Fundraising can be an exceptionally difficult activity, and no more is that true than for a charity just getting its feet off the ground. The first donation received is often referred to as the most crucial. Unfortunately, studies have shown that up to 50% of donors cease donations after their first gift. Retention is often the biggest problem for most charities, so how does one prevent this?

Donors may leave after their first few donations for a variety of reasons, the most common being a lack of follow-up by the charity itself. Expressing gratitude and showing those that donate that their contributions mean something to you is a surefire way to add a human element to your organization. It generates a mutual appreciation that can directly translate to donor retention.

Other reasons may include simply dissatisfaction with the charity, no longer being able to afford to donate, assuming that the charity no longer needs their donations, or a lack of transparency. Almost all donors want to know exactly how their contributions are being used in order to feel that they are truly making an impact.

With all of that said, good customer service in the nonprofit industry is central to an organization’s success. Charities must be able to resolve issues and complaints quickly and efficiently. However, customer service within nonprofits can look vastly different than that in a more corporate setting. For example, resolving issues is not the only aspect of customer service for charities. Sending thank you letters and expressing gratitude, as previously mentioned, is much more important for philanthropic businesses than corporate ones, whose goals often focus on fixing problems fast.

Charities must be seen as committed and trustworthy by their donors in order to keep them coming back. Ignoring donors, misleading them, reporting false statistics, or reaching out too often can be detrimental in terms of retention. This is also a two-way street. Donors must be committed as well. Reasons for this commitment could be trusting that the charity’s mission is actually effective, being able to relate to the cause, or similar beliefs.

How much time has passed and how many first donations a charity receives can be a great indicator for future success, or failure. Following the very first contribution a charitable organization receives, reaching out and stressing the importance of donor retention should be a top priority.