Attrition & The Stewardship Inventory

bue bar
Published Octobe 25, 2015

Attrition & The Stewardship Inventory

What is a typical attrition rate among smaller and first-time donors? It can be as much as fifty to sixty percent who lapse every year. For many organizations, it is often on the higher side for first-time donors.

There is, however, good news. You can do something about reducing the rate of attrition.

Let’s say you have 1,000 donors (that makes the arithmetic easy!). If you have a low of twenty percent attrition (and that’s really quite good), 200 of those donors will be lost.  To make up for the loss, you’ll need to acquire 200 new donors just to stay even.

(It takes 4 ½ times the resources, staff, and effort to get a new donor as it takes to get a renewal. Work hard on those renewals. It starts with an effective, specific, time-phased program of stewardship.)

Let’s get back to the arithmetic. What happens to those thousand donors on your roster if your attrition rate is forty percent? It will mean that the 1,000 donors on your roll will be reduced to 77 donors in five years. That should cause some palpitations in the tummy.


Knowing what your attrition is should be something you measure every month. It is your most critical element in your development program. If you don’t measure, you can’t manage.

If you haven’t been measuring it and know the percentage of attrition— shame on you.

Next in importance to getting the gift (note this well) . . . is stewardship. If you’re not really working at this, you deserve the results you’ll be getting !

We have an instrument for measuring your effectiveness in stewardship. If you would like a copy, you may download it here.