• Did you know that the average American non-profit organization loses seventy percent of donors after the first gift?
  • Or that there is only a 10-15% chance that a donor will make five consecutive charitable contributions?

These statistics show just how tough it is for organizations to retain donors and how the public sector isn’t going about it in the right way. The notion that it costs much more to secure a new customer than to retain an old one, which is fully understood in the corporate world, has somehow been lost in the public sector.

If a non-profit organization is to build a loyal donor base, it needs to shift away from its traditional model of operations and focus on donor retention.

If you want your organization to retain old donors and secure new ones, a robust appreciation program is a necessity.

Here are three key ways to build a donor retention appreciation program:

1. Be Prompt and Repetitive

First and foremost, give thanks in a timely fashion. If you don’t thank your donors promptly, the rest doesn’t matter. Make sure to give thanks within two to three days of receiving the donation. In the book Donor-Centered Fundraising by Penelope Burk, one test found that if board members of a charity called within 48 hours, donors gave an average of 39% more than donors who were not called (staggering!).

Being prompt in your appreciation shows two things.

First, it shows that you have received their donation and your charity is organized and efficient enough to acknowledge it in short order.

Second, it shows that the donor is your first priority and the money received is appreciated and greatly needed.

You also need to be repetitive. Non-profits organizations need to maintain consistent communication to build a strong relationship with their donors. One thank you note or phone call does not do the trick; a lasting interest needs to be shown.

2. Say thank you in a personalized and thoughtful way

When you give your prompt and repetitive thanks, make sure you do so in a way thank makes the donor feel valued. You want each and every contributor to feel part of the team, rather than just a number. If you write a card, for example, do not say, “On behalf of [insert your charity’s name][, we thank you for your generous donation.” Rather, add a personal touch to each letter, for example, “Thank you [insert donor’s name] for your generous donation of [insert dollar figure]. The [insert cause] will have a lasting impact because of your selflessness.”

Think of how you send thank-you cards after your birthday. Your aunt and uncle always feel more appreciated when you put time and thought into the card. They are also more likely to give you a thoughtful gift come your next celebration because they know it will be appreciated.

3. Give a gift to say thank you

Non-profit organizations today should invest their time and energy into tokens of appreciation for their donors. This doesn’t mean spending ten percent of your outreach budget, but rather thoughtful gestures like photos of people that their contribution has helped or shout-outs on social media platforms.

Organizations should also include little, inexpensive items into the envelopes when they send a hand-written thank you letter or a monthly update via post. In the past companies have done thing like enclosing a piece of gum and saying, “Thanks for sticking with us.” This is not a grand or expensive gesture, but it makes the donor smile and feel appreciated.

It often comes down to how appreciated donors feel that equates directly to your organization’s funding. Donor retention might be the smartest thing you focus on this year.