Growing over time.

#3 in the series How a Caseload Grows Over Time

We have just completed a major study on how a major donor caseload behaves over time. I will address the economics of the caseload in the next blog. Today, I want to talk to you about the composition of the caseload and donor attrition.
In the introduction to this series, I told you that your core caseload will experience attrition far less than any other fundraising strategy in your organization and, if managed properly, your donors will give more year after year. I also discussed that one of your critical tasks is to address donor attrition by freshening your caseload one or two times a year.
Why is this important? Because donors will leave you, and you need to do something about that proactively. It is just a fact of major gift caseload management. But there are some interesting dynamics related to donor attrition. The chart below shows you one small portion of our study related to the caseload composition and donor attrition of three MGOs who have what I call “mature” caseloads. In other words, the core part of the caseload has donors in it who have been with each MGO for over three years.
Donor attrition & retention
There are several points I’d like to bring your attention to:

  1. The most recently added donors – those added last year – left at a higher rate (17-50%) than the older donors. File this logical fact away for future reference. The longer a donor is on a caseload, the less they tend to leave. It makes perfect sense, because if the MGO is doing a good job of serving each donor’s passions and interests, that MGO will have satisfied and fulfilled donors who want to stay in relationship. Notice how the attrition drops the longer the donor is on the caseload.
  2. Approximately 80% of the caseload is made up of donors who were added three or more years ago. This also makes sense. As time passes, the caseload matures in composition, and the loyal and fulfilled donors stay connected. The most recent additions are still in “test” mode (quite frankly), seeing if this is a relationship that will work for them. That is why it is so important to pay very close attention to those new donor additions.
  3. Overall donor attrition, for the three-year period, is between 2.4% and 11% – far lower than “regular” donor attrition. This proves that donors who are treated in a 1:1 fashion – where their interests, passions and communication preferences are celebrated and stewarded – are far more likely to stay in relationship.

So here’s the big point. Because donors will leave your caseload AND because donors of higher current value and capacity will emerge, you need to freshen your caseload at least two times a year. Once after the calendar year closes, and once in the summer, prior to the beginning of the high giving months of September to December. Please take a look at this blog post for more details on how to do this.
Remember that as a MGO, your responsibility to the organization you work for is to maximize donor value to the organization. You do this by serving donors outrageously. You also do it by making sure that the donors on your caseload are those donors who can contribute the most to the organization. This means that a review of your caseload at least once a year (but ideally twice a year) is important and required.