Posted , by Erin Phillips, Consultant and Marketing Director. Topic: Boards of Directors, Donor Retention.

Bloomerang, a company specializing in donor databases, hosted a webinar recently titled “Everything You Need to Know about Donor and Board Member Engagement.” We are cautious of programs that boast these superlatives—”Everything”, really? But we knew the hosts were authorities in their field and signed up to participate. While Jay Love, CEO of Bloomerang, and Bryan Orander, President of Charitable Advisors and Publisher of Not for Profit News, didn’t magically cover every single tactic and tip to engaging donors and boards in one hour, they certainly made some great points and provided some smart ideas.

Their first point and premise was “donor engagement is a direct influence of donor retention.” The 2012 Fundraising Effectiveness Survey Report, which is a survey of a dozen of the most widely used donor databases, including Raisers Edge, eTapestry, Donor Perfect and GiftWorks, found a donor retention rate of 41%; in other words nearly six out of every 10 donors to a nonprofit did not donate the following year. This makes a strong case for nonprofits to focus on donor engagement in order to increase donor retention. Here are a few other ideas Love and Orander presented, in summary.

Tracking Donor Engagement
Engagement tracking is important, especially for major gift donors. The Curtis Group solidly backs this concept. And while the tracking can be done within a sophisticated donor database (as promoted in this webinar hosted by Bloomerang), even if you are a small organization with a limited number of donors and prefer to do it through another tool, you definitely should do it. This type of tracking should be systemized across your organization because many people on staff in an organization interact with donors and potential donors, not just the development director. Remember, the more engaged individuals are, the more likely they will remain loyal donors over time. Here are some key positive donor engagement indicators presented by Love:
– Made a donation in the last six months
– Made multiple donations
– Gave through multiple channels (online and direct mail)
– Attended an event or multiple events
– Posted on organization’s Facebook wall
– Has a phone number on file
– Has stated communication preference (phone, email)
– Supplied updated address info
– Has volunteered or responded to a survey
– Has indicated a bequest

Engaging Your Board
Orander discussed how board members seek volunteer leadership at nonprofits for a variety of reasons, including:
– Making a difference at the organization
– Giving back
– Making new connections
– Developing new skills

Remember it is up to the nonprofit’s management as well as the board itself (our firm recommends this usually starts through a board governance committee) to help assure positive board member engagement. Here are a few ways to do this:
– Have clearly stated recruitment criteria
– Implement a structured orientation process that includes asking the board members how they would like to be involved during their time of service (committee role, fundraising role, etc.)
– Assign a mentor (seasoned member) to a new member in his/her first year of service
-Instill a culture that encourages members to influence agendas and affect positive change in the organization

The Curtis Group has worked with over 100 nonprofits over the past 24 years. We’ve spent a lot of time working with nonprofit management and their boards on donor and board engagement strategies. We enjoyed Bloomerang’s webinar and always like to see others in the industry reinforcing the importance of donor and board engagement. It’s a key ingredient to a successful fundraising program.

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