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5 tips to welcome new donors and keep them engaged


The ‘thank you’ letter

It’s hard to imagine in this day and age that it still happens – the failure to thank donors for their gift. Or charities that take weeks to get their thank you letters out to their donors. But the research shows otherwise.

The number one reason donors don’t give again is that they aren’t properly thanked.

Your thank you and welcome may well just be the most opened and read letter that you will ever send to your donors. So, don’t make it an afterthought.

Simply saying thank you is not enough. You have to do it properly and well.

Nearly every piece of donor research ever undertaken shows that the faster you thank and welcome each donor and make them feel appreciated, then the higher the lifetime value will be for that donor.

So, think carefully about how you treat each new donor.  They’re special … and the quality of the message matters.

Need help?

  • Visit Lisa Sargent’s Thank You Letter Clinic at SOFII. There’s lots of advice and thank you letters for you to swipe.
  • Read our earlier Pareto Talk post: Thank you: Say if often, say it right.
  • Get in touch with Pareto’s Creative Director, Mary Anne Plummer, to organise a brainstorming session on ways your charity can stand out from the crowd when thanking your supporters.

Pick up the phone

It doesn’t hurt to say thank you twice.

US fundraising researcher Penelope Burk’s 2012 research showed that if you phone to thank a new direct mail cash supporter for their gift – and make no further ask for a gift at the time – then the money that you will get from them in the following year will increase by an average of 40%.

That’s a return on investment of 3-4:1.

Even leaving a thank you message increased giving. But it’s still worth calling back at least once before you leave a message.

Pell & Bales, a major telephone fundraising agency in the UK has done similar research and the results are similar.

A simple phone call to say welcome and thank you reduced attrition for face-to-face, door-to-door, and cold telemarketing by between 30-40%.

These are significant numbers – imagine the impact they can have on your charity’s fundraising income.

The newsletter

How do we improve retention? Newsletters are part of the answer. Your newsletter doesn’t have to be fancy, but it needs to do some fundamental things.

As Tom Ahern writes in his outstanding book ‘How to make money with donor newsletters’ (read on for review), an effective donor newsletter will say:

“With your help we accomplished worthwhile things. And with your further generous support we can do even more. And without your help, we won’t accomplish nearly as much.”

So make your newsletter personal – it’s not about you, it’s about your donor.

Don’t forget to focus on readability.  Central to truly being donor-led and investing in relationship fundraising is your ability to make your communications big, bold, beautiful and unmistakably clear.  These are the principles of good design and communication.

Done well, a properly prepared newsletter will add heaps to your bottom line … bring heaps of joy to your donors … and boost your organisation’s donor retention to new heights.

The donor survey

Saying thank you and welcoming your donors properly is important.  But it’s just the first step in the donor stewardship journey.

If you want loyal donors, then it’s wise to focus on donor satisfaction – or as it’s known in the commercial world – customer service satisfaction. You need to say to your donors …

You’re important to us and we care about what you have to say.

Use a survey to find out more about your donors. People like to be asked their opinions, they like two-way interactions … so ask them about their motivations, their needs, their wants, what they think of your charity, and what they think of your communication with them.

Careful surveys seeking the views and experiences of supporters can produce valuable information.

But of course, as with anything, there are right and wrong surveys – and right and wrong ways to ask survey questions.  It’s a science, not an art, and surveys should be as data-based as the statistical analysis that should be applied to the resultant data set.

For practical advice to help your charity create an effective survey, then talk to the team at Pareto.

Ask for another donation – and do it quickly

Telephone fundraising expert Rich Fox explains why asking is the fuel that drives relationship fundraising success:

“For relationship fundraising to work, you must take financial advantage of the relationship you are building. You can’t just cultivate and cultivate without getting a payback. It’s far too expensive So you need to have an effective fundraising strategy in place at the start.

“You need a plan to move people to larger gifts, to monthly giving, to open-ended giving and to bequests and legacies.  If you don’t have those strategies in place, then you are wasting your time on building the relationship.”

If you want your donors to donate, then you need to ask for a donation.

Be confident about making that ask. Because if you have put the time and effort into your donor stewardship program then your donor:

  • Already feels part of your charity
  • Has already responded to something else – like your survey
  • Knows exactly how their gift is going to make a difference
  • Feels confident that their money is being used wisely.

But the only way to truly know how your donor stewardship program is going … is to ask.

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