April 18, 2019 | Categories Featured, Fundraising Strategies, Nonprofit Technology, Social Fundraising

3 Key Metrics to Help Fundraisers Increase Donor Retention

Retaining donors is important for every nonprofit. We all know this, yet we’re still searching for the perfect answer to the age-old question: How can we retain our donors?

When analyzing donor retention, we took considered these 3 telling metrics:

  • % of donors that are monthly givers
  • The average number of contacts per donor
  • How quickly gifts are acknowledged.

Donor Retention Analysis: A Breakdown

We picked some anonymous DonorPerfect users whose donor retention is better than or equal to the average user in their same sector, and analyzed their utilization habits to see what they have done to be successful. There were ten users from ten different sectors based on National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities (NTEE) codes:

  • Religion-Related
  • Environment
  • Housing & Shelter
  • Animal Related
  • Food; Agriculture & Nutrition
  • Recreation & Sports
  • Art, Culture, & Humanities
  • Human Services
  • Youth Development
  • Education

Donor Retention Trends by Sector

Below is a chart of each of the chosen users’ donor retentions (left bar), as compared with their peer sectors (right bar)*:

Key Takeaways

Get a better benchmark.

See where nonprofits like you fall on the donor retention chart and use this benchmark to compare your numbers to one that better reflects the type of organization you support than an industry-wide number.

Gain momentum from your peers’ success.

Think of the anonymous user in your sector as peer inspiration that can push you to strive for a higher number. For example, if you belong to a human services organization, you’ll note that the sector’s average donor retention is 37%, but you’ll want to push to be at or better than your sector peer who is achieving 42%.

What’s Your Retention Rate?

Your donor retention rate is easy to calculate. For example, if you have 1,000 donors in year 1 but only 400 of those give again in year 2, your donor retention rate would be 400/1000, or 40 percent. If you use DonorPerfect, your current donor retention rate is on display on your DonorPerfect dashboard for easy access. Need your donor retention rate as of a specific date? Use the Comprehensive Donor Revenue Analysis report in the Report Center.

The Impact of Monthly Giving Programs on Donor Retention

This is a comparison of the percentage of donors that are monthly givers* among sectors.

Key Takeaways

Monthly donors are more easily retained.

Establishing a monthly giving program directly impacts your donor retention in a positive way. Gain buy-in from your board by sharing this eye-opening data.

Monthly donors positively affect revenue.

The users raising more in their sector overall have a higher percentage of monthly donors, which shows just how valuable these long-term relationships can be.

Automate your processing

Turn automatic monthly giving on so when donors elect a recurring gift on their online form, the subsequent payments aren’t missed.

3 Ways DonorPerfect Supports Your Monthly Giving Program

Flexible Online Forms

Make sure that all of your online forms have a recurring gift option so that donors can start recurring gifts easily on their own.


Easy, Effortless Transactions

By setting up Automatic Monthly Giving, online recurring gifts continue being charged automatically, giving you peace of mind and save you time.

Free Monthly Giving Resources

Monthly Giving Starter Kit

This is a step-by-step to start your monthly giving program, providing you with helpful tips, free templates, and other handy tools.


Monthly Giving Marketing Kit

Learn how to gain and retain monthly donors. Topics include crafting the perfect monthly giving ask, best practices for email marketing, and boosting gift amounts.


Strong Relationships with Donors Result in Higher Retention

The following chart shows the average number of contacts made per donor*:

Key Takeaways

Keep donors posted on your progress.

Make sure your donors know about what projects your organization is working on and how their dollars help those initiatives happen.

See how you can replicate successful campaigns.

For example. you could follow the lead of an animal rescue that sends emails out whenever new animals are saved so their constituency is updated on the available adoptees. Could this type of outreach be tailored to your organization?

Ask your donors what how they most enjoy supporting you.

Poll your donors to see what type of events they’d like to attend or projects they are most passionate about funding.

Best Practices for Contacting Donors

Small gestures go a long way.

Focus on at least four touches a year for monthly donors – two special event invites and two personal touches- whether it be a note, post card, email, or phone call.

Keep your donors informed and excited.

Tell them about the great work their support is accomplishing in your solicitations donations.

Make monthly givers feel special.

Send out hand addressed and signed holiday cards to monthly and major donors. You can even send out postcards this summer to their monthly donors with a quick note saying ‘thank you for your continued support.

Average Thank You Times by Sector

This is the average number of days that passed before a gift was acknowledged*:

Key Takeaways

Speedy acknowledge is key.

Timely thank-yous correlate with higher donor retention, so take less time to respond to the gifts/donations you receive.

Quality is also important.

Make sure you’re ready with a meaningful message that tells the Donor exactly how their donation will affect your cause.

Know how your donors like to be thanked.

For example, some acknowledge donations electronically on the same day, while others send out acknowledgements by mail on the next business day.

How to Send Thank Yous with DonorPerfect

  • Set up your online form to have a more personal email notification in its Set Email Options and use merge field for First Name in the salutation.
  • Read this article on how to send email thank yous in DonorPerfect.
  • Sign up for our webinar on receipting through the DonorPerfect Community.

*All calculations are across of 12-month period for 2018

There are many ways you can maximize your donor retention. While there are no perfect answers, you can use these metrics to help you know where you stand and what you can work on to surpass the average peer in your sector. For more information on how to follow these actions using DonorPerfect, contact DonorPerfect Support at 215.628.4343.

Emily Patz
Meet the author: Emily Patz

I'm a freelance copywriter and content strategist with over ten years of experience creating community-building content strategies and compelling copy for websites, mobile, marketing campaigns, and social media.

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