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Boost Your Donor Retention Strategy: 5 Reports You Need

A deep understanding of your donors, their interests, their behavioral tendencies, and their communication preferences is the most effective way to accelerate your donor retention strategy. While the presence of big data has been around for decades, it has only recently made waves for nonprofit organizations in the past few years. Specifically, the evolution of data and how it can be used to personalize nonprofit experiences has disrupted traditional methods of getting to know donors: calling them, meeting them in person, and tracking their interactions and activities manually.

The new model? The responsive framework: 

The responsive fundraising framework: listen, connect, learn, and suggest. The foundation of a good donor retention strategy.

We’re now living in a different world where the entire donor journey can be tracked online, and organizations should perform their due diligence to stay current with donor data security best practices to protect their nonprofit.

The Nonprofit Alliance has a complete data privacy guide to help you along the way.

Data Learnings Can Reinforce Your Donor Retention Strategy

It’s important to first understand that donor behavior isn’t gridlocked to online fundraising—you can use these same learnings and apply them to every distribution channel, creating a multichannel giving experience for your donors. This is why data is mission-critical to your nonprofit. The more information that your organization can gather on your current donors, the more actionable insights you can leverage in your communications strategy, which will lead to stronger relationships with donors and boost your donor retention rate.

However, a full donor database is nothing if you’re not doing anything with it. Any decision you’re making on your donor retention strategy should be informed by the information you have on your donor base. But how can you digest all the information that you have on your donor?

  1. First, make sure you have a high-performing nonprofit CRM that collects your nonprofit data and distills it down in a way that is comprehensive, simple to understand, and actionable.
  2. Second, build out useful data reports! The right reports will help you learn about different types of donor segments and build personalized donor journeys.

If you’re not a data expert or don’t have one on staff, how do you know where to begin?

We’re here to help! In this blog, we’ll explore five different data reports you can create that will help inform your donor retention plan.

1. LYBUNT and SYBUNT Reports: The Foundation for Your Donor Retention Strategy

As you already know, the biggest thing hurting your average donor retention rate is the number of donors who are lapsing every year—in other words, donors who decide to donate to your nonprofit but never return. For a myriad of reasons, you might have overlooked these potential loyal donors and never followed up.

In most cases, donors never give a second gift because:

  • They never received a proper thank-you.
  • They don’t know how their donation was used.
  • They were never reminded to give again.
  • They don’t remember donating to your organization.

Whatever the case may be, this presents your organization with an opportunity to re-engage these lapsed donors with a targeted retention communications plan. Before you plan out your strategy to win these donors back, there are two useful data reports to pull: LYBUNT (Last Year But Unfortunately Not This year) and SYBUNT (Some Year But Unfortunately Not This year).

How to Use LYBUNT and SYBUNT Reports

Most donors do not know that they have lapsed and certainly don’t think of their giving in terms of your organization’s fiscal year. Leading with gratitude and treating them as someone who is part of the mission while reminding them of what their last gift accomplished and why new support is needed can be an effective way of re-engaging them.

Kyle Vander Muelen of AmPhil

LYBUNT and SYBUNT reports give you the answers you need to understand what went wrong. These reports not only list out all of your lapsed donors, but they also give you information about why the donor stopped giving in the first place.

Mike Esposito, CFRE, Director of Growth and Strategy of Hudson Ferris, offers a scenario for how you could use an LYBUNT report, explaining, “If you see an LYBUNT donor has opened all of your monthly newsletter emails and recently read an email about non-cash asset giving, it may make sense to create a customized stewardship strategy and highlight your organization’s non-cash asset giving options in its year-end appeal.”

On the other hand, “if you see that a SYBUNT donor unsubscribed from your newsletter and stopped opening emails from your organization, it might make sense to deprioritize this donor,” Esposito explains. This might mean that the donor no longer has an interest in your organization.

Segment Donor Lists As Much As Possible

If you want to recapture the generosity of lapsed donors, we recommend segmenting out these groups as much as possible. This way, you’re creating meticulous lapsed donor campaigns that are addressing where they are in their donor journey and suggesting what action they should take next with your organization.

For instance, someone who gave a $50 one-time gift to your year-end campaign will receive messaging that is much different than someone who signed up and contributed a gift to last year’s polar plunge event. And if you decide to send a mass email to all lapsed donors in your LYBUNT or SYBUNT file, there’s a good chance it might not resonate because it doesn’t include anything specific about their previous engagement with your organization.

