Written by Jim Bush, Principal and President

This is Part II in the Winkler Group’s series on donor retention.

Donor retention is one of the easiest ways to raise exponentially more funds. 

Based on national averages, only 20% of new COVID-19 donors will give again next year.  If your nonprofit, hospital, arts organization, or university saw record numbers of new gifts this year, most of them will disappear in 2021.  Unless you take steps now to keep them coming back.

The Winkler Group works with organizations to turn new donors into long-term investors.  We can do the same for you.  Schedule a free 15-minute session with one of our experts and we’ll help make sure you don’t lose a single new donor.   

Why We Are Losing Easy Revenue

In 2017, hurricanes Maria, Irma, and Harvey ravaged Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico.  Wildfires raged in California and a devastating earthquake hit Mexico City.  Donors responded in droves and $6.008 billion in gifts were generated from new, upgraded current and previously lapsed donors [1]

By 2018, most of those new donors were gone. Why?  Because we, as development and advancement professionals, failed to make the case to those new donors that their gifts made a difference.

Why Donor Retention Matters

Donor retention is one of the easiest ways to raise exponentially more funds. 

By increasing donor retention just 1%, you can increase revenue by as much as $123,000—without finding a single new donor.  In the process, you’ll also deepen your pool of loyal donors and major donor prospects.

Figure 1: The Fundraising Effectiveness Project’s 2015 Donor Retention Supplement shows the impact of a 1% rise in retention rates for various sized organizations shown on the chart’s left-hand side.

Creating a Plan:

  • It’s not hard to implement the strategies that turn your new COVID-19 donors into long-term investors, but you have to start immediately.
  • Welcome new donors with open arms. Code them in your database as new so you can show them how appreciative you are of them.
  • Prioritize your new donors based on giving potential. Conduct a wealth screen to determine P2G scores and household incomes and then create a more intensive stewardship plan for high capacity donors.
  • Wait at least six months to ask new donors for another gift. A targeted follow-up ask says their first gift wasn’t good enough.
  • Treat your donors as investors. Engage them in your organization through surveys, special donor meetings, or non-fundraising insider events. This is especially important for your high-capacity donors.
  • Educate your board around the importance of retention and its potential ROI. Too often, boards prioritize new donors over donor retention. Help them understand why it’s more important to keep the donors you already have.

More Retention Tips

Kickstart your donor retention efforts with a free analysis by a Winkler Group expert.  In just 15 minutes, you’ll have ways to raise more funds without courting new donors. 

Instead of waving goodbye to your donors, spend some time making them feel special.  If you show them the love now, the long-term results will be substantial.  If you don’t, you will create a revolving door of donors and you’ll find yourself in a futile cycle that requires constant feeding.


[1] Giving USA 2018.

The generous will prosper: those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.
(Proverbs 11:25)

  • Over $1 Billion Raised
  • Our campaigns achieve 117% of their original goals
  • Our consultants have 200 years of fundraising experience