3 minute read

It would be nice to think that every donor who gives to your organization does so with a “till death do us part” mentality. But you’ve been doing this long enough to know that’s not the case. Donor retention is a real problem. But before you or any organization get to work on trying to figure out how to secure repeat donors, it’s important to understand why so many of them leave. If you don’t know the problems, it can be tough to come up with effective solutions.

Based on research we’ve done at Firespring, here are seven of the most common reasons.

1. “I’m not able to afford supporting the organization.”

There aren’t many supporters who say that, but lack of resources is certainly one reason a donor may stop giving.

2. “I don’t feel connected to the organization anymore.”

This is the, “it’s not you, it’s me” scenario, and it happens in all types of relationships, not just romantic ones. Sometimes people lose the connection to a cause they once embraced. There could be several reasons for this—maybe they’re looking for new people to connect with or and a new place to plug in and or their interests are evolving.

3. “I have no memory of ever supporting that organization.”

You’d be surprised how often this happens. People may donate to a peer-to-peer campaign of some sort and easily remember the person that they supported, but have no recollection of the organization behind the campaign.

4. “They ask me for too much money.”

Actually, I’d venture to say that many organizations ask for too little money too often. Kind of like those little dogs that nip at you out of somebody’s purse—they just nip, nip, nip and they drive you crazy. Too much asking is a turn-off (which often happens when you ask for too little), and can send donors running for another organization.

5. “They don’t tell me how my money is being used.”

If an organization isn’t forthcoming about how donations are being used, it can’t expect donors to stick around for long. Bottom line: People want to know that their money is making a difference. If supporters don’t understand their impact, they’ll find a new place to invest.

6. “They never reminded me to give again.”

This is one of the top reasons donors leave. They never received a message as simple as, “Thank you for donating last year. Would you like to give again this year?” Did you know that, with more than half of all donations made in the United States, no one reaches back out to those donors and asks them to give again? That’s the national average across the country. It’s remarkable to think that something so obvious could be the cause of donor attrition, but it’s true.

7. “They said something that rubbed me the wrong way.”

Maybe you wrote something in a newsletter that conflicted with a donor’s personal beliefs. Maybe they read a blog post that bothered them, or they heard something at an event that didn’t jibe with their values. There’s not much you can do about this one; it’s hard to please everyone all the time. Your main takeaway could simply be to just remain respectful. It’s okay to have an opinion. It’s okay to take a stance on issues that are relevant and important to your organization. Just do so as politely and respectfully as possible so you alienate as few people as possible.