A simple equation, plus three big reasons to buy this book

Written by
Craig Linton
& Giles Pegram CBE
Added
March 04, 2015

There are lots of good books on fundraising, but not many truly great ones. Books that re-define how you think about, and practise, fundraising. Retention Fundraising by Roger Craver is one of those books and is an instant classic.

There are three reasons why this book is the real deal

1. It addresses one of the biggest issues our sector faces. Although the 2014 AFP Fundraising Effectiveness Report shows some small improvement in retention over the last year, the sad fact is for 100 new donors recruited in the United States the sector loses 102. The median charity in the USA still only retains 46 per cent of its donors year to year[i]. Although attrition in less mature fundraising markets may not be as high, preventing or reducing it should be a priority for all fundraisers. Those charities that get this right will have a serious competitive advantage over their rivals.

2. It is backed up some of the most comprehensive analytical analysis that has been conducted on donor data. The Donor Voice research quoted in the book looked at data from hundreds of charities from the USA, Canada and the UK. This data was analysed using sophisticated statistical techniques adapted from the commercial world.

Some of the Donor Voice research around the importance of commitment has been around for a couple of years. For example, you can read Ken Burnett commenting on it on SOFII However, this book goes further and explains the theory and then gives you the practical advice to do something about it.

3: It is written by one of the best fundraising thinkers in the business, the Agitator's Roger Craver. Roger is able to describe the complex theory behind the ideas in the book in simple language and present a series of practical actions you can take today to improve your donor retention. It expertly blends theory and real-world anecdotes to make an easy read on what could be a dry subject.

At the heart of the book is a simple equation

Retention + commitment = increased lifetime value.

The book shows you how to measure and increase both retention and commitment to achieve significant increases in lifetime value.

Perhaps the key points from the research conducted by Donor Voice are the seven key drivers of commitment that emerged. These are:

1. The donor perceives your organisation to be effective in trying to achieve its mission

2. The donor knows what to expect from your organisation with each interaction.

3. The donor receives timely thank yous.

4. The donor receives opportunities to make his or her views known.

5. The donor is given the feeling that he or she is part of an important cause.

6. The donor feels his or her involvement is appreciated.

7. The donor gets information showing who is being helped.

Most authors and researchers would stop there: sit back, kick off their shoes and praise themselves on a job well done. Luckily for us Craver goes further.

The rest of the book describes the best practices you can follow for delivering on the key drivers. I particularly like that these are backed up by real life examples that you can easily swipe ideas from. I've applied a couple of the recommendations in my organisation and we're already seeing the benefit. For example, we've discussed how we can capture more donor feedback through all our channels and have surveyed our donors on their individual current level of commitment.

The other big plus from this book is that it talks you through the mathematics that underpin the theory and takes you step by step through the metrics you need to put in place to start measuring your retention and lifetime value. Whether you are a large or small organisation there's no excuse for you not to know your numbers after reading this book.

Finally, for those who want to dig deeper there is a companion website ( www.retentionfundraising.com) where you can find links to research papers and recommended reading. A couple of the sections currently lack content and I hope the website will expand and become an ever growing and evolving resource for fundraisers interested in retention.

Overall, this book goes straight into my top five fundraising books of all time. It is essential reading for all fundraisers who are serious about raising more money. The ideas expounded are simple, but hard to implement. However, the rewards for those who master retention are huge and potentially world changing.

[i] 2014 Fundraising Effectiveness Survey Report, The AFP. Available here.

Additional commentary from Giles Pegram CBE

Here's an opportunity for fundraisers that will change our world

Retention is the door to the future of fundraising. And Roger Craver's new book is the key that unlocks it.

What's the problem?

Acquiring new donors gets more and more expensive. Our response is to test harder, analyse with greater rigour and invest increasing amounts of money in recruiting the donors that our charity needs to compensate for those that leave us and to provide new donors that will enable the charity to grow.

