Be forewarned, this is a sad story… but it can have a good ending!
As you know from the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, based upon 2015 data, the typical donor retention rates were 46%, which is why monthly donors are so important as monthly donor retention rates are much higher.
The good news is that more and more nonprofits have started a monthly donor program. And as monthly donor programs mature, upgrades, reactivations and conversions become the name of the game, in addition to acquiring new monthly donors of course (that should never stop!).
So, I decided it was time to do a little Monthly Donor Retention Check-Up.
In September 2015, I tried joining 25 organizations with a monthly donation through my credit card. I went for the smallest amount possible. In some cases that was $5, in other cases it was $10 a month.
Each monthly donation sign-up was done online and I gave a card that was expiring one month later to see what would happen. I then gave organizations more than a year to get back to me.
The first observation was that 5 of the organizations I wanted to join, did not even have an online monthly donor option!
So, that left 20 organizations I was actually able to join as a monthly donor. They’re all over the United States and they’re focused on different issues. 10 Of them are smaller organizations, 10 are larger organizations. Here’s the list. All great organizations. All have a monthly donor program.
I subsequently tracked what would happen. How did the organizations process my monthly donation? How did they thank me? How did they try to prevent my monthly donation from lapsing as my credit card was set to expire very soon? And how else would they communicate with me?
When I joined, my total annualized value as a donor to these organizations combined was $1,716.
All 20 sent me an auto-responder thank you message right after I hit the submit button. Some were more standard than others. All confirmed that I made a donation.
Sad fact 1: Not all of them referred to my monthly commitment.
Sad fact 2: Only 3 sent me a an actual email thank you as a follow up.
The above facts are caused by the systems the organizations are using to process their online donations. Yes, systems. I get it. But there are ways to improve systems.
Sad fact 3: Only 4 sent me a thank you letter in the mail.
Sad fact 4: One of those 4 had the audacity to thank me for my $10 a month gift, but told me that $19 a month would be better and if I did that, I’d get a tchotzchky. I was totally ready to cancel that one.
Sad fact 5: Only two organizations took the time to write a personal note on the thank you letter, both of them were small organizations.
Sad fact 6: 3 out of the 20 never even processed my first donation!!! Even though I had received the autoresponder message. Somehow, the charge never got processed. I don’t know if it’s because my credit card was going to expire the next month or if it was a systems issue again.
Sad fact 7: Not one organization picked up the phone to thank me for my commitment.
Next, I looked at what organizations did to:
a. prevent me as a monthly donor from lapsing.
b. try to get updated card information, so my monthly donation continued.
Well, I have to be honest with you. The news is again not good.
Sad fact 8: Out of the 20 organizations, only 3 called me to ask me for my updated information. And one of out those 3 was actually an ask for an upgrade within the first three months of joining, even though I had already lapsed.
One of the 3 called me about 9 months after I had stopped paying. A new development person at a small organization had taken a look at their monthly donors and she picked up the phone. Because we had a nice conversation, she was able to reactivate my monthly gift.
Sad fact 9: Only 5 organizations seemed to process my monthly gifts for a few more months, and then stopped. It does not seem like any of them had account updater in place.
Sad fact 10: Because of all of the above, organizations lost me.
Annualized value of my monthly donations when I joined: $1,716
Annualized value of my monthly donations after 6 months:$240
In a future blog, I’ll share some of the additional communications sent by some of the organizations and how it made me feel as a monthly donor. But, as you can see, the Monthly Donor Retention Check-Up (TM) is all revealing.
Here’s the good news! YOU CAN FIX THIS! YOU CAN STOP MONTHLY DONORS FROM DROPPING OFF.
You work hard at bringing in your new monthly donors. Let’s take a little time to review your monthly donor retention with a simple check-up and put a plan in place and drop outs will (almost) be something of the past.
Contact me for your Monthly Donor Retention Check-Up (TM). You’ll be glad you did!