In 2013, the Center for Nonprofit Resources and Philanthropy reported that the overall donor retention rate was approximately 41%.  For first-time donors, it was only 27%.  Nonprofits are missing the mark when it comes to celebrating new donors and creating loyalty.  Oftentimes, donor acquisition strategies are not my priority because if organizations did a better job of retaining donors, they would be in much more stable financial shape.  Retention is key to fundraising success because donors who are inspired to stick with organizations increase their giving and champion the programmatic efforts.

Here’s how most organizations lose their first time givers, and a few specific solutions to keep those donors around:

You don’t thank them in a timely manner.  

Problem: No matter how big your organization is or how many gifts you receive daily, it should take no longer than 7 days to get acknowledgments out.
Solution: Instead of sending just a tax receipt, make the acknowledgment meaningful by listing ways the donor can get involved, a handful of organizational priorities for the next year, and/or quotes and pictures of the population your organization serves.  In addition to the acknowledgement, consider picking up the phone to say thank you.  Most of the time, you’ll get voicemail but if you’re lucky, you’ll catch the donor on the phone and s/he can tell you what inspired the gift.   

You don’t communicate with them. 

Problem: Many nonprofits believe that once the tax receipt is sent, the job is finished.  New donors will be kicked into the newsletter and other communications cycles, and they’ll give again.  If that’s what you think, you couldn’t be more off base.
Solution: Try adding another element of stewardship – one that is tailored and significant.  For example, if the first gift was designated to a particular fund or program, ask the program director to write a letter telling the donor how the program is going, what’s on the agenda for the coming months, and inquire if s/he would like a tour.  Send this 6-8 weeks after the first gift is made.

You don’t invite them to join your community of supporters.

Problem: One often-forgotten benefit of giving to an organization is that donors get the chance meet and interact with others who care about the same things they do.
Solution: Consider sending a welcome packet that includes organizational information (and thanks them again for their support!) but also includes a small (and inexpensive) gift that the donor can proudly display.  Whether it’s a magnet or a window decal, it will go a long way with the donor and hopefully spark conversation as they are out interacting in the world.

You don’t clearly articulate the impact your organization makes. 

Problem: Nonprofit organizations are great at touting their fundraising activities by focusing a majority of their written materials on fundraising galas, giving circles, and realized bequests.
Solution: Those are important elements to sprinkle into your communications, but first and foremost should come mission.  Tell donors how you’re utilizing their support to make sustainable change.

You do everything above, then ask them to give again.

Problem: You don’t thank them, communicate with them, deepen the relationship, or talk about mission, yet you send another solicitation.  This is a surefire way to lose first time donors.
Solution: When, and only when, you properly thank your donors, invite them to join your community, and communicate how you’re utilizing their gift to change the world, should you try to get a second gift.

First-time donors are such a gift, but the key is keeping them.  If they are celebrated and treated right, not only will they continue to financially support your organization, they’ll engage by coming to events, talking about your mission in the community, introducing others to your organization, and so much more.  They become more than donors; they become your partner.

Looking for more strategies like these specific to your organization’s giving patterns? Contact Ravela Insights today and learn how our data analysis and strategy package can improve your program.