Giving donors control over comms reduces retention, finds survey

20 Jun 2012 News

Allowing donors to choose how a charity communicates with them has a negative effect on donor retention, according to an annual report on face-to-face fundraising.

Allowing donors to choose how a charity communicates with them has a negative effect on donor retention, according to an annual report on face-to-face fundraising.

Charities increased the amount of contact they had with donors signed up via face-to-face fundraising in 2010, but the researchers behind the annual Donor Acquisition and Retention Survey (DARS) warn that allowing donors to choose how they are communicated with at the outset reduces the retention rate by 3.5 percentage points over five years.

Morag Fleming and Rupert Tappin, from Future Fundraising, presented a mixed picture regarding face-to-face attrition in their report released at the PFRA annual general meeting yesterday.

While customising letters with appeals increases retention by 5 per cent, asking donors to take part in campaigns has no effect, the analysis produced by Prof Adrian Sargeant found.  

Fleming and Tappin changed the advice they had given to charities in 2008 on the back of the research. The pair now recommend charities not give donors control over the type and frequency of communications within the first six months.

Attrition up on street, down on door and private sites

DARS, which compiled the donor acquisition and retention results of 30 PFRA members (representing 43 per cent of its members which ran face-to-face campaigns in 2010), found that eight-month attrition levels in 2010 had increased for street fundraising, but fallen for doorstep and private site-recruited donors.

The latest PFRA figures for recruitment show street fundraising sign-ups i.

By the end of eight months, 48.08 per cent of donors who signed up to a street fundraising campaign in 2010 had stopped giving, compared with 40.65 per cent of doorstep recruits and 30.10 per cent of those signing up at private sites. In 2009 those figures were 45.78 per cent, 45.60 per cent and 36.85 per cent respectively.

Doorstep donors had a higher gift level in 2010 too, giving an average of £8.56 before gift aid compared to £7.99 from street-recruited donors, although the latter figure rose more significantly year-on-year.

Face-to-face attrition variables

The causes with the best attrition rates were environmental charities, followed by human rights, although the samples were very small.

Analysis conducted by Prof Sargeant found a number of other variable impacts on attrition: every £1 increase in ask-level resulted in a 2.4 percentage point reduction in retention over five years and in-house campaigns performed 1 percentage point worse than agency-run ones over the same time period. 

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