And this is the second problem. Attrition, the lapsing of donors, is getting worse. We fumble at the edges about improving it, but ultimately we don't know what to do. So we go back to even more acquisition.

You have a 60-70 per cent chance of obtaining an additional gift from an existing donor. You have a 20-40 per cent chance of obtaining an additional gift from a recently lapsed donor. But you have a less than two per cent chance of obtaining a gift from a prospect.

Everything tells us that we should invest the bulk of our budget on stopping donors from leaving, reducing attrition by increasing the commitment of existing donors.

We spend a fortune on acquisition and know what we spend to the nearest penny. We spend little on retention. In fact, most fundraisers couldn't tell you how much they spend on keeping their donors.

Why?

Acquisition is easy to measure. It is easy to test. It is easy to know what works better and what works less well.

Retention is more difficult. The results of retention activities will only be known if attrition rates reduce and that will only happen in the longer term. Most CEOs can't wait. They look at fundraising results on a monthly basis and plan on an annual basis. Where is the room for investing in something that will only prove its worth, probably, after we have left our charity?

So what's the solution?

Ken Burnett argued the case in his transformational book Relationship Fundraising. Professor Adrian Sargeant and Elaine Jay provided the research evidence in their book Building Donor Loyalty: the fundraiser's guide to increasing lifetime value. But this was serious academic work. How many readers of this article have read Donor Loyalty from cover to cover?

So why is today any different?

Because there is a new, practical, 'how to' manual: Retention Fundraising: the new art and science of keeping your donors for life.

Roger Craver has impeccable credentials. He was a pioneer in direct response fundraising in the 1960s, telemarketing in the 1970s, on-line information services in the 1980s, multi-channel fundraising and communication (and recipient of the Direct Marketing Association's lifetime achievement award) in the 1990s and donor-designed strategies today. He brings an experienced and critical eye to the future of fundraising.

Using hard-nosed data, Roger has identified how a charity can deepen donor commitment. He has identified the eight key reasons donors leave us. He has identified the seven key drivers that matter most to donors. He explains why these are so vital to lifetime value – the only serious measurement of long-term fundraising success.

Not only does he tell you what the drivers are, he then tells you what to do differently, tomorrow.

In this, he is going beyond any other book. It is totally practical.

And so?

I believe Retention Fundraising could transform fundraising. What an amazing thing to be a part of. Why would anyone want to be a fundraiser, knowing he or she could change our world, and not do it ?

© Giles Pegram CBE 2014. This review has been adapted from an article that first appeared on the UK Fundraising website in 2014

To order in the USA, visit http:// www.emersonandchurch.com or call 001-508-359-0019.

In the UK, visit http://www.whitelionpress.com.


[1] 2014 Fundraising Effectiveness Survey Report, The AFP. Available here.



Additional commentary from Giles Pegram CBE

Here's an opportunity for fundraisers that will change our world

Retention is the door to the future of fundraising. And Roger Craver's new book is the key that unlocks it.

What's the problem?

Acquiring new donors gets more and more expensive. Our response is to test harder, analyse with greater rigour and invest increasing amounts of money in recruiting the donors that our charity needs to compensate for those that leave us and to provide new donors that will enable the charity to grow.

And this is the second problem. Attrition, the lapsing of donors, is getting worse. We fumble at the edges about improving it, but ultimately we don't know what to do. So we go back to even more acquisition.

You have a 60-70 per cent chance of obtaining an additional gift from an existing donor. You have a 20-40 per cent chance of obtaining an additional gift from a recently lapsed donor. But you have a less than two per cent chance of obtaining a gift from a prospect.

Everything tells us that we should invest the bulk of our budget on stopping donors from leaving, reducing attrition by increasing the commitment of existing donors.

We spend a fortune on acquisition and know what we spend to the nearest penny. We spend little on retention. In fact, most fundraisers couldn't tell you how much they spend on keeping their donors.

Why?

Acquisition is easy to measure. It is easy to test. It is easy to know what works better and what works less well.

