five lessons we can learn from businesses

Now, we all know that nonprofits are not businesses. In fact, more are more, businesses are learning about how to run better by taking some lessons from our sector. However, there are still a few ways that our organizations can learn and adopt practices from the for-profit world.

When was the last time you calculated your organization’s donor retention rate? From experience this is something that small non-profits often neglect even though fundraising best practice says otherwise.

So if you haven’t already, get out your calculators and start crunching numbers.

Don’t be alarmed if your retention rates are less than satisfactory. As an industry, the non-profit sector fails miserably at holding on to donors compared to consumer businesses. According to Network for Good, on average consumer brands have loyal customers, with 94% customer retention. For the non-profit sector, last years donor retention rate was 45% and for the past ten years it has hovered below 50%.

What can we learn from for-profit brands?

I recently attended a very insightful Network for Good webinar hosted by Rachel Muir. If you're struggling to raise money for your organization, consider the following tips borrowed from successful consumer brands…

Organizational Culture

Invest in your organizations culture. In the corporate sector, corporate culture has become a buzzword and there’s a reason for that. There are many benefits to having a strong unified corporate culture. Service is a byproduct of culture; happy and motivated employees will better serve your organization. [Add a tip as how to create/define this]


At any given chance personalize your donor communications. According to Rachel Muir, 71% of donors feel more engaged when they get content that’s personalized. Find ways to segment your donors and customize your interactions with them based on their gift size, type, and organizational interests. Good stewardship generally equates to higher donor retention.


Ask for feedback! Create a donor survey (or multiple) based on the type of donor or interaction. This is a great way to build your list, learn more about your donors, and gain an external point of view on your organization.


Don’t be afraid to address customer complaints. Engaging with unsatisfied donors actually increases your retention rates. This action deepens the relationship - when donors feel heard, they feel special. Challenge Status Quo

Be creative and don’t be afraid to push boundaries because this is how you get noticed. Everybody wants the next “Ice Bucket Challenge”, but let’s face it, it’s difficult to get board approval on radical or innovative ideas. Even if you face pushback, pitch your unique ideas because you never know when you’ll have the opportunity to produce something groundbreaking. Look for consumer brands for inspiration.

There you have it, five tips from consumer bands that you can use to deepen the connection you share with your donors.

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