Definitive Timeline to Master Follow-Up with First-Time Donors

A donor’s first donation to your nonprofit is a step in the right direction, but it’s not an immediate promise for smooth sailing. After their initial gift, you still have work to do with each donor. That work pays off, though. 

A study by Bloomerang showed that 60 percent of donors only give once—so your investment in donors means long-term benefits for your organization. We’ve developed the ultimate timeline to help master follow-up with first-time donors to help you cultivate relationships that stick around.

48 Hours: Call

First things first: follow-up with first-time donors starts by making a point to call your first-time donors as soon as possible. Talk about how their donation is positively impacting your organization’s mission. Donor communications expert Tom Ahern found that new donors who receive a personal thank-you within two days are four times more likely to give a second time. In terms of donor retention, that’s music to a nonprofit’s ears.

1 Week: Note

Thank-you notes are a small tool that make a massive impact. When you have oodles of donors, this part of the process might seem like a monster to take on. Squash that myth—thanking donors is easier than you think. Split up the task by recruiting board members or volunteers to help you write. Between calls and notes, you can even make an event of it! Organize a Thank-a-Thon to compose thank-you notes galore.

1 Month: Update

Your organization should aim to update donors via email roughly once a month. Monthly correspondence ensures that you’re not leaving your donors in the dust; it provides the chance to regularly keep in contact. If your organization plans to communicate more often, be thoughtful about your strategy. A flood of unnecessary emails can prompt your donors to unsubscribe.

1.5 Months: Invitation

Now’s the chance to have fun with your donors! Host a gathering and shoot ‘em an invite. Events offer another opportunity for donors to engage with your organization. Depending on what kind of event you host, you can encourage supporters to get even more involved by volunteering, too. The more your nonprofit interacts with its donors, the greater chance you have of creating a lasting relationship.

2 Months: Survey

Let your donors know that you’re listening. Conduct a new-donor survey to check your status on donor commitment and satisfaction. Moving forward, surveys will offer feedback for areas of improvement and indicate where your organization is a top-notch performer.

3 Months: Appeal

Now is the time to make an appeal for a second gift. If your donor isn’t ready to give right at the three-month mark, that’s okay. Be attentive, though—if they’re continually reluctant to make a second donation, it might be time to switch up your strategy or focus your efforts elsewhere.

Ongoing: Social Media

For ongoing communication with your donors, take advantage of social media. It provides donors easy access to get in touch with you, and it allows you to better listen to their needs online. By tracking your followers and their interaction with your nonprofit, you can gain a deeper understanding of what makes your donors tick.

For more information on creating a donor follow-up timeline for your organization, look into Lori Jacobwith’s free Sample Timeline for Donor Retention. Jacobwith will also be a speaker at Cause Camp 2017, where she can answer all of your questions about donor follow-up, fundraising, storytelling and more.

Follow-Up with First-Time Donors

Claire Shinn

March 8, 2017

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