The most recent publication of the Fundraising Effectiveness Report, actually the ineffectiveness report, has led to many observations from a lot of folks. I would like to weigh in with a little different angle than what’s been written so far. What we may all agree on is that there is huge room for improvement, where many of us part company is on what to focus on in order to achieve the retention results we desire.

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 1.56.52 PM So much as been written about what we should do to improve our renewal rates. Improve thank you notes, view the first gift as a step in the journey, move your donor to monthly giving, jazz up your annual report and on and on. This advice has been constant for the last decade that this report has existed; yet in the last 10 years our donor renewal rates have declined by 20%. Might it be time to think differently about how to impact this epidemic? Why rehash and repackage what has clearly not worked?

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Mapping the experience

We hear the word relationship a lot in connection with being successful in the business of raising money. However, the last decade has proven that we’re losing these relationships faster than ever before. A hallmark of a strong relationship is authenticity. My experience with improving donor retention has taught me that the first step is to de-think all that we’ve done, and then align strategy and tactics to what our customers seek. Our customers seek authenticity. We’ve been trained to copy and steal from each other, it turns out that the real answers cannot be found in peer organizations. The answer to our dropping retention rates lives with a keen understanding of our donors’ desires and aspirations. Recently I saw a thread in LinkedIn where someone was asking for heartfelt phrases they could borrow to put in their thank you notes. You cannot cut and paste authenticity, nor can you take an idea from somewhere else and drop it on your donors and expect similar results.

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what it takes to be heard

The noise in the marketplace has never been louder; social media continues to amplify volume at an incredible pace. The good news for us is that our donors and prospects seek a depth of authenticity and connection that goes well beyond #’s, LOL’s or insert your favorite social media jargon here. Our opportunity and challenge will be de-think yesterday’s tools and strategies. This opportunity does not just live in the fund-raising arm; it cuts across every aspect of the nonprofit operation. Relationships are messy; they rarely follow a straight line. The tools we use were designed to keep our data in rows and columns, straight lines. These tools were not designed to grow and sustain relationships, just look at the results in the report.

Over the next couple of weeks NewSci Labs will be producing white papers on creating authentic donor experiences and utilizing new tools to capture the data required in today’s market to create and grow relationships. If interested click here.