You undoubtedly know that donor retention is an essential part of fundraising and the health of the donor database.  It is a proven fact that it is less expensive to retain donors than it is to acquire new ones therefore an effective retention program is essential for the success of your nonprofit. Although, what about in a recession? How can you retain your donors when they feel that they do not have enough to give?

Our most recent recession meant infrastructure cuts across the board for nonprofits. Though, while larger organizations were able to curb their losses and retain a good deal of their support, many smaller charities faced steep losses in giving.  A recently published study, the 2014 Fundraising Effectiveness Project (FEP) Survey Report, shows that the median donor retention rate fell to a shockingly low 39% in 2012 and rose to 43% in 2013.

In this same period though, the segment of larger nonprofits (those raising over $500,000 annually), saw a greater increase than their smaller counterparts in both donor retention and the amount of money raised.

Why? Smaller nonprofits cannot afford the same levels of fundraising muscle in a recession.

If you run a small nonprofit, then you need to take these facts to heart. Though a recession may curb your operation, you can still use the following practices for successful retention:

  • Connect often (especially in the 90 days after a first-time gift).
  • Share mission performance data often which helps affirm that the donor’s gift is making a difference.
  • Segment your database (by gift size/frequency) to more effectively raise the most optimum amount from each donor.
  • Develop the donor relationship like a personal friendship.
  • Find and use numerous human connectors.
  • Always communicate what donations are used for.
  • Be personal and authentic!

See Nonprofit Quarterly for more advice.