Why is Your Charity Communicating?

I was reading Kivi Leroux Miller’s 2014 Nonprofit Communication Trends the other day and there are some surprising findings. Of the nonprofit leaders polled 53% indicated the “acquiring new donors” was their most important goals for their nonprofit communications strategy. Only 30% rated “retaining current donors” as one of their most important goals. For a small charity we always need to be concerned with finding new supporters and donors. However a challenge for a small charity is that finding new donors is more expensive in terms of time, staff resources and money. In business it is often less expensive to keep your current customer than to attract a new one. In fundraising and sustaining charities the added bonus is that loyal donors can have a tendency to start giving larger gifts over time. It seems reasonable that charities should move engaging, informing and retaining current donors to the top of the list. I wouldn’t argue that attracting new donors should be high up the list however a good proportion of your marketing and communications efforts should be directed towards your current donors. Leroux Miller (p.8) suggests:” It’s a common mistake that the best way to raise more money is always to get new donors. In fact donor retention strategies (additional gifts from current donors) often produce better results. For long term success you must do both.”

Even more interesting when the same author drills down a little deeper in this area to ask “Who believes donor retention is a top goal-the differences between staff in different roles is a little surprising. Sixty four percent of Development Directors said this was a top priority, which I suppose itself is a little surprising that this percentage wasn’t a little higher. More surprising is that only 34% of Executive Directors and 16% of Communications Directors thought donor retention was a top priority. With how retention is viewed differently by these different roles you can imagine that everyone in these organizations is not rowing in the same direction.

If you are in one of these roles in your organization, do your charity a favor. Before you plan your marketing and communications strategy for the next year take a look at the data in your fundraising database. If 40% or more of your donors have given you more than one gift, good for you, you should focus on marketing strategies to increase the percentage of your donors who do give a second gift. What do these donors want to know about what you are doing with their donation? What information about your charity, if they read it would make them more engaged and emotionally invested? If the percentage of your donors who have given you a second gift is less than forty percent, let’s say it is 10 to 15%, and then you really should focus your communications on those individuals closest to you (or who could be closest to you). What do these donors want to know about the work that you do that you are not telling them?

One of the top themes identified by this same group of professionals when asked “What excites you most about 2014?” was- New opportunities to reach people and the potential to expand their impact. Most of us who work for a small charity would agree with this sentiment, but if you want to be able to fulfill this common desire, make sure you are communicating to your current donors what you are doing with their money and the impact it is having in your community.

Leroux Miller,K (2014) Nonprofit communications Trends, as retrieved from:


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