The Donor Cultivation Piece You’re Probably Missing

Converting one-time, emotionally-driven donors to become a second-time donor and eventually a long-time supporter can exponentially impact an organization’s financial support.

During a crisis, non-profit organizations realize an influx of first-time givers. Wanting to help and sensing an urgency in the midst of calamity, people who have never contributed to you before are suddenly moved to an emotional, generous, and compassionate response. The closer your organization’s service is to the crisis – and the better you communicate the relevance and solutions you’re working to provide – the greater the scale of new donor impact.

Take a look at the number of new givers your organization has gained in the last couple of months. As the impact of Covid-19 shakes through the economy, ravaging health sectors, education and social service agencies, religious organizations and faith communities, financial contributions are quick to follow in an effort to mitigate the fallout.

How are you recognizing new donors who are moved to help fund the work of your organization? In what way are you treating them like the newcomers they are?

It goes without saying, thanking first-time donors should be different than thanking those who have partnered with your organization for a long time. Whether they’ve had some measure of non-financial engagement for some time, or are giving “out of the blue”, their decision to contribute in this new way to your organization is worth noting—and when cultivated well, can lead to a long-term, faithful and increasingly generous supporter.

The instant-feedback culture we’ve developed has fostered high expectations of acknowledgment for our actions. If you’re not recognizing a donor’s gift within a couple of days of receiving it, you’re allowing too long of a time lapse. A quick follow-up conveys that their contribution is valued (regardless of size), needed, and—most importantly—that you’re incredibly grateful they chose your organization as a worthwhile partner.

What goes in a New Donor Welcome Packet?

There are surely a number of great ideas unique to your non-profit sector or your specific organization, but here are a few suggestions to begin to build a robust new donor welcome:

Online and phone communication

  • immediately offer a short online survey with about 5 questions to get to know how they’ve come to know the org (i.e., an alum, referred by a friend, presentation at church, etc.), their interests with the org and what prompted their gift;
  • within a couple of days, make a phone call from the Executive Director, Development Director, or a volunteer just to say thank you;

In a mailed packet

  • send the gift receipt/welcome letter including information about the immediate impact of that first gift (i.e., “already your gift is making a difference by ____, ____ and ____”);
  • add a small trinket like a magnet or bookmark printed with a call to non-financial action applicable to your organization, such as:
    • Pray for our summer campers throughout the year as they put their faith in action.
    • Contact your state representatives to advocate for better access to social services like ours.
    • Refer our graduates for jobs in your community. Contact ______ to become a
      workplace ambassador.
  • provide information about further connecting with the organization (i.e., upcoming events in their area or hosted online);
  • if the new giver wasn’t already on your mailing list, include a recent publication (i.e., quarterly newsletter or annual report) to help them get to know your organization better

Additional Ideas on First-time Donors

Consider welcoming and celebrating new first-time donors by name in each quarterly newsletter or other periodic communication. New donors will feel valued and connected while such announcements will inspire longer-time supporters that newcomers continue to join the effort.

Internally, receiving a first-time gift is an optimal time to set up a Google alert for awareness of that donor’s future civic activity. Following them on Twitter or connecting via LinkedIn may also be applicable as you work to build a relationship.

Are you acknowledging first-time donors to your organization? Share your ideas on GSB’s Facebook page or Twitter feed.