There has been a lot in the news about Americans “quiet quitting.” At its worst, quiet quitting includes workers who have completely checked out of work but haven’t bothered to tell their employer.
Today, let’s talk about donors who quiet quit. Maybe they send along a few bucks at the end of the year but aren’t engaged in your mission. Maybe they stopped giving altogether, but you still have them on your donor list. The worst part of quiet quitting donors is that you may be the last one to know when they leave for good.
Unfortunately, more donors quit nonprofits than stay. The turnover figures can be shocking. Nonprofits are only retaining 40-50% of their donors and only about 20% of first-time donors. If you are not concerned about retaining donors, stop reading now.
Good, because retention is an industry-wide problem. And a part of that problem is that we put on blinders when we look are who is giving. We keep lists of everyone who has ever donated and it has a psychological effect on us – The lists are like security blankets. They make us feel like those donors are still giving us money. We avoid that panicky feeling that comes from recognizing that many of those donors are gone for good.
There is another factor that most organizations haven’t wrapped their heads around: Nonprofit fundraising actually did extremely well during COVID. Americans rallied around causes, and nonprofits attracted a lot of new donors. After two years of pre-COVID declines, the number of donors increased by more than 10% in 2020, according to the Association of Fundraising Professionals. But it was too good to last, and donor numbers have taken a tumble since then. This chart shows the change in donor numbers for the first six months of each year.
From SFP Fundraising Effectiveness Project
This brings us to the quiet quitters. Many of these donors responded to a crisis and now they are leaving. They aren’t saying why. They aren’t saying what we could have done differently. They’re not responding at all.
What should nonprofits do about it?
Get Real. Don’t confuse names on a list with your actual donors. Imaginary friends give you imaginary gifts.
Don’t wait for them to tell you why they are leaving. They won’t. They’ll just stop writing checks or giving online. Be proactive. Call donors on a regular basis, and not just the large ones. That should be a part of a development director’s job, but the executive director should make some calls from time to time as well.
Engage donors. People give their first donation for a lot of reasons, but they usually leave because you didn’t engage them. Many give because they are moved by your mission. COVID brought a sense of urgency that motivated a lot of donors. The research shows that what keeps people giving is engagement. A donation is a way of saying, “I want to fix this problem you told me about.”
Communicate. Closely tied to engagement is just letting people know what you are doing. One of the main things lapsed donors say is that the organization never communicated with them after the initial gift. In some cases, they have may resented the silence and decided to not give again. However, the reality is much more basic. Out of sight, out of mind. They gave, they didn’t get any more prompts from you and they didn’t think to give again.
We talk a lot about donor behavior and why some people quit giving, but if your organization isn’t proactively finding out what's on your donors’ minds, engaging them in your mission and staying in front of them with effective communications, who’s quitting who?
If you would like to talk about tackling retention problems in a strategic way, drop us an email at info@storyboardHTX.org.