Till death do us part?

"Not-for-profits can only spend the profit derived from fundraising, and profit is increased by improving the retention of existing donors and influencing higher level gifts, and not by increasing volume of donors."

That’s not a revolutionary concept; some of us have been preaching it for years.

But let’s state it another way: many non-profits who think they have an acquisition problem, may instead have a retention problem.

The quote above is from the Executive Summary of the recent Cygnus Donor Survey, “Where Philanthropy is Headed in 2011.” This is the third year for the study and it provides some interesting insights into donor behavior. (One caveat: the survey was administered online, which may bias results toward online behavior and away from direct mail.)

But the key findings are not channel specific.

For example:
• Primary factors in keeping donors loyal are “reputation and trustworthiness” and “achieving and communicating measurable results.”
• Donors leave because “my priorities shifted” (41%) or because of “oversolicitation” (32%).

Note: overcsolicitation, not over-communication. Donors want to know what you’re doing; that’s key to keeping them in the fold.

Or, as the studies authors cite (in an interesting new section on the use of Token Gifts or Premiums) “…to fulfill the objective of all fundraising, which is to hold onto donors indefinitely.”

Is that how you treat your supporters?