Is it ever ok NOT to retain donors?

Maybe you saw this headline in The Chronicle of Philanthropy last Friday: Charities Lost 103 Donors For Every 100 Donors They Gained in 2014, Says Study. Nonprofits are right to focus on donor retention. It is significantly cheaper to retain a donor than it is to acquire a new one. I think it’s equally valuable […]

What nonprofits can learn from reality TV

A guest post from MarketSmart's Greg Warner

  I asked Greg Warner, CEO/Founder of MarketSmart if he’d share his take on the two biggest mistakes that nonprofits make. And if you happen to know Greg (I’m thoroughly enjoying getting to know him), you know he’s not shy. He’s also not short on opinions about how we in the nonprofit sector can improve […]

5 Great Online Tools For Nonprofits

I’m always on the lookout for new tools that make it easier for fundraising and nonprofit leaders to get their jobs done. Unique ways for nonprofits to engage their supporters, and for organizations to raise more money for their causes. Today I want to share five of those tools with you. I’m recommending these because I […]

What you’re giving up by not asking #volunteers for financial support

Many nonprofits fail to fully integrate volunteers into their organization. They silo the volunteer names in a spreadsheet outside the organization’s donor database and suppress them from any and all fundraising efforts. Sometimes this is because they just can’t get their disparate systems to talk to one another.

Other times, this happens because someone in the organization doesn’t believe volunteers want to be solicited. And even other times, it’s because volunteers don’t convert to cash donors in high volume, and therefore don’t look as valuable as donors that are acquired with an initial cash contribution.

However, in an analysis of three different nonprofit donor files recently, I saw that supporters who were both volunteers and cash donors were anywhere from 50% – 150% more valuable than those who were only cash donors.

Measure what really matters in #fundraising


It’s always surprising to me when I see a nonprofit’s request for proposal (RFP), or talk to a development officer and the focus of their inquiry is on “increasing average gift”, or “doubling the response rate in direct mail.”

These are fine goals for any organization to have, but by themselves, they do little good for any organization. Here’s why…

If an organization has 1,000 donors, they could simply focus only on the top 50 donors and thereby increase their average gift. However, disregarding the remaining 950 donors would significantly reduce the total revenue the organization raises annually.

Similarly, if an organization’s goal is to double response rate, they could easily change their ask strategy and only request that each donor give $5 in support of their cause (in fact, I’ve seen this happen — and the result isn’t pretty!). This could dramatically increase response rate, but also similarly decrease their overall revenue by downgrading donors who had been giving gifts of $100, $500, or even $1,000+.

It’s easy to focus on these things though. They’re the quickest to impact, and often the easiest to measure. But if you want to build and grow a successful fundraising program, focus on these key metrics instead:

  • Annual value per donor
  • Income coverage (the amount of income generated over and above the amount lost to donor attrition)
  • Donor retention by segment (focus on retaining the highest value donors – sometimes it’s OK not to retain the lowest value donors)
  • Donor upgrade and downgrade percentage
  • Long-term value



Image courtesy of samarttiw at

Guest Post: The two biggest monthly giving mistakes nonprofits make

I’m launching a new series focused on the biggest fundraising mistakes nonprofits make. To kick off this series, I asked my friend Erica Waasdorp, author of Monthly Giving. The Sleeping Giant to share her thoughts on the biggest mistakes nonprofits make when it comes to monthly giving. Her guest post is below: “I see nonprofits […]