simple ways:

    1. Send a thank you letter to every single donor for every single gift, regardless of size. 2. Have your board members send another thank you note. 3. At least once a year, call your donors-at least those who make a larger gift-simply to thank them for being a part of you "family." 4. Acknowledge your donors publicly and appropriately. For smaller donors, mention in your newsletter may be enough; for major supporters, you should consider something more substantial. 5. Focus a newsletter article on your donors, and don't only concentrate on the larger ones. 6. Tell your donors regularly how their gift makes a difference. 7. Invite your donors to participate in some way in the day-to-day life of your organization. Show them up close and personally what you really do. 8. Get on the phone or write a personal, handwritten note to every lapsed donor. Ask them what you can do to bring them back into the fold. 9. Ask often, but also frequently just keep in touch. 10. And, oh, thank your donors for all that they do.

Janet Levine is a consultant, writer and trainer who works with nonprofit and educational organizations helping them to increase their fundraising capacity.  Learn more about her, her classes and her services at