Friday, April 12, 2013

The Art Of Donor Retention

I just got back from the AFP conference in San Diego. Great energy, 4000+ people and it was wonderful to see my good friend Bob Carter leading many of the general sessions. The exhibit hall was overflowing with lots of companies doing some fascinating and interesting work. Donor retention has certainly become a hot topic and there were many  companies demonstrating their new tools to help address this challenging problem facing the nonprofit industry.

Here's the rub: the key to successfully addressing donor retention is not really about a tool. Having tools that provide you the information to make good decisions is critical but the fact is the way we have thought about fundraising needs to shift.

You could give me a Stradivarius violin but it would be useless in my hands unless I changed significantly so that I could use such an instrument to its fullest potential. When my team and I created a new fund-raising model that produced almost 300% increase in number of donors and increased donor retention at the same percentage Facebook had not been founded. We did not have anywhere close to the connection tools as we do today. Yet with all our ability to connect our retention rates continue to plummet! 

There is a significant culture shift that needs to take place within an organization in order to successfully increase donor attention. At the core of this shift is a new methodology of measuring what is successful in the business of raising money. The New Science Of Philanthropy has developed such a dash board from proven techniques that dramatically increased donor retention rates and exceeded capital campaign goals by 180%.  In the marketplace today you'll hear all sorts of suggestions about stuff to do to a donor in order to keep them. There's one simple key to turning around or understanding how to impact retention and that is you simply have to rethink what is. 

We have built an industry around measuring a single monetary transaction, yet we
speak a language of transformation with the most critical element being the quality of the relationship. I would suggest that there is not a single relationship in your life that is of significant value or meaningful because of the number of times you are called, taken to lunch or the average length of time each visit lasts.

There are multiple layers to creating a successful culture that can impact the quality of the donor experience. It begins with organizations understanding that in order for donors to desire a meaningful connection to an organization's mission, the organization first has to to create an extraordinary environment in which their employees can create such an experience for themselves. Seth Godin refers to people making their art. Donor retention starts with a nonprofit culture understanding that they are a blank canvas on which donors paint and create a life of significance and meaning.

1 comment:

  1. I am totally intrigued by this New Science, Jay. For many years, I tried to influence a shift to a customer-centric culture in the nonprofits for which I worked, volunteered, and consulted. Kudos to you if you can help bring about this needed metamorphosis.