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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Maduell

Create A Welcome Strategy to Retain New Donors

Updated: Aug 19, 2019

The 2018 AFP Fundraising Effectiveness Project Report alerted fundraisers to three dismal trends: a decline in the total number of donors, in revenue from gifts under $1,000, and in the overall retention rate. The most worrisome? The retention rate for first-time donors declined to 20.5%. That’s right: only 1 in 5 of first-time donors go on to make a second gift—a steady and steep decline in donor loyalty.

How do we combat this decline? Take heart and adopt an intentional welcome strategy. Many nonprofits acquire new donors through special events, so here are 10 tips to let first-time event supporters know that they are critical to fulfilling your organization’s mission. These tips are low-cost, results-heavy, and reinforce for board members and staff that development isn’t just about “the ask.”

Before the Event (that’s right, start before a guest has made a first gift!)

1. As they register, capture first-time donors in your database.

2. A few weeks before the event, create a template of a personal email thanking attendees for making time to learn more about your mission. Pull an updated list of new guests and ask your team/staff/board to tailor and send the email (and give them a deadline!).

At the Event

3. Code new guests so your registration team can greet each new guest with a cheery “We’re glad you’re here!”

4. Ask your emcee to welcome newcomers from the stage and thank them for joining in the work.

After the Event

5. Include new donors in day-of thank you calls. They’re as important as loyal donors giving above a certain level. No worries if they don’t answer — your organization will stand out.

6. Create a separate gift acknowledgement letter for new donors with 2-3 ways to learn more about your mission – it can be as simple as a link to your website or the phone number of your ED.

7. Segment your eNews to send a special note to new donors. No need to change content! Just add a banner thanking first-timers for joining your family of supporters—and include a give button.

8. Three months later, send an “impact postcard” to reinforce themes from the event and let them know you continue to value their support.

9. When next year's event comes around, if a table captain is unavailable, make sure someone else reaches out -- personally -- to invite their past guests.

10. Shift to loyalty language after a second gift, sharing your gratitude for a renewed commitment.

We’d love to hear your ideas for getting event donors coming back!

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