Retention is more difficult. The results of retention activities will only be known if attrition rates reduce and that will only happen in the longer term. Most CEOs can't wait. They look at fundraising results on a monthly basis and plan on an annual basis. Where is the room for investing in something that will only prove its worth, probably, after we have left our charity?

So what's the solution?

Ken Burnett argued the case in his transformational book Relationship Fundraising. Professor Adrian Sargeant and Elaine Jay provided the research evidence in their book Building Donor Loyalty: the fundraiser's guide to increasing lifetime value. But this was serious academic work. How many readers of this article have read Donor Loyalty from cover to cover?

So why is today any different?

Because there is a new, practical, 'how to' manual: Retention Fundraising: the new art and science of keeping your donors for life.

Roger Craver has impeccable credentials. He was a pioneer in direct response fundraising in the 1960s, telemarketing in the 1970s, on-line information services in the 1980s, multi-channel fundraising and communication (and recipient of the Direct Marketing Association's lifetime achievement award) in the 1990s and donor-designed strategies today. He brings an experienced and critical eye to the future of fundraising.

Using hard-nosed data, Roger has identified how a charity can deepen donor commitment. He has identified the eight key reasons donors leave us. He has identified the seven key drivers that matter most to donors. He explains why these are so vital to lifetime value – the only serious measurement of long-term fundraising success.

Not only does he tell you what the drivers are, he then tells you what to do differently, tomorrow.

In this, he is going beyond any other book. It is totally practical.

And so?

I believe Retention Fundraising could transform fundraising. What an amazing thing to be a part of. Why would anyone want to be a fundraiser, knowing he or she could change our world, and not do it ?

© Giles Pegram CBE 2014. This review has been adapted from an article that first appeared on the UK Fundraising website in 2014

To order in the USA, visit http:// www.emersonandchurch.com or call 001-508-359-0019.

In the UK, visit http://www.whitelionpress.com.


About the author - Roger M. Craver

Roger Craver, founder of Craver Matthews Smith in the USA, is a lifelong pioneer in applying mass communications and technologies to activism and fundraising. His groundbreaking work in fundraising has helped launch and sustain dozens of national and international organisations.

Today, Roger is the founder of DonorTrends, a company providing fundraising intelligence, predictive models and market research to the nonprofit and political communities. diMobile is his latest company, building mobile engagement applications for the next generation of activists and hell-raisers.

He is also the publisher of the Agitator.

About the author: Craig Linton

Craig Linton

Craig Linton has over 15 years’ of fundraising experience across a number of disciplines and sectors. He currently works at Amnesty International where he advises colleagues across Europe on their individual giving fundraising and helps them prepare investment proposals. He also spends a day a week on outside consultancy and research projects. His specialisms are relationship fundraising and providing a great donor experience. He is a member of the Institute of Fundraising Convention board, on Rogare’s advisory panel, a contributing editor to SOFII.org and a trustee of Thames Hospice.

About the author: Giles Pegram CBE

Giles Pegram CBE

As Appeals Director of NSPCC at 29, Giles set up the Centenary Appeal, which raised £15 million, a record at the time in the UK. Giles grew the NSPCC’s annual income from donors from £3 million to £185 million, growing the NSPCC from No. 15 in the fundraising charities league table, to No. 3. The FULL STOP Appeal raised £274,000,000. This remains a record. Giles continued as Appeals Director until 2010. He then became a consultant.  

Giles was vice-chair and joint founder of the Commission on the Donor Experience, an initiative aimed at transforming fundraising, to change the culture to a truly consistent donor-based approach to raising money. He is now working to implement its recommendations.  

He has now re-launched himself as a consultant: www.gilespegram.com  

Giles Pegram was made ‘UK Professional Fundraiser of the Year 1994’ and received the Institute of Fundraising/Professional Fundraising Awards ‘Lifetime Achievement in Fundraising’ award in 2002. He is a fellow and trustee of the Institute of Fundraising.   

Giles was appointed a CBE in 2011.

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