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Research suggests taking new approach to improve retention


With retention an issue for many charities, the Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy has conducted a study of donors to two large national nonprofits to test what best builds loyalty.

The sector’s response, the Institute says, has been to learn from the commercial world and focus on how supporter relationships are typically experienced. To find out if this is the best approach for nonprofits, the Institute measured commitment, satisfaction and trust among these donors together with a range of variables drawn from philanthropic psychology and future giving intentions. It then waited a year and added in actual recorded behaviour to the dataset.

It found that what predicts giving intentions is broadly not what predicts actual behaviour. Instead, its research suggests that what to drive subsequent behaviour is how giving leaves people feeling, with the experience of positive emotion or feelings of encouragement and uplift appearing significant in many of its analyses.

How connected people feel with the objects of their love was also highlighted. This, the Institute says, suggests that nonprofits need to understand who donors may be desiring of connection with and to look to strengthen that connection.

Professor Adrian Sargeant said:

“It is time to revisit what we think we know about loyalty and to challenge the sense that business knows best. It patently does not. The currency of our domain is love, not monetary exchange.”

The findings of the Institute’s research are available in a new report, Loyalty Meets Philanthropic Psychology: A New Approach to Supporter Retention, authored by Prof Adrian Sargeant, Dr Kathryn Edworthy and Prof Jen Shang.

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