This year’s AFP/Urban Institute Fundraising Effectiveness Project reported that for every 100 new donors that supported a small-to-medium sized nonprofit in the United States last year, 107 donors left. Even more starkly, “every $100 gained in 2011 was offset by $100 in losses through gift attrition.”
Every year small-to-medium nonprofits are working harder just to break even.
Overall the study found that the largest gains come from new donors and the largest losses came from lapsed new donors.
Lapsed new donors.
These are the friends that should be easiest to keep. You’re still in the honeymoon phase. They’re excited about your organization enough to make a first gift. Sure, some of them will have given because of a road race or a golf tournament or in memory of someone. But most of those new donors should spell opportunity, not the promise of future loss. And as we’ve been told a hundred times, it costs less to retain a donor than it does to acquire one.
For larger nonprofits (organizations raising $500,000 and more) the figures are very different. For the most part, the more money an organization raises per year, the less likely they are to have donors leave them. Their losses due to attrition are cut by half.
So what’s the difference between small organizations and large ones? How are the larger ones able to keep their new donors?
A stronger fundraising infrastructure makes a big difference; overhead isn’t a bad thing when it is used effectively. The report strongly recommends building internal capacity overall and then annually providing extra budget support to the areas showing the greatest opportunities and success. Most of the larger organizations use prospect research to identify the new and renewing donors that have the highest potential to be upgraded. If yours doesn’t do that already, now is a good time to start.
What can you do now?
We’re swiftly coming up to year-end and your organization will, with luck, have an influx of brand new donors that you don’t want to lose next year.
This January, use prospect research – do an electronic screening of those new year-end donors. Apply data analytics to find the hidden gems in your database. Research the ones with the most potential to find their interests and philanthropic capacity. If you don’t have internal capacity, hire a professional. Prospect research may be an overhead expense, but it’s more expensive to keep treading water year after year.
Resolve to keep more of your new donors next year. You can start now.