Will donors keep giving in 2021? It’s the question we’re all asking ourselves. And to be honest, it’s a question that only time will tell.
Sure, we saw the total number of donors in the U.S. grow by 7.3% in 2020 when compared to 2019. With that said, we also saw a record low in donor retention rates, as fewer than one in five donors who gave to a nonprofit for the first time in 2019 gave to the same organization again. So, with more first-time donors than ever this past year, what does that mean for retention? If we thought retention efforts were time-consuming in past years, how do we attempt to retain with such a jump in first-time donor volume?
These are questions to consider as we emerge from the pandemic. People stepped up to help during the crisis, but what are we doing to ensure that these folks continue to support our nonprofits in the future?
I think Christina Evans, the VP for Development at the nonprofit, First Book, an organization that provides free or low-cost books and supplies to teachers working in schools consisting of mainly underserved populations, summed it up well when she recently reflected on the post-COVID state of charitable giving:
“Once they feel that the crisis has subsided, I think it’s going to be hard to keep them on board. If you’re fortunate, you will have found a donor who loves the mission irrespective of the environment you’re currently in. But, it’s a huge challenge for us, and it’s going to be a huge challenge for most organizations that were lucky enough to receive increased donors during this period.”
Evans’ organization experienced an influx of support during the pandemic, thanks in large part to the launch of a COVID-19 relief initiative. Evans raised half a million dollars, and of that, 1800 first-time donors participated. Yet, she foresees a struggle in the future when it comes to maintaining the level of engagement afforded during the pandemic.
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It brings to light a worthy question: How are development leaders expected to steer their strategies to include such monumental retention efforts when time and human capital are already limited as it is?
In her Chronicle of Philanthropy article “They Came Through in a Crisis. Will 2020’s New Donors Keep Giving,” Eden Stiffman explains that,
“Experts recommend charities mine their data to learn as much as they can about new supporters. With a better sense of who donors are, as well as when, why, and how much they give, fundraisers can develop an outreach strategy with messages tailored to specific audiences.”
Mining data takes time. As does the development of a new strategy to drive your organization forward. These are challenges that organizations can struggle with, especially as more pressure is at stake as we pivot out of the pandemic. Yet these are also imperative steps to ensure your organization’s success in the future.
Finding the time to gather the necessary data on donors for continued outreach can be a struggle just because of how much time is spent managing an existing portfolio. Then, add more research and discovery work on top of that, and all of a sudden either top donors are being ignored, or a new crop of donors begins to find your organization cold and non-communicative. It becomes crucial that fundraisers are spending their time working on the right things to ensure both short-term and long-term needs are being met without sacrificing either.
Check out our free toolkit on donor retention for access to your resource for ensuring that your fundraisers are taking the necessary steps to retain the massive influx of donors we saw in 2020. See for yourself how optimizing your stewardship process can ensure the long-term success of your team.