The retention rate for new donors at non-profit organizations is extremely low. Recent surveys in the US have found that almost 70% of first-time donors don’t make another gift to the organization. The numbers are similar in other countries.
Many of these first-time donors give over the web, through direct mail, and as part of fundraising events, golf tournaments and other participatory fundraising events… and then, they are never heard from again. We’ve all heard how much easier it is to keep a donor than it is to find a new donor. So why aren’t most new donors to non-profits becoming lifelong givers?
Remember, these donors gave our organization money for a reason. Usually, that reason was either because they believed strongly in our mission or they knew someone who supported the non-profit and who asked them to give (perhaps by coming to an event or participating in an online fundraising campaign). Once a new donor gives, it’s up to the non-profit to turn that minimal relationship into a true long term affiliation. Here’s how.
Treat New Donors like New Customers
The smartest and most successful businesses treat new customers like gold. They know that these people represent the company’s best prospects for future business. So they send out surveys to see how the purchasing process went. They send the customer newsletters, coupons and updates. When the time comes, they call or send direct mail to try to sell new products or upgrades to the consumer.
How is your non-profit treating new donors? If you’re like most organizations, you love it when a new donor makes a gift. If that gift is a small or averaged sized gift, you deposit the check, enter it into your database, send a thank you letter, and add the person to your mailing list. And that’s it.
If, on the other hand, it is a new major donor, you go all out. You call the person or company to thank them for their gift. You try to find out what made them give. You ask about setting up a meeting. Maybe your board chair mails over a copy of the annual report with a note about grabbing lunch. In short, you try to wow the donor and build a relationship.
To keep your small and mid-sized new donors giving, you have to treat them the same way. Many new donors at the $100 level could become $1,000 or $5,000 annual donors if they got serious about giving to your organization. Call them. Invite them to non-ask events. Build a relationship.
Put Donor Systems in Place
Of course, you won’t be able to spend as much time per donor personally contacting $50 donors as you can spend on $50,000 donors, so systemize the process for small and mid-level donors. Use group meetings and lunches. Send out newsletters targeted at new donors. Seek opportunities to upgrade your lower level donors.
When you get a donation from a new donor, don’t think, “Oh, nice, a $100 check. That was unexpected!” Instead, think, “Great! A $100 check. This person is one of the best prospects we have for a larger gift. What can we do to build a better relationship with them?” Ideally, you’ll have a couple of different donor cultivation systems in place that you can drop the prospect into that will help you automate the follow-up process.
Your current donors represent your best prospects for future gifts. New donors represent a huge opportunity for your organization. With focus and determination, you can see new donors for what they truly are: potential lifetime givers to your organization.
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