For the last several years, the idea of donor retention has been much discussed. Thought leaders like Adrian Sargeant, Penelope Burk, Jay Love and so many others including those associated with the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, have urged us to improve our stewardship practices telling us that donor attrition will rates will never improve if we don’t continue to improve our stewardship practices. As a result, we’ve all worked harder to acknowledge gifts in a more timely fashion, more sincerely, and more creatively with mixed results. We’ve also worked to be more creative and faithful about reporting back to our donors about the impact of their gifts, again, with mixed results. Reports on our practices continue to find uneven practices with some of us acknowledging gifts swiftly, others slowly, and still others, not at all.
In the years that we have spent talking about donor stewardship and its importance for donor retention, little seems to have changed. In fact, if anything, donor retention rates have continued their downward spiral and the problem has gotten worse.
Why has it been so difficult to make head-way on this problem? Why has it been so hard to turn the ship around on these issues?