Ever feel like you're trying to run up the down escalator?

Many fundraising programs are doing just that. They're doing a good job at finding new donors, but a horrible job at keeping past donors engaged (and continuing to give).

So what does that mean? Any why is it a concern?

Acquisition strategies are typically doing well if they break even. It's just the nature of acquisition. It takes two out of the following three things to recruit new donors: time, money and/or having a large network of prospects. Without a large pool of volunteers, many organizations have to resort to higher-cost methods of acquisition - direct mail, telephone solicitations, events... That generally means a break even proposition on the first gift. The real benefit is in the additional gifts that person will make as a donor to your organization.

Now, what's the first thing to typically get cut when budgets get tight? It's the ongoing communication with past donors. It seems superfluous and perhaps some well-meaning board member has said that ongoing communication doesn't mean anything to him (or her), so why do we have to spend money on it? We should spend that on programs instead. Right?


Now we have donors who only hear from us when we're asking for money. They start to feel taken advantage of and start to reduce their giving - or even stop giving entirely. And now we're on the treadmill. Always searching for new donors - but never getting ahead because we're not keeping former donors engaged.

Please don't fall into this trap. I've seen it way too many times over the past five years in my practice. Often, by the time organizations really decide they need help, they've depleted their funds, they've worn out staff and they've burned bridges with their donors. At that point it may not be impossible, but it's a lot harder than it could have been, to rebuild a solid, sustainable fundraising program.

They key to retaining donors? Solid, ongoing communication. Let them know (more than once) that you appreciate their gift and let them know the difference they have made. That's just a first step, but it's a good one.What other ideas do you have to ensure that givers continue giving year after year?