Understanding a Donor’s Whim

Do you know your first-time donor retention?

Average first-time donor retention is currently estimated to be 19.6%. That means that of the 100 donors you just sent a thank you note to, only 20 will likely be with you next year. Yes, I am being generous and rounding up.

If your donor retention rate for repeat donors is at the average of 53.65%, you will have 11 of those 20 donors in two years. And only 6 donors left in three years’ time. 

Now stop for a moment and think about the letters, emails, social media posts, and events that brought you 100 new donors. Those six donors who remain with you after three years had better be major donors who you are carefully stewarding.

This year, instead of focusing on New Donors, consider how to make each gift more than a one-time donation.

A closer look at why donors give

Most micro, small, and mid-level donors give for variety of reasons:

  1. Organizations they are personally connected to
  2. Organizations their friends/family are personally connected to
  3. Disaster and/or emergency relief
  4. In response to a direct mail, email, phone, or text solicitation

This is going to sound obvious, but if someone is not personally connected, they are less likely to give again. Included in the 100 firdt-time donors are those who gave:

  1. to a gala where a colleague was honored, a friend asked for support when running a race, or a neighbor’s request to support their Facebook birthday fundraiser a second time. 
  2. because there was a tsunami, war, or migrant population in crisis and they felt that their dollars could help right away
  3. out of excitement–or fear
  4. in response to an email from their summer camp, a call about donating to the local July 4thcelebration, or out of guilt because they are going to use the greeting cards that came as a “freemium” in a direct mail piece.

Raise your hand if you have given to a gala, a crisis, or new organization based on a solicitation in the past 3 years. Keep your hand raised if you gave any of these organizations a second time. Yet, those quick gifts do not account for the 80% loss. 

Many of those 80 donors were just not offered a reason to stay connected. 

How do you build connections with our first-time donors so more than those 20% give again? Get back to the basics:

  • Thank
  • Recognize
  • Report
  • Steward
  • Cultivate
  • Ask

Thank and acknowledge every donor multiple times (7-10 times).

What if every new donor received a picture drawn from a child in your program (parents can only keep so many!). Or they were sent a special email, personalized to all first-time donors “video-thanking” them for joining the community. 

Whether you have 50 or 500 new donors this year, you can work on donor retention. See how high you can get your new donor retention rate. And let me know the results. I always like to hear a good success story!