Nonprofit Marketing

Public Acknowledgement Is an Effective Way to Get and Keep Donors

A recent survey, the 2015 Fundraising Effectiveness Project, showed donor retention is lower than it’s been in years with retention rates of only 43 percent. To compound the issue of donor churn, less than half of donors gave to the same charity two years in a row.

As an organization that depends on donations, you probably have a strategy for getting donors. But how about one for keeping them?

Related: The Tool Your Nonprofit Needs the Most

A little (acknowledgement) goes a long way.

One way to show your thanks to donors is a public acknowledgement of their gift. In publicly acknowledging the donor, you not only create goodwill, you get your name in the media in a positive light. Showing that a donor or company felt strongly enough to donate their money to you goes a long way toward getting - and keeping -- new donors.

If your eyes just rolled back in your head as you considered all the extra time this will take, consider that we’re not advocating doing it for everyone, just the donors who request it. And you may have only a few donors who request this sort of response.

Let’s say, for example, that a startup wanted to donate a percentage of their revenues to a charity whose work they believed in. For any company, but especially a small business, giving a portion of revenues is a big deal. Bigger still if they want to continue the donation annually because, if their business grows, the size of the donation grows along with it.

If a donor like this asks for a nod, my recommendation is to work with them. Consider doing a joint press release with the company, or even giving them a quote for theirs. High-five them on social media or give a shout-out in your quarterly newsletter. It shows appreciation for them, and it gets your name out there in a positive light -- not only as an organization worth giving to, but as one who values its donors.

Related: How to Start a Foundation

What’s in it for you?

As for the time spent, crafting a quote or a joint press release (a good public relations agency will do the heavy lifting on that, by the way) or giving a social media shout-out should only take a few minutes of your time. What other marketing campaigns allow you to earn $5,000 (or $10,000, or more) in about 10 minutes? Many nonprofits do publicly acknowledge donors -- of a certain size. But if a donation doesn’t pass a certain threshold ($10,000 in many cases), their rules prohibit them from such an acknowledgement.

I’m certainly not recommending that nonprofits spend an inordinate amount of time publicly acknowledging every donor. Rules like the $10,000 rule are in place to manage the time of your already overworked staff. But if you do have such a regulation, it may be, at times, worth considering bending the rules. After all, you may be looking at a donor who seems like small potatoes now. But that donor could be one of your biggest advocates in years to come.

And while there is probably some concern that the next donor will see the acknowledgement and request it too, and the next one, ad infinitum-- causing a potential administrative nightmare -- my guess is that the number of requests won’t significantly increase, and you’ll have gone a long way toward developing a relationship with that most elusive of donors, the annual giver.

Simone P. Joyaux of Joyaux Associates says, “First believe deeply -- in your heart and then in your brain -- that donors matter.” If we all followed that maxim, then requests like these wouldn’t seem so grand. They’d simply be another opportunity to say thank you -- you matter.

And in a climate where we’re shedding donors every year, and repeat donors are the rarity and not the norm, saying thank you to a slightly unusual request might be the way to get a new donor -- and keep them around.

Related: 7 Essential Tips for an Effective Fundraising Strategy