We know. It’s already October and you’ve been spending the last few months getting ready. Your holiday campaigns are just about to launch. Your mailing is with the printer, and you’re cracking your knuckles writing content for your holiday blogs and emails.
All this hard work will pay off. Not only will you raise a bunch of money for you cause, but in all likelihood, you’ll gain a slew of new donors along the way.
But once those new donors come through the doors you’ll want to keep them. As it stands, donor retention rates across the board for nonprofits are pretty bleak at 46%. But that doesn’t have to be the case.
Before your donors come through the door, you should have a solid plan in place to steward them and continue to cultivate them toward making a second gift. Think about it as mapping out your donor’s journey with your organization.
Now, stewardship is a word that we hear all the time, but wading through all the theory to come up with an actionable plan can be a challenge. So we’ve come up with some practical ideas that you can use to steward and retain your donors. Grab these ideas, and plug them into your donor journey plan.
1. Say thank you
First and foremost, a thank you is the most important step in your stewardship plan for your donors. Your plans to thank your donors might depend on the number of donors you’re acquiring as well as the number of people on your team. So take these ideas and modify them based on what works for your organization:
- Thank you calls: If you’re strapped for resources you can recruit volunteers to help, or save the thank you calls for donors who give over a certain threshold.
- Letters: This is best practice for all of your appeals, but you should customize the letter that goes out with your tax receipts so that they reflect the appeal that your donor gave to. You should also switch up your general thank you letter seasonally.
- Emails: Use your email marketing software to program a thank-you email that’s separate from what goes out with a donation tax receipt. Keep it short and sweet, and let your new donors know how grateful you are.
- Handwritten cards: If you can, send a handwritten card to your new donors. Or consider adding a handwritten note to their thank you letter.
- Videos: Shoot a quick thank you video with your cell phone and send it to your donors. This can be part of the thank-you email mentioned above.
2. Welcome them aboard
A warm welcome is an important step in onboarding your new donors and helping them to feel your gratitude for them. If you don’t already have a welcome package, now is the time to pull one together. It doesn’t have to be complicated or glossy. In fact, a simple package made on your office printer might even have a higher impact.
I’ve created a simple welcome package that included:
- A welcome letter, hand-signed by our CEO with a personal note
- A four-page newsletter-style pamphlet with a welcome message, client story, information about the organization, and contact information for the donor’s point person. This piece can also include a short article on other ways to get involved at the organization.
3. Show impact
Your donors want to know that their gift made a difference. So after you send the welcome package, follow up with your donors and share something that will show the impact of their gift. Some ways to do this could include:
- Tours: Invite your donors in for a tour so they can see, first-hand, how their gift makes a difference. You can set these up as one-on-one or group tours depending on your resources.
- Stewardship events: Host an open house or a small reception to get some of your new donors in to learn more about your programs. A program beneficiary should speak at this event. It can also double as your tour, if that works for your nonprofit. What matters here is the invitation more than anything. Donors will appreciate being invited, even if they can’t make it out.
- Videos: Tell the story of a program beneficiary, or show a program in action. Keep these short and sweet. Two minutes tops.
- Mail: If you have a donor newsletter, print extras and send them to your new donors with a handwritten note.
Photos: Do you take pictures of your programs? Print them (yes – old school printed pictures!) and mail them with a note.
- Phone calls: If you have alumni or program beneficiaries who would be comfortable doing so, consider setting up a thank-you call-a-thon.
4. Ask for a second gift
Your new donors are among your best prospects for giving again. And they’re even better prospects for monthly giving. Be thoughtful about how you ask them for their next gift. Here are some ideas to maximize your next ask with this group:
- Don’t just plop them into your next direct mail or email appeal without any special messaging. If you can, customize some of the letter copy for your new donors acknowledging their holiday gift.
- Send a targeted mail or email appeal with a specific ask that relates back to their first donation.
- If you want to try converting these donors to monthly giving, try a phone campaign. If you have the budget, you can pay an agency to run a telemarketing campaign. If you don’t have the budget, recruit some volunteers with customer service or call centre experience.
What’s most important about all these ideas is that you map them out into a plan for your donors. This will increase your chances of actually executing the plans, and not feeling like you’re trying one-off tactics that don’t fall into an overall strategy. Remember, take your donors on a journey with you, and it’ll lead to many years of meaningful engagement from them.
Co-Founder, Charity Savant
Ashleigh Saith is a fundraiser and nonprofit leader with years of experience working in small- and mid-sized nonprofits. She’s passionate about nonprofit marketing and leadership, and found herself with a shocking knack for finance. While out running, Ashleigh thinks about new ways that Charity Campus can help nonprofit staff and volunteers grow, learn, and connect with each other.