Fundraising in December – Renewals

Fundraising in December – Renewals


6 December 2022


By David Allen, Development for Conservation


So how are you feeling about 2022?

Got your fundraising goals all knocked out? Feeling like the corner got turned from COVID back to some relative normalcy?

Or maybe you’re still anxious about the end of the year. Somewhere in between probably gonna make it and no fingernails left.

Regardless, there are still some end-of-year things to check off, and I’ll spend some of this space in the next several weeks on ideas for December.


Beginning with renewals.

For the purposes of this post, I’ll define renewals as people who gave you money last year, in 2021, but haven’t yet given in 2022. This definition should work even if you don’t use other “membership” language.


Make a list and check it twice.

I’m going to look at three metrics to help. Start by pulling a list from your database of everyone who made a gift in 2021 (of any size greater than zero) and hasn’t yet given in 2022.

The first metric is the number of people who haven’t yet renewed as a percentage of those who gave in 2021. This is the attrition rate. It’s the opposite of the renewal rate. If your attrition is between 20 and 30 percent, that’s pretty normal. If it’s greater than 30 percent, you should dig a little to discover why.

The second is the number of donors who haven’t yet renewed as a percentage of those who made a first gift in 2021. How many of the “new donors” in 2021 haven’t yet made a second gift in 2022? This is the new member attrition rate. If it’s between 50 and 60 percent, that’s pretty normal. AND if you had a flush of new donors in 2021, that might help explain a higher-than-desirable attrition rate this year.

And the third is the attrition rate for all the donors who have been giving for more than two years. For your donorbase with new donors removed, the normal attrition rate will be in the 15-20 percent range.


If your attrition rate for 2022 is too high, there’s still time in December to bring it down some, but what you do depends on what the problem is.

  • Have you asked? Sending a single letter and expecting everyone to fall in line isn’t real. Even the most loyal donors have been known to need a reminder. If you get busy now, you can still send a reminder before the 15th and another between Christmas and New Years. As a specific idea, refer back in these follow-up letters to how long they have been members or donors.
  • Have they forgotten why they gave in 2021? Or is that reason no longer relevant? This happens with new donors who gave because they came to an event, or because a specific project caught their interest, or because they visited a particular preserve and hiked the trail there. Regardless, if your renewal message can refer back to the reasons they gave in the first place, you may be able to rekindle some of those good feelings.
  • Are they bombarded with requests? In times of economic stress, donors tend to sustain giving to fewer organizations rather than reduce the amount they give to all of them. In this environment, our native response is to not compete – to NOT send another request. Instead, we should be thinking about how we might better stand out in their mail or email. How they might notice us in the pile. A different color envelope might help. Or a different size. Or a catchier subject line.
  • Or a phone call. I know it’s anathema to some, but getting on the phone can be very powerful. I noticed that you haven’t renewed. I care about how you feel. You’re not just a data point. You matter to me. These messages are MUCH easier to convey over the phone than in a letter or email. Even leaving a VM calling attention to the renewal letter can improve response.


Regardless, consider taking the list and sharing it with the Board. Do they know anyone they could help with? Could they add a lift note to the next round of letters? Or send more personal emails from their email account? Could they make some phone calls?

Finally, just to keep you motivated, do the math on what it would take to bring your attrition rates down into the “normal” range. Every donor who gives again, every gift you process and acknowledge brings you closer. And that’s not just good practice. It feels good.


Happy Holidays!, and have a great week.




Related Posts:

Writing Renewal Letters
Chasing First Renewals – a Pep Talk


PS: Your comments on these posts are welcomed and warmly requested. If you have not posted a comment before, or if you are using a new email address, please know that there may be a delay in seeing your posted comment. That’s my SPAM defense at work. I approve all comments as soon as I am able during the day.

Photo by World Wildlife courtesy of


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1 Comment
  • Chett Pritchett
    Posted at 09:12h, 06 December

    Timely, as I’m going through my post-Giving Tuesday list and noting those who were first time donors last year but haven’t yet donated this year (as many gave around this time) and prepping emails for them to jog their giving in this last push of the year. Thanks!