Heather Yandow

Heather Yandow

In today’s post,we dive into the Individual Donor Benchmark Report by Third Space Studio and focus on donor retention numbers. ~Kristina

Guest Post by Heather Yandow of Third Space Studio

Do you ever wonder how you stack up against other nonprofits? What the average organization’s donor base looks like? Or what you can expect to raise from monthly giving?

The Individual Donor Benchmark Report answers all those questions and more. The report, which compiles data from nonprofits with revenues of under $2 million, provides a number of interesting findings, including:

  • The best way to ensure fundraising success is to have a plan.
  • Organizations raise 34% of their revenue from individuals.
  • About half of individual donor revenue comes from donors giving less than $1,000.
  • 1 out of every 5 individual donor dollars is raised online.
  • 4 out of 10 board members are active in fundraising in any significant way.

This year’s report also dug into one of the most important data points for individual donor fundraising – your retention rate. Your retention rate is the percentage of last year’s donors who give again this year. If you know your retention rate, you can judge the success of your donor engagement work, project future fundraising growth, and create effective goals for new donor recruitment.

In this year’s study, I found that the retention rate is about 60%, meaning you can expect that 6 out of 10 donors who gave last year will give again this year. While many of the data points change with the size of the organization, the number of donors, or the presence of a membership program – donor retention stayed at 60% across a number of categories.

Where Can You Improve?

The best way to ensure a high retention rate is to treat donors as valued supporters and partners, not just sources of revenue.  You should be in touch with donors throughout the year, not just when you are asking for their support. Share good news about your work, send a picture of your programs, or just send a Valentine’s Day card. Think about how you can build in regular communication and appreciation of donors into your annual calendar.

Growing Your Base

Although there may be room to increase retention rates, many organizations will need to focus on finding new contacts and developing strategies to convert them to donors. You should think through how you are opening the door to new potential donors, whether through community events, your website, staff contact, or other avenues.

What is a potential donor’s first experience of the organization? How do you collect their contact information? How do you follow up to thank them and engage them further?

You should also carefully consider how you are asking these potential first-time donors. Direct mail requests have a higher response rate than email requests but also have higher costs. You may want to experiment with several different solicitation strategies to find the one that works best for your organization and your donors.

Key Takeaways for Greater Retention

The challenge is that if you are successful at growing your donor base, you’ll need to find more and more new donors every year to keep up with donor loss. The best way to ensure that your organization is prepared is to involve everyone – board, staff, and volunteers – in identifying, cultivating, and asking for support.

For more donor fundraising details and data breakdowns, the full report and infographic are available at https://www.thirdspacestudio.com/idb2015/.

Heather Yandow brings more than a decade of experience as an outreach coordinator, coalition leader, project manager, and fundraiser to Third Space Studio and their clients. Heather’s nonprofit experience includes being a staff member, volunteer, and Board member. Her most recent staff position was as the director of development and communications for the NC Conservation Network. Heather has served on the Board of Directors of the beehive collective (a giving circle in Raleigh), Democracy NC, and ncyt: NC’s Network of Young Nonprofit Professionals. Heather earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Mathematics from UNC, and holds a Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Duke University.


How do your donor retention rates measure up and what are your best tips for keeping donors? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Published On: September 7, 2016|Categories: Fundraising|