Book Review: Plugging the leaky bucket of donors

Stephen Cook examines the latest title from Roger M Craver

Retention Fundraising, by Roger M Craver
Retention Fundraising, by Roger M Craver

There was a time in fundraising when charities felt they could make up for any loss of donors by recruiting new ones quickly and cheaply - a process that came to be known in the trade as "burn and churn".

The premise of this book is that those years are over and fundraising charities will not prosper in future unless they put more money and effort into retaining donors by treating them better. That premise is underpinned by a 2013 study of nearly 2,500 organisations by the Association of Fundraising Professionals in the US, which found that only 65 per cent of them retained new recruits long enough to receive a second donation. For every 100 donors acquired, the study found, 107 were lost through attrition.

"The days of the seemingly infinite pool of new donors available to quickly and inexpensively replace those who've stopped their support has long gone," writes the author, Roger Craver. He argues that the future lies in retention fundraising - "plugging the holes in the bucket through which our donors are pouring".

Craver's formula could be summarised as finding out more about your donors and treating them as individuals instead of dealing with them all through the same standardised procedures.

His concluding checklist includes thanking donors immediately for their contributions, phoning new donors to welcome them and using software that picks up signs of engagement or alienation so you can adapt your activity accordingly.

This is a brief, clear, practical guide, written in the chatty style of American how-to books. Its examples and arguments are highly persuasive. Will it usher in a new age of more donor-friendly methods by charities? Let's hope so, but there's some way to go.

Retention Fundraising, by Roger M Craver, published by Emerson and Church, £14.95

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