Funding Change Consulting Blog Advice

Special Love for First-time Donors: Donor Gratitude Series (part 4 of 4)

New donors need extra T.L.C.

Here’s something you may not realize: first-time donors aren’t really donors.

They’re just fresh, hot prospects. To consider them donors overlooks the fact that most of these folks feel little, if any, commitment to your organization.

 This is part of the reason why retention rates for first-time donors are so much lower than retention rates for repeat donors (donors who have given two or more gifts).

The median retention rate for first-time donors is a horrible, pathetic, embarrassing 19%.

I can’t live with that. And you shouldn’t either…

Especially given how much time, effort, and MONEY it takes to get someone to make that first gift.

Donor acquisition is rarely profitable. And that’s okay. It’s an investment in the future.

But you have no “future” with more than 80% of these first-time donors.

All is not lost though…

Here’s what happens when you get someone to give a second gift—their retention rate more than triples!

Plain and simple: your supporters are much more likely to stick with you after you get that second donation.

So here’s my question—what are you doing to inspire your new donors to make a second gift?

Yes, this requires extra care, extra attention, and extra time for your first-time donors.

But, the increased revenue you’ll see from this group over time will more than cover that expense.

I would also argue that not making this additional investment is a complete waste of everything you invested to get the donor in the door in the first place. It’s far more expensive to find new donors than it is to keep your current donors—up to 10X more expensive.

So do yourself a favor and follow through on what you started.

What should this look like?

Here are three recommendations to get you started…

  1. Send a personal “thank you” that speaks to them as first-time donors. This letter should follow the best practices I covered last week and be sent 24-72 hours after gift receipt. The extra step here? Welcome them as a new supporter and provide a sense of what they can expect from your organization.
  2. Call to say “thank you” and welcome them as a donor. Ask what inspired them to give. If they came in through an event, get feedback on their experience. We talked about these calls earlier in the Donor Gratitude Series. Remember: new donors always go to the top of your call sheet!
  3. Send a “welcome packet” 7-10 days after you send the “thank you” letter. Use a 9×12 envelope and write “Welcome to [ORG NAME]” on the front. Don’t send too much stuff and don’t send big, heavy things that cost a lot to produce or mail. You want items that will make them feel good about being a new supporter. Think: newsletters, press clips, welcome surveys, photos, your business card, and so on. On my website, you will find a sample welcome packet that I helped Habitat for Humanity Greater Boston create. Download the full packet here [pdf].

What you do from here can take many forms depending on your organization, your fundraising program, where you are in the year, and more. But start with these three steps and you’ll be well on your way to that second gift.

Good luck!

Post image courtesy of imgur.

Tina Cincotti, owner of Funding Change, is a donor communications expert and general nonprofit nerd.
December 18, 2018

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