Year-end fundraising is in full swing. I hope your campaign is going well. Perhaps you also participated in Giving Tuesday. The latter often brings in new donors and that’s never something you want to take for granted.
These donors saw a need and found a connection to your cause. Or maybe they were drawn into whatever Giving Tuesday promotion you initiated, but I like to think they wanted to help you make a difference.
Unfortunately, the likelihood these donors will stick with you is not great. According to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, the retention rate for first-time donors is a dismal 29%.
That’s why it’s so important to get a second donation, also known as a golden donation. Once you get that golden donation, you’re more likely to have long-time donors who will stick with you. One way to ensure this is to make your new donors feel welcome.
Start with a special thank you
According to fundraising expert, Dr. Adrian Sargeant, “The thank you is the single most important piece of communication that your donors get. They have a higher recall of it than the appeal that generated the gift.”
This is something to keep in mind, especially for your new donors.
If someone donates online, it’s hard to tailor the thank you email specifically to new donors. But you can do that with a phone call, handwritten note, or thank you letter.
Try to call your new donors or send a handwritten note. This will make a great impression on them. Get together a group of board members, other volunteers, and staff to help you. If that’s not possible, create a thank you letter specifically for your new donors.
*Make sure these are actually new donors. A good database will help you avoid any missteps.*
Create a welcome plan
A week or two after the initial thank you, send a welcome package. You can do this by mail, email, or a combination of both.
Welcome your new donors. Thank them again and show them other ways they can connect with you. Invite them to subscribe to your newsletter, join you on social media, and volunteer.
Your welcome package should include a warm introductory message and a few facts about your organization, but don’t brag too much. Keep it donor-centered. You could also direct people to your website for more information about your organization.
Be careful about how much information you send. Donors want to feel welcome, not overwhelmed.
I don’t recommend sending unsolicited swag. Personally, I don’t like it, but some donors might. You could offer your new donors a gift and they can let you know if they want to receive it, but it’s not necessary. What donors really want from you is to know how they’re helping you make a difference.
Create a series of messages, also known as a drip campaign. Set a timeline. The first sequence of messages can be about once a week. After that, you should continue to communicate regularly ( at least once a month) and follow the ask, thank, update formula. In a few months, you could invite your new donors to give monthly. Monthly donors are committed donors.
Who are your new donors?
They could be event attendees, volunteers, or newsletter subscribers. If you know, refer to that in your thank you note, letter, or phone call. If not, send a short survey with your welcome package and ask, “How did you hear about us?” or “What drew you to our organization?”
Another question to ask is whether your donors prefer print or electronic communication. Short surveys are also a good way to connect throughout the year. The more you know about your donors the easier it will be to communicate with them.
Make your current donors feel special, too
While I’ve been focusing on new donors in this post, retention rates for current donors aren’t anything to celebrate. The overall donor retention rate is 43%, so we have some work to do.
Remember the golden donation, but don’t stop there. You want a third (would that be platinum?) and a fourth, etc. donation.
If you’re not acknowledging a donor’s past support, you’re making a huge mistake. Imagine how you would feel if you gave to an organization for over five years and they never thank you for your long-time support.
These valuable, long-time donors could leave at any time, so ignore them at your own peril. Make sure they also get a special thank you from you.
Keep it up throughout the year
It’s so important to communicate with your donors regularly. Plan on special mailings or emails specifically targeted to new donors. Try to send something by mail if you can. It’s more personal and your donors are more likely to see it.
Think of other ways to do something special for your new donors too, such as offering virtual tours or an invitation to a Zoom discussion.
Of course, don’t ignore your other donors. You could do something special when you get that all-important second gift. Keep reaching out – at least once or twice a month.
Show appreciation and share updates. A huge factor in donor retention is a good donor relations plan that you’ll carry out regularly as long as your donors support you, which hopefully will be for many years.