4 Steps to Better New Donor Retention

Congratulations - you've got new donors! Now what? You've made it past the first major hurdle of securing the first gift, but what about the second gift? Currently, the national median first-year retention rate is 27.3% - so roughly three out of every four new donors won't make it to year two.

This is a disheartening stat for any organization, especially when you've invested valuable time and money into acquiring these new donors. But rest assured - there are easily implemented strategies that will help you retain more new donors and get that crucial second gift.
  1. Acquire better donors
    It's simple - if you want to improve your first-year retention rate, start by bringing in higher quality donors. These are the folks who are not only more likely to make a second gift, but will also pay back their cost of acquisition faster. Yes, it is important to have revenue now, but bringing in a ton of donors at low giving levels (think under $25) doesn't help long-term value because you're not getting maximum return on your acquisition investment. Not only are those donors less likely to make a second gift, but they'll take substantially longer to pay back what it cost to acquire them if they stick around. Prospect smarter and focus on quality over quantity.

  2. Say "thanks" quickly and sincerely
    I can't stress enough the importance of acknowledgments. Promptly and genuinely thanking a new donor for their first gift sets the tone for the relationship. Asking for a second gift without thanking them for the first one sends the message that your organization is only after their dollar. And that's not a good first impression.

  3. Any donor (not just new) will stop giving if they feel their gift isn't appreciated or doesn't make a difference. You've likely lost your newly acquired donor if this critical part of stewardship is missed. Bonus points if you acknowledge new donors beyond the traditional letter. Thank-you videos on your digital platforms (or via email) and phone calls are additional ways to show your genuine appreciation to your new donors.
  4. Welcome new donors into the "family"
    Donors want to be connected to and engaged with your organization. Consider sending new donors a welcome package following their first gift. A welcome package thanks donors for their recent gift and gives them more information about your organization - programs, services, statistics, financial overview, etc. You can also include an invitation for your new supporters to come tour your facility. Or include a survey with reply envelope, asking them to tell you a little bit more about themselves, how they would like to interact with you and indicate if they would like more information about other ways to get involved or give.

  5. Another way to welcome new donors is with a phone call. Whether done by a staff member, board member, volunteer or recorded message, a welcome and thank-you call to new donors is delightfully unexpected and can make a real difference in getting that second gift. Donors want to know they're making a difference, so this is your opportunity to tell them how that first gift made an impact as well as invite them to come see their dollars in action.

  6. Ask for another gift
  7. So, you've brought in a new, high-quality donor, you've promptly thanked them for their first gift and you've welcomed them into your "donor family." What's left to retain them? Asking for the second gift! And, you shouldn't wait too long to make the ask. The more recently a donor gave, the more likely they are to respond to an appeal for another gift. This is especially true if you've made them feel special and valuable not only to your organization and its mission but to the community as well.

    Even if you don't get a second gift right away from the first appeal you send, continue your stewardship efforts. Don't chalk it up as a lost new donor. Most long-term donors don't respond to every single appeal you send, so don't expect every single new donor to respond to your first ask after their initial gift. Leave them on your mailing list, continue your retention strategies and keep them engaged with your organization. Patience and persistence will pay off, abandoning your new donors will not.
The first gift from a new donor is basically testing the waters of your organization - they haven't yet fully committed to you. So, your actions (or lack thereof) following the initial gift are what is likely going to convert them into a multi-year donor or send them (and their wallet) packing.


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