A plan to steward your donors is essential for any development department, but your nonprofit should have a plan specific to first-time donors. Create a new donor welcome kit to ensure prompt gratitude and communication steps to welcome new donors into your nonprofit community. You might have heard that retaining donors is more cost-effective than acquiring new ones.
First-time donors can be more difficult to retain than those who have made multiple gifts to an organization. Their motivations for giving may differ from long-time donors, and it is up to your team to make sure they know how much their gift means to you and what their gift made possible.
Each year, the Association of Fundraising Professionals puts out the Fundraising Effectiveness Project. In this report, average donor retention for all nonprofits hovers around 45% for all donors, but new donor retention year over year has fallen for many years.
Nonprofits must understand their overall donor retention rate and first-time donor retention rate. Once these rates have been calculated, your team can create an action plan for specific donor segments.
Most CRMs will have a donor retention rate and potentially first-time donor retention built into the available dashboards. First-time donors also represent one of the most significant opportunities to increase giving. Use the new donor welcome kit to help move first-time donors toward a second, larger gift and set a personalized ask string for this particular donor segment using a tool like AskGenius.
Steps to Steward First-Time Donors
1. Acknowledge Their Gift Promptly and Warmly
A tax receipt for a donation is the minimum required, but a heartfelt letter or email telling the donor what they made possible can go a long way. If possible, send a handwritten note signed by the CEO or board members.
2. Call the donor
While a handwritten note goes a long way, call the donor to thank them for their gift and update them on what the gift made possible. If you have a board member who can help make calls to first-time donors, this can have a tremendous impact.
3. Create a welcome series of e-mails
A donor who provides their email will make it easy for your team to utilize automation and send a series of welcome e-mails. The first email should acknowledge that you are aware this is their first gift to your organization. Subsequent emails should help educate the donor on your mission, vision, and values. Share personalized stories about what their donation made possible.
Include 3-4 emails over the next six months.
Use the email series to invite them to an experiential event, such as a tour or coffee with someone on your team.
4. Ask the donor for their insight
Send the donor a survey and include questions that help reveal their motivation for giving to your organization. Finding out what motivates them and which projects they care most about can assist you in moving first-time donors to long-term donors.
5. Invite them to volunteer
Asking a donor to volunteer creates an opportunity to strengthen their relationship with your nonprofit. Volunteer opportunities are great for both long-term donors and new donors. This helps them see their gifts in action.
6. Create a New Donor Welcome Kit
Create a new donor welcome kit to send to the donor in the mail. This might include a handwritten thank you note from someone impacted by your services, your most recent newsletter, and what some call a “brand-extender,” such as a window decal, water bottle sticker, or bookmark. This kit does not have to cost a lot, but the messaging should be heartfelt. You might also invite them to follow your organization on social media so you can engage with them further.
Creating a plan to steward first-time donors ahead of time ensures that everyone on your team knows what to do when a first-time gift comes in. This particular donor segment requires a bit more attention to ensure retention.
Consider using automation to help with donor stewardship steps and identifying when first-time gifts are made. If you want to learn more about AutomateGenius, request a demo today. Automation tools can assist with triggering workflows like a welcome e-mail series without taking more time from your team.
Once you have those first-time donor steps in place, remember to use donor segmentation and set personalized ask strings for each donor. First-time donors are one of your most significant opportunities to increase giving; learn more about customized ask strings at www.askgenius.com today.