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Allison Gauss

How to Welcome New Donors and Keep Them Engaged

The donor acquisition process doesn’t end when the prospect makes their first gift. The best way to