Donor Retention: Identification as a driver of loyalty

hands on grass being comparedBooster clubs often focus on the basic ties between their supporters and the club — having a child at the school, being a former member of a team or club. Studies continually show a strong connection between donor loyalty and identification with an organization. However, some studies have found that a basic connection — being a parent of a student, for example — isn’t enough to inspire loyalty (or donations). Rather, communities of participation, based on a supporters’ active participation, prompt this kind of engagement. For example, a former band member might be inclined to donate if approached by current student members. Assuming all potential supporters will be motivated by a basic connection could cost you donors in the long run. Understand how your supporters themselves identify with your organization, and maintain that connection into the future.

Acknowledging these identities can be as simple as segmenting your donors. Large nonprofits often divide their donors into groups based on scale of donation, but booster clubs can use the model to segment supporters based on identity. Alumni, parents, former club members, and members of the community might be approached in different, personalized ways. For example,  in Wisconsin The Lakeland Wrestling Booster Club invited all former wrestlers, alums or otherwise, to be honored at the team’s first home meet, to celebrate wrestling remaining an Olympic sport. The move wouldn’t necessarily bring in the support of community members with no ties to the team or the sport, but would have a strong appeal for former teammates and wrestling fans.

Hand towerTo encourage long-term identification, it is also important to note the ways supporters define themselves by their connection to an organization. A PETA supporter, for example, might consider themselves a “good” person by association, or an animal lover, or a crusader for justice. Donors are drawn to and remain loyal to brands that reflect the way they see themselves, or wish to.Consider your club’s personality: is your club heroic? Inspiring? Is the tone of your club’s communications challenging, or friendly? Does your club have a place in community tradition? Groups of supporters may see themselves in certain aspects of your club’s personality, and you can draw on that to encourage their loyalty.

Older supporters with no current or former students at the school, for example, may see donation as their duty as members of the community, and communication with these donors could be tailored to reflect that shared value. Younger donors, on the other hand, have lived through budget cuts, and may have had to fight for their extracurriculars. A sense of independence might be associated with these experiences, and could be invoked in appeals to these donors — once again, they could be part of the fight. Get to know your supporters, and understand how supporting your club can be a part of their identity.

This post is part of a series on donor retention. For more tips on keeping your donors loyal, check out our rundown of fundraising expert Adrian Sargeant’s three drivers of donor loyalty: satisfactionidentification, and active commitment.

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