Fundraising Blog

Snagging the First-Time Donor

Snagging the First-Time Donor

Finding new donors is the Holy Grail!  Once you’ve found one, make sure you have procedures in place to convert that “new” donor into a “repeat” donor.

You don’t always know what brought in that new donor. He or she might be giving a gift in someone’s honor or as a memorial; might have been invited to an event by a friend; might have read a feature article about your organization in the media; might have a personal relationship with someone you serve (or could serve).  You also can’t assume that the new donor feels a commitment to your organization.  Your job then is to find a way to engage this donor to increase the likelihood that the next gift, and future gifts, will come.

Here are a few strategies you may want to add to your arsenal:

1. Your standard response mechanism is not appropriate.  You need to acknowledge that this is a first time gift, show your excitement about that, and offer the next step.

2. Mail that receipt within hours, no more than 72 hours after the gift is received.  Catching donors “while they’re hot” (while they still remember that they made a gift and why) is critical. Wow them with your efficiency and your enthusiasm (#1 above).

3. Whether the gift is online or in the mail or at the event, the letter/note you send must feel like appreciation, not simply the accounting receipt for a tax deduction.

4. Remind yourself to contact the donor with a new message within a few weeks. Repeat your gratitude, show the results the gift has provided, and offer another connection. It may not be time to ask for another gift yet, but don’t neglect to ask again before too long.  Remember:  your goal is to get to Gift #2—to increase the likelihood of ongoing giving from this donor.

You might offer volunteer requests, another event to attend, the opportunity to join with others in a special project or in giving to your campaign.  Your tone, showing that you are happy they have joined the family and that you can’t wait to get to know them better, furthers the friend-raising that leads to a relationship. If appropriate, invite your new friend to “like” you on Facebook, follow you on Twitter, share a referral name, or otherwise get involved.

5. If the amount of the first gift is greater than what you would have expected, have someone call to say thank you. On the call, learn more about why the donor has taken an interest in your mission.

6. Within three months, send one of your “best” mailings or e-appeals, one that prospects can easily understand and that produces clear results.  Don’t wait nine months till your annual appeal comes around.

7. If the second gift isn’t forthcoming, determine when it’s time to let go.  Don’t keep after someone who’s turned lukewarm; you’ll only irritate them and waste your time. How long to keep trying probably depends on the source of the first gift (event vs. memorial vs. unsolicited donation).  But stop and direct your attention to the next “new” donor.

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