How to Reduce Donor Attrition by a Third in 3 Minutes

As we discussed in last week’s blog a 10% increase in donor loyalty today would enhance the lifetime value of your fundraising database by up to 200%!

At Pell & Bales we’re doing exactly that – helping our charity clients increase loyalty by at least 10% in one 3 minute conversation.

In the last 18 months we have developed a solid approach to loyalty calls that’s reducing attrition savings by a 3rd in the immediate few months after the call, delivering a year 1 ROI of 3:1 and breaking even by month 3.

In fact, for every £100 spent c. £1,000 is generated in year one income!

And that’s just measuring the savings in attrition. Beyond that there are other rewards to reap from enhanced loyalty & engagement. One client has reported a 50% increase in response to a subsequent event ask and another reports a 30% increase in response to an upgrade ask.

How it works

  • Design a call that is about the donor – not about the charity and definitely not about fundraising or the charity needs. The aim is to make giving feel good, rewarding, involving and impactful
  • Allow yourself a budget, time and resource to have a real conversation with supporters
  • It’s not so much about what you say, more about how you make donors feel: listen to what they have to say, let them visualize and contextualize the impact of their gift, inspire them. Make them feel part of the bigger picture, the solution, and reinforce that their vision is your vision; that you will deliver on your promises, on your joint mission
  • Create a check list of known drivers in loyalty and commitment and address them through conversation (we use Sargeant and Woodliffe research, gathered supporter insight and our own research here)
  • Weave anti-attrition messaging into the conversation: be flexible and accommodating – offer payment holidays or even downgrades where appropriate
  • Encourage multiple relationships and a greater involvement and increased interaction in the cause (but don’t ask them for more support)

Why it works

No other channel offers the personal human interaction of the telephone. Loyalty is about relationship building, but how are you going to do that if you can’t hear what the other person’s saying? The phone allows a supporter to tell you what’s important to them, to ask you questions and to build rapport in the way they just can’t do with a piece of paper or video.

Third Sector’s latest ‘Giving Trends’ research says that the telephone is the most effective way to solicit donations. Now we know it’s also the best way to retain and nurture donors.

A conversation like this sets the tone for the relationship between you and your supporter.  Calls work particularly well when placed early on in the donor relationship. With the most significant attrition happening within months 0-4 it is advisable to place a loyalty call before their first Direct Debit payment has been made.

Results by recruit source

Across multiple clients and various data sources we consistently see a reduction in attrition, post call of c.1/3rd

And while the effects of the call do start to taper off a little over time, there is still a lasting impact 16 months after the phone conversation!

Look out for further blogs where I will explore Sargeant and Woodliffe’s  ‘key drivers of commitment’ (Service Quality; Risk; Shared Beliefs; Learning; Personal Link; Multiple Engagements and Trust) and how they can be translated into your donor communications.


11 thoughts on “How to Reduce Donor Attrition by a Third in 3 Minutes

  1. Very cool. Meant to chat with you about this after the IoF presentation:

    Just one thing to be wary of which we had explored with some of our own analysis: are the donors better quality because they are welcome called, or are they welcome called because they are better quality.

    i.e. is contact rate of a ‘good’ donor is better because they’re more likely to pick up the phone and more likely to engage with the caller?

    My own thoughts are that that distorts the figures a little bit, but overall it is a no brainer: telephone works and produces great results.

  2. Thanks Simon, I see your point. In the last graph shown on this article (showing impact on attrition by month) it should be noted that those ‘not welcomed’ are actually the non-contacts from the campaign, so yes, the fact that they didn’t answer the phone could be an indication that they are a slightly different profile of donor so this could skew results. However in the other examples and graphs we did create pure control groups. We also tested the loyalty phone call against other loyalty pieces such as a postcard and saw the phone has a far more significant impact.

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  5. it appears to be a reasonable strategy to defer attrition, which really isn’t addressing significant retention increases. Short metrics are important, but only when tied to longer term benchmarks. It is difficult to assume the calls themselves impacted the attrition or was it the fact you did something else, These isolated ideas that are not part of an overall strategy can really create false impressions and an illusion of addressing the real challenges

    • It’s not the whole solution, far from it. It’s tactical and helps to deepen engagement at key points in the relationship. It’s a good start and great for those struggling to find measurable tactics to drive retention. Of course these calls should form only part of a bigger, longer term strategy – not least starting with a look at acquisition and attracting more engaged donors in the first place!

      • It will only deepen engagement if it is tied to an overall strategy. A stand alone tactic without a reminder to the reader that it is tied to a bigger plan can be misleading. Too many of these types of suggestions leave the impression that this is something an organization should embrace. If they embrace this effort without an overall game plan they waste their time and their resources. There is nothing 3 minutes about designing an effort to keep donors, catchy title though.

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