How many times have you had a bad customer experience, whether with an online store, a physical store, a restaurant, airline or other?

My guess is more than once.

And it’s frustrating as hell.

You don’t get what you want, you have a hard time getting service or finding/speaking to a customer representative and there were probably times where you just gave up.

We’re customers but we’re often treated like cash cows. Sometimes, even like an enemy. Or we’re just invisible.

Know who else feels that way? Your donors.

Image by mcmurryjulie from Pixabay

No Return Business

65% of Americans would likely stop shopping at a store where they had a negative shopping experience.

The flip side? 82% would likely return to a place where they had a positive experience.

When people are treated the right way, they’ll happily come back for more. When customer service puts an emphasis on serving the customer, customers will return again and again.

All of the above applies to your nonprofit donors and supporters. Treat them like cash cows and they’ll stop giving. Create a strong relationship and they’ll become long-term givers.

How do I know this? Two numbers: 45 and 20.

45 = Percent, average donor retention rate.

20 = Percent, average first-time donor retention rate.

Abysmal. Horrendous. A disaster.

Our sector is terrible at keeping donors. They give but then stop giving. The above numbers repeat themselves year after year after year.

No wonder everyone lives in a poverty mindset. You’re always out there having to dig for new donors to replace all the ones you lost. Given that acquisition costs 5-10 times more than retention, you’re throwing away a lot of time, money and effort by chasing new donors and not working hard to keep current ones.

(Note: Bad example coming up because there’s a huge difference but for the purposes of this post, comparison incoming.)

Think of your donors like shoppers. They find something they like, take out their wallets and make a purchase. And what do we do? We don’t behave courteously with them. We don’t smile and ask them to come back again.

We simply take their money and ignore them until the next campaign. And when they don’t give and that next campaign doesn’t hit the goals we set, we wonder why not.

It’s not a secret. It’s as if the sector is caught in an infinite loop of Einstein’s definition of insanity.

And it needs to stop.

Why Won’t They Come Back

When’s the last time your organization provided a great experience for your donors?

When’s the last time you took a long hard look at your gratitude letters to see if they’re really genuine, warm, heartfelt?

When’s the last time you connected with a donor- no matter the size of their gift- and made their day by calling them and thanking them for making an impact in their community?

When’s the last time you reviewed your donor data and used it to segment your donor list, so that donors felt like you knew them and their giving preferences?

When’s the last time you made a supporter feel like they’re making the world a better place?

When’s the last time you put an emphasis on building relationships rather than the amount of money donated?

When’s the last time your donors felt like they’re part of a larger community of do gooders?

When’s the last time you visited a donor to update them on the progress of a program they donated to but DIDN’T make an ask?

Want to know why they won’t come back? See the answers to the above questions.

The number of donors is down. Retention is down. The amount of money donated is down.

There was an increase in donations when Covid started. People wanted to help as much as they could. But with a recession looming, giving has dropped.

Actually, I take that last sentence back. The recession isn’t the reason for fewer donors giving. It’s OUR fault, the nonprofit sector.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Stop The Insanity!

You worked really hard to acquire 100 new donors in 2022. On average, only 20 of them will give again in 2023. You will lose 80% of those new donors.

That stat? 🤯

There’s no reason for it. Someone connected with your mission and donated to you to help have impact in the community. Your job? Connect with that new giver. Build a relationship with them. Thank them for their donation. Update them on the impact of their donation. Keep them in the loop.

Then ask again. Do your job right and they’ll give again. And again.

Yet somehow, as a collective, we let new donors walk in and then walk right out.


Why? Because we focus on the money and not the relationship.

If you do that, your 2023 is going to look worse than your 2022. Can the people you help afford that?

If your organization wants to go from survival to thrival, stabilize its revenue and provide sustainability for your programs, check out my services and how we can work together to grow your nonprofit.