5 Ways to Keep Your Donors for Life

1
Are You Paying Enough Attention to New Donors?

Young volunteer welcoming a new volunteer.
Steve Debenport/E+/Getty Images

Sad fact: For every 100 donors your charity gained last year, 96 left.

It's not hard to understand why. Charities do not pay enough attention to first-time donors, especially those who give modest amounts.

Rather than nurturing new donors, most nonprofits will likely go after more new donors.

Acquiring more donors seems intuitively to be the right thing to do. But just more donors won’t translate into sustainability.  If the donors you already have just gave a second time, there is a good chance that they will become repeat donors.

Here are five things you can easily do to get new donors to stay with you.

2
Call New Donors Just to Say Thank You

Group of volunteers calling donors.
Volunteers calling to thank donors. Paul Bradbury/Caiaimage/Getty Images

I was startled when Doctors Without Borders called me after I made a first ever donation that was quite modest. That's because charities rarely call donors, especially new ones despite the fact that such a call will impress the heck out of any new donor. 

When Bloomerang, a CRM company, working with nonprofits, did an experiment by donating to 50 charities and then keeping track of the results, not one called to thank them. Many of those charities asked for a phone number on the donation page. So what are they waiting for?

3
Send a Thank You by Email or Snail Mail, or Both.

Donor reading a thank you note from a charity.
JGI/Tom Grill/Blend Images/Getty Images

There's probably no retention device so useful as a good thank you message, whatever the medium.

If you send a letter, do it quickly and follow these ten tips.  If you email it, make sure the message is more than a receipt. Even better, send a handwritten thank you note. Not sure when to mail or email? Try thinking through some simple segmentation tactics.

4
Invite Donors to an Event that Isn’t a Fundraiser.

Welcome event at a community garden.
Hero Images/Getty Images

The Fundraising Authority calls these  "non-ask" events. One small charity I know has a cozy get together once a month at their beautiful ranch where they help physically challenged children through equine therapy. It's an incredible opportunity to share their mission with new donors, show them around the place, and to forge deeper ties.

Other non-ask events could be a free lecture by an expert on your issue, an invitation to a special exhibition or the dress rehearsal for your small theater production. If most of your new donors are far afield, try an online event. Facebook Live, for instance, can be used for a virtual event.

5
Invite New Donors to Volunteer.

Fathers and sons at a volunteer event.
Susan Chiang/E+/Getty Images

Volunteers are your best supporters. One study found that 43% of donors volunteered first and then donated. More important is the fact that almost all volunteers do give, and many do so repeatedly with escalated amounts.

With first-time donors, this is a wonderful way to turn them into long-time donors.  Start small, with a one-day volunteer opportunity, or suggest that the new donor invite friends to join him or her in volunteering. Make it extra special by making it a family affair.

WeDidIt, a fundraising software company focused on Millennials, says that young people especially love to volunteer in groups.

You could also have some special volunteer opportunities designed specifically for new donors that are also welcoming events.

6
Turn a One-Time Donor into a Monthly Donor.

Volunteers on building site.
Steve Debenport/E+/Getty Images

Tempt your donor to give a monthly gift rather than a single donation. Most donors will at least consider it when you ask while they are in the process of making a donation. All donation forms should be designed to give this option. If they did not opt for that choice, try emailing an invitation soon after to join your monthly giving club, and include the suggestion in your thank-you message.

Monthly giving is a treasure for charities and a welcome convenience for donors. Donors who gave you a small amount for that first gift are especially attracted to ways to make their small donations count for more. Make monthly giving exclusive by giving it a unique name, or even tempt donors with a one-time premium for signing up (tote bag anyone?) 

Most charities could improve their fundraising by just paying more attention to their new donors. Do you know how much it costs to get that new donor? Donor Acquisition Cost is one of the five metrics that charities should track. It might astonish you.

Adrian Sargeant, an expert on the science behind keeping donors, says, "…improving attrition rates by only 10% can improve the lifetime value of a donor base up to 200%."  What a bargain!

Why not protect your precious investment by doing a bit more to get those new donors to a second gift?