It was a term that I heard a lot when I was a diocesan development director.
Sure, each year, our annual appeal surpassed previous performance levels.¬† Yet, over five years, our donor base contracted over twenty percent.¬† In speaking with my colleagues throughout the northeast, I discovered that they were experiencing similar performance dynamics within their annual program.¬† Of more interest, of those diocesan development directors who were experiencing growth within their annual giving base, such growth was being achieved by simply adding more donors than they were loosing.¬† Yes, they were adding contributors, but they were also experiencing significant donor attrition.
What are the symptoms of this common affliction:
1.¬† Reduce campaign response rates.¬† Sure, people move.¬†¬†Sure, people die.¬† Sure, their¬†philanthropic priorities change.¬† Yet, a reduction of more than 3% in campaign participation rates should be a red flag that something more than a change of address or human mortality is impacting your annual fund.
2. Increase in letters or calls indicating why current donors are no longer supporting your annual program.¬† I was always amazed at how much time and effort current donors put into explaining why they were no longer supporting my annual program.¬† It should be a matter of concern if you are spending more time on the phone than usual hearing the mea culpas of individuals who have traditionally supported your annual program.
What causes this affliction?
I believe that the cause, to quote the bard, is not in the stars but in ourselves.¬† If all we do is ask for money, then people are going to get tired of the conversation.¬†
So, you may ask, what is the cure?
1. Diocesan development officers need to consider developing a strategic donor communication program that creates meaningful, constant, and relevant communication patterns with annual appeal donors.¬† Emails, newsletters, and other communication vehicles should be pushed out to the donor base on a consistent schedule.
2.¬† Allow the donors to rest.¬† Consider creating “blackout” periods where annual fund pledge statements are not mailed to donors.¬†
Give them a chance to catch their breath, and they may stick around.