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3 Shocking Metrics That May Be Impacting Your Donor Retention Rates

Published by Nathan Hill

Within the nonprofit sector, a significant challenge is maintaining donor loyalty. 

Reports on donor retention rates vary, but the overarching trend indicates that a substantial portion of donors will not renew their donations the following year. Over time, this has perpetuated a relentless focus on acquiring new donors to counterbalance high attrition rates.

But just acquiring new donors isn’t a sustainable option if you want to grow your organization.

Through analyzing the donation experience of 211 nonprofit organizations across a variety of vertices, we’ve uncovered alarming trends.

In this post you’ll find 3 of our most shocking findings from this research and see ideas built from our library of 6000+ online fundraising experiments that will help you effectively get new donors and keep them.

1. 86% of organizations don’t have any unique reasons why someone should give a recurring donation.

It’s not enough to simply present a monthly giving option to your donors on your donation forms.

Put yourself in your donors shoes: a monthly donation is a bigger, longer-term commitment. So it makes sense to present a reason—a “because”—to inspire your donors to support your cause over the long-haul.

Behavioral research have shown that the “reason” persuasion principle, most notably by Robert Cialdini, suggests that people are more likely to comply with a request if some reason is given.

Providing a “because” signals to your donor that a valid justification for your appeal is being provided, which makes the request more persuasive. 

And our own research has confirmed this as well. To increase monthly giving, the A/B test shown below sought to prove the impact of adding a “because” next to a monthly giving option on a donation form.

This call out resulted in an incredible  456% increase in monthly donations!

2. 91% of organizations don’t give donors the option of making a recurring gift right on the homepage.

However, having a recurring option on your navigation has been shown to increase overall donations.

Giving the donor options for their gift can create more autonomy, give more context to the decision, and increase the visibility of the recurring giving option.

To increase monthly giving, this organization tested placing a “Give Monthly” button on the homepage navigation. This allowed donors to make a recurring gift prior to landing on the donation form. 

Having this option on the navigation led to a 144% increase in total donations!

Interestingly, this experiment did not increase overall recurring giving (statistically speaking). But it did increase the total number of donations regardless of frequency. 

Some possible reasons for this increase in one-time gifts may be:

  • Adding the second button improved the visibility of both buttons.
  • The inclusion of an additional giving option increases the perception of autonomy, empowering the donor to choose how they want to give.
  • It may also be a concept called “Reject and Retreat.” This principle of persuasion suggests that when visitors see both options they “compromise” by accepting the lower-commitment offer while still answering the call to support a cause they care about.

3. 51% of organizations did not send a Thank You email within the first week of the donation.

Saying thank you is the bare minimum to express gratitude for a donor and begin a meaningful donor relationship.

There’s lots of great data and studies looking at the impact of thank you calls on second gift value and retention. We’ve run our own studies to show even sending a simple cultivation postcard can increase someone’s likelihood to give in a campaign.

That makes it particularly shocking that more than half of organizations did not even say thank you within the first week of making a new online donation.

But an effective new donor welcome series goes far beyond simply saying thank you.

In this welcome series experiment, one organization wanted to test a more humanized, authentic approach. 

Version A mainly sent from non-human sender names, used designed templates, and often focused on trying to get someone to engage with a product offer. Version B took a more human approach—asking for replies, sending from a person, using authentic language—ultimately culminating in a direct donation appeal. 

This humanized approach led to a 99% increase in revenue!

Get more examples of how to retain more of your hard-earned donors.
Published by Nathan Hill

Nathan Hill is Vice President, NextAfter Institute.