Different donor segments have higher priority than others. That’s why Kieran Raval, Managing Director & Chief Solutions Officer of AmPhil, recommends “segment the reports to prioritize action and build specific series of actions and sequences across channels to reactivate each segment.”

The more specific you can make each segment, the better. Plus, you’ll be able to include more data about the donor’s journey in your communications, like:

  • Which campaign they recently participated in
  • How much they gave, and when
  • Which causes might be interesting to them
  • Why they should reactivate their support

Individual donors will appreciate the thoughtfulness, and it might even trigger an immediate gift. And because these donors have given in the past, they won’t need as much nurturing to convert.

Need more help? Read this complete guide to donor segmentation.

2. Track First-Time Donors to Build Your Donor Retention Strategy

It starts with stewardship… be timely with acknowledgement, be genuine and transparent, be personal.

Kevin Kreamer, Lexycon Consulting

You should be pulling a list of first-time donors at least once a month. Don’t wait too long to re-engage this segment of donors. Ideally, you should build a first-time donor journey in your nonprofit CRM that automatically sends personalized, meaningful messages to these donors. There’s an opportunity to convert them into regular donors or even monthly donors in your outreach efforts if you act quickly. For these donors, your mission is still fresh in their minds and when they hear from you again, it won’t take them long to remember why they donated to your cause in the first place.

“At the end of the day, your donors are supporting your organization because they care about your mission. Keep the mission front and center in all of your communications. Invite your donors to enter more deeply into your work as partners, and they will continue to support you because they align personally with your cause,” Kyle Vander Meulen, Parter at AmPhil, shares.

While emails are a great way to keep in touch with donors and express your gratitude, make sure you’re making time to add a human touch to your communications strategy. Build things like phone calls and mail pieces into your first-time donor journey. 

Vander Meulen encourages one-on-one touch points to help move first-time donors along in their journey with your nonprofit. “Having stakeholders affiliated with your organization make phone calls or write thank-you letters can be a great way to show gratitude to donors and provide them insight and interaction with the organization outside of just the development department,” he says.

Streamline Your Email Welcome Series

You should make it common practice to enroll first-time donors into your email welcomes series (but be sure to include an “unsubscribe” link in these emails).

An automated marketing workflow that sends subscribers informational emails, your welcome series is a great way to stay in touch with new donors and keep them up to date with your fundraising campaigns so your mission stays top of mind and they continue to give! It also creates urgency and relevancy—two elements that are crucial to lifting your donor retention rate.

Using nonprofit marketing automation tools, you can create and schedule a workflow for your email welcome series. Excellent automation tools will also allow you to automate your entire donor journey as well as automatically keep your donor data updated and clean. Automated workflows take the pressure off your team, freeing up their schedule so they can focus on key relationship-building activities like calling donors or writing personalized thank-you letters.

Need inspiration for your welcome series? Here are elements of a nonprofit email welcome series with examples.

3. Report on Email Metrics for Different Segments of Your Donors

If you want to retain more donors, it’s useful to explore what donor retention metrics you have on file. We recommend comparing how many touchpoints you’re sending retained donors with previous donor reports, like first-time and lapsed donors. Is there a discrepancy?

Once you find that balance, include that touchpoint range into your donor retention strategy and see what the results are. Remember, the only way to learn if a strategy is effective is by testing it. It’s every marketer’s best friend.

Oftentimes, it’s helpful to review what’s working in one segment and apply that to other segments to see if that leads to an increase in donor retention. By sending thoughtful, personalized emails more often through automation, responsive nonprofits are seeing an increase in their email engagement. While your donor retention strategy is ultimately about getting that second gift, seeing email engagement is a good sign that you’re headed in the right direction. 

“We’re really proud that our email open rate is at 44% since adopting Virtuous. We’re strategic about not spamming our donor base and being thoughtful about the emails that we send out.” 

Kristie Anthis, Annual Giving Manager at the Millard Public Schools Foundation.

4. Report on Recurring Giving Conversions 

The number of recurring donors you have plays a significant factor in your donor retention rate. It makes sense: The more recurring donors you have, the more long-term donors you’re retaining over time.

To understand how to replicate the recurring donor experience for your other donors, we recommend building out reports that identify key metrics like:

  • Which touchpoint did they convert with?
  • What is the average amount of touchpoints they are receiving before they sign up to be a recurring donor?
  • How often are you communicating with recurring donors after they sign up?
  • What types of emails are they receiving, and which emails have a higher engagement rate than others?

Getting answers to these key questions will help strengthen your donor retention efforts for first-time donors and lapsed donors.

4 Recurring Giving Strategies That Convert and How to Build Them Into Your Donor Retention Strategy

Once you have a better understanding of your recurring donor conversion metrics, you should pair that communications strategy with an iron-clad recurring giving strategy that includes:

  1. Telling people about your recurring giving program: How often are you promoting your monthly giving program? If you aren’t sure how often you are telling people about your giving program, there’s a good chance they might not even know about it. We recommend launching a monthly giving campaign targeted to your first-time and lapsed donors—give them the scoop on your recurring giving program and how important their support is!
  2. Designating a landing page on your website: If a donor is going to sign up to become a monthly donor, they’re going to want to know more about your recurring giving program. Having a landing page just for your program on your website lets you tell your story, showcase how much impact a donor can create with a monthly gift, and explain the benefits of becoming a monthly donor. You can take it a step further by giving your program a unique name like Rainforest Trust US does. This gives your program exclusivity and connects your monthly donors within a community.
  3. Create a unified donation experience: Are your one-time and monthly donation forms in separate locations in your website navigation? If so, you might be unintentionally creating a disrupted donation experience and burying your recurring giving program. Allow donors to see that both one-time and recurring are options in your donation form. International Mission Board understands the value of a unified donation experience and includes both one-time and monthly in its online donation form.
  4. Include impact levels: Adding messaging around what a monthly donation can help your organization achieve might just be what a donor needs to become a recurring supporter. Knowing exactly how their donation is impacting your mission gives donors transparency into their donation so they know what cause area their gift will be directed toward. A good example of impact levels is The Freedom Story. On the nonprofit’s monthly giving page, it outlines three monthly donation amounts and how donations will be used.

5. Report on Wealth Data to Create Segments for Your Donor Retention Strategy 

“Utilize other prioritization tools like wealth screening to augment the list so you can pursue the top/best donors for renewal and use time most effectively.”

Devon Irsonside of AmPhil

Not only can you use wealth data to help prioritize your outreach for lapsed donors and first-time donors, but did you know that 60% of major gift prospects aren’t even on a nonprofit’s radar? The simplest way to connect with these high-net-worth individuals is by using a platform that can append wealth data. A responsive fundraising platform, like Virtuous, can show important donor data, allowing you to reach these major gift prospects.

Bonus points: take into consideration things like social influence as well. Seeing both wealth insights and social insights can help you determine whether a financial ask is the best next step for this supporter. Your donor retention strategy may be about getting that recurring gift, but sometimes it’s just not the right time. Have the data you need to be confident in your strategy. 

Image of Virtuous Scoring for Financial and Social Insights - tools that can help your nonprofit's donor retention strategy

Don’t Leave Your Mid-Level Donors Behind

Even though engaging major donors is a way to grow giving, don’t forget about your mid-level donors. Remember, it could take years of cultivation to unlock a larger donation from a major donor. While getting a $100,000 major gift after one to three years of cultivation is worthwhile, so is spending a few months stewarding 100 one-time donors to give a $100 monthly gift.

That’s why it’s important to diversify your fundraising efforts to include both major and mid-level donors! Both types of donors play an important role in your fundraising ecosystem.

The Power of Data and Impact on Your Donor Retention Strategy

Harnessing the valuable insights in these five reports will help you make data-informed decisions when it comes to your donor retention strategy. The data you have in your CRM tells you exactly which of your fundraising efforts are working and which need to be iterated or changed.

To learn more about why nonprofits measure impact and how to leverage this data for your donor retention strategy, listen to this episode of The Responsive Nonprofit Podcast with John Mark Vanderpool, Co-Founder of Social Impact Solutions.

What you should do now

Below are three ways we can help you begin your journey to building more personalized fundraising with responsive technology.

Take a self-guided tour of Virtuous, where you can explore the platform at your own pace and see if Virtuous is right for you. 

Download our free Responsive Maturity Model and learn the 5 steps to more personalized donor experiences.

If you know another nonprofit pro who’d enjoy reading this page, share it with them via Email, Linkedin, Twitter, or Facebook.

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