“You Are Perfect” Campaign

Posted on 06/15/2017

Donor retention rates measure the portion of prior year donors who give again in the following year. For example, if there were 100 donors to your institution two years ago and 65 of those same donors made a gift again last year, then your program’s alumni donor retention rate for last year would be 65 percent.

In fact, for competitive colleges and universities, a typical alumni donor retention rate is around 65 percent. For high performing annual giving programs, alumni donor retention rates can be as high as 80 percent. However, for the majority of college and university annual giving programs across the U.S., alumni donor retention rates are usually closer to 50 percent.

In the case of new donors (i.e., those who made their first gift in the prior year), retention rates are typically much lower. For most programs, this will often be below 20 percent. In the case of recent graduates, who made their first gift as part of their senior class gift campaign, it’s not unusual for retention rates to be below 10 percent.

To reduce this kind of attrition and to highlight the importance of ongoing support by new alumni, the Penn Fund launched its “You Are Perfect” campaign. It started several years ago as a fiscal year-end postcard sent to all first-year alumni who had donated to their senior class gift campaign in the prior year. The message was simple: You Are Perfect. Don’t Change!

The initial mailing generated a 14 percent response rate and accounted for one-quarter of all giving from the class. In recognition for their gifts, donors received personal acknowledgment letters and were listed as “perfect donors” in the university’s donor roster publication. In the following year, they rolled it out to all graduates of the past four years with perfect giving records. It generated a 16 percent response rate and accounted for 10 percent of giving by pre-5th reunion classes.

Encouraging consistent giving (regardless of the gift amount) by recent graduates not only helps to increase retention rates each year, but it’s one of the most important things you can do to boost your alumni participation rates over the long term.


This article has been adapted from the book Ideas for Annual Giving by Dan Allenby. Copyright (c) 2016 Council for Advancement and Support of Education. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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