Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Secret For Great Donor Retention Lives In A 1927 Publication

For those who have produced strong retention numbers you understand that it is not at all about renewing the second gift. The current retention rates discussed in the fundraising effectiveness report are really not the numbers to review in order to begin designing retention strategies. However they certainly do outline some challenges. 

Retention is understood by knowing the length of time your donors, by category, remain on the books. Example: the donors giving 90% of fundraising dollars today remain with us an average of 2.95 years. A decade ago that number was 3.75 years. The root of understanding momentum boils down to an appreciation for the Heisenberg theory. And the foundation of building a strong sustainable retention initiative is all about momentum.  Loosely translated from quantum mechanics  “ The more you try to understand the location of an object, the less you understand its momentum. “ The location of an object is the equivalent of measuring a single number to understand retention. This means looking at renewing the first year donor in year two is simply a nonstarter in understanding how to design strategy and demonstrates a lack of understanding of the impact physics plays in improving donor retention.

To begin figuring out how to improve donor retention you have to understand that what you are actually
Werner Heisenberg
looking to accomplish is creating a particular kind momentum.  As a result of this fact in 2003 I hired a PhD in Physics to spend the summer with the advancement team. In order for us to impact retention in the manner we desired we had to understand how to  impact and create the momentum we desired.  This required us to appreciate and understand  Werner Heisenberg’s uncertainly principle which he published in 1927.

At the time leaders in fundraising thought we were crazy to be generating customized html pages for our donors connecting them to the impact their investment was having. However, we realized that we were not fundraisers anymore; we were in the business of designing donor experiences. All aspects of our strategy were measured to the physics of creating momentum.

Please pardon the sales pitch, but we were very proud of bucking traditional fundraising thinking. Because of our attention to the physics of momentum we increased retention by 288%, tripled the number of donors and double the average gift size. If you are interested in learning how to build a remarkable retention effort grounded in the science of momentum and in how to effectively measure the impact of your strategies with proprietary tools then maybe check us out.

cue the infographic

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