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6 Ways To Convert First-Time Donors Into Life-Long Supporters

Converting first-time donors into life-long supporters

Nonprofit organizations rely on donors and volunteers — this, we know, as no surprise. Once your organization has built a foundation of loyal supporters, it is important to continue bringing in both donors and volunteers to help achieve your mission. Over the last two years, however, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted nonprofit organizations in a significant way. Now is the time to review and reconsider your long-term donor acquisition strategy.

Nearly 3 in 4 donors donate to an organization once and do not return or engage again. This statistic is one that nonprofit leaders should take seriously. Moving the needle on this powerful statistic could result in a meaningful change for your organization’s strategy. In this article, we’ll share 6 tips for converting first-time donors into life-long supporters for your nonprofit organization.


Here are 6 ways you can make an impact on first-time donors

During the pandemic, giving has projected to have dropped by a significant 12%. In building for the future, optimizing your donor engagement program by just a few of the following tactics can have a lasting impact on long-term growth. Consider the following initiatives as you review your existing annual strategy.

1.    Clearly articulate the impact their donation is making.

When a donor engages or makes their first contribution to an organization, they have an expectation to learn how their donation is impacting the cause. After you receive a donation from an individual for the first time, be sure to engage with them across digital channels. Consider an email drip campaign that shares frequent activities or stories clearly articulating the impact that this individual’s donation is having.


2.    Send a handwritten card from an individual on your Board of Directors.

While this may be a task that consumes time, the impact is tremendous. Sending a handwritten letter — in the good ol’ traditional mail! — is a meaningful tactic that is deeply personalized. Who doesn’t love going to their mailbox and opening a personalized card or letter?


3.    Create a communications calendar that engages throughout the year.

During the calendar year, there are seasons of giving. That’s why a communications calendar is essential to engage your donors with a full 365 view. Communication touchpoints can be increased during the highest times of giving, such as #GivingTuesday, but don’t forget personalized times of the year, such as birthdays or anniversaries.


4.    Use social media to retarget first-time donors.

With advertising on social media, you can retarget individuals through curated user lists. You may decide to use Facebook retargeting as a first step. With Facebook retargeting, you can upload recent first-time donors and serve engaging, interactive content to re-engage them with your organization. You could retarget with your latest blog posts that showcase compelling stories of impact, or you could highlight upcoming donor events. Whatever the target might be, using social media to engage first-time donors through advertising can generate even greater ROI.


5.    Consider an in-person, virtual, or hybrid event.

With the summer approaching and the world reopening once again, you may be planning in-person or hybrid events. Perhaps you are used to summer BBQs as a “thank you” event for your donors, or maybe you hosted open invitation picnics. If your organization finds it safe and appropriate with local government guidelines, an in-person or hybrid event is an excellent way to say “thank you” to your donors, whether they are first-time donors or long-term supporters.


6.    Create consistent and relevant content.

While a communications calendar covers the frequency of your content delivery, let’s get into the nitty gritty of content development.

In our 24/7 culture, you don’t want to bombard your first-time donor with emails, text messages, or phone calls. This is why you should focus on content that is relevant, customized, and completely personalized to your donors. Avoid oversaturation of generic messaging to a wide audience, and instead focus on a “less is more” approach, with consistent but high quality content.

Converting first-time donors to life-long supporters

A final, yet important consideration when creating content is to ask your donors how and when they would like to be contacted. Some donors may prefer email or direct mail, while others may prefer a phone call or text message. And don’t assume their preferences based on their age, because sometimes preferences are as unique as a donor’s personality. Additionally, some donors will prefer to receive more frequent communication than others. You can update communication preferences in your CRM.

After sending a first donation, your new donors are in a great position to be engaged with your organization. Now is the time to ensure they feel appreciated! From a personalized “thank you” in the form of a handwritten letter, to clearly demonstrating and articulating the impact of a donation, consider how you will engage with your new, potential life-long supporter. A first-time donor can truly become a life-long supporter through an understanding and appreciation of their impact.


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