Welcoming New Donors

Dear Kim,

We’re a small group with limited staff and resources, but we know that properly welcoming new donors to our organization and thanking them for their gift will greatly increase the chances of them giving again. What do you recommend including in donor welcome packets that is not too labor or resource intensive? 

~Small but mighty

Dear Mighty,

The sophisticated nature of your question shows me that you are already way ahead of the game. Knowing that first time donors need to be treated differently from long time donors is a lesson far too few organizations have learned. The most important strategy for getting any donor, but especially first time donors, to give again is an authentic thank you note. While each note does not need to be handwritten, it does need to have some personalization. More important, the note needs to have some new information: “just today I learned….” Or “Your gift helped bring our campaign to a successful end, which means we can ….” Or, “I am excited to share the news with you that….” For new donors I also like to call and say something like, “Welcome to the community of people who make … possible” or “I am so happy to welcome you to our community of support….” In other words, some language that shows that you know they are giving for the first time.

Unless you are a membership organization or doing some kind of community organizing, you don’t really need a full scale welcome packet for new donors. A bookmark with your logo, mission and some information is easy and inexpensive. The most important element, after a good thank you, is follow-up. The eNewsletter, more appeals, invitations to events or to offer opinions, are all good ways to insure that donors stay with you. (Remember also that most people who give one gift do not give again, so don’t worry if you only keep 20-40 percent of first time donors. That is normal.) If you are a membership or organizing group, then a ‘welcome packet’ will be appropriate and will describe ways people can engage in your work.

In the end, you have to keep in mind that donors are not drought tolerant succulents that need little attention. Although more attention is more labor intensive, it is also creates loyalty and loyal donors talk to other people and invite them to be donors. Weighing the life time value of the donor against the effort it takes to make them feel welcome in the first place may help you decide what resources to devote to first time donors.

Good luck.

~Kim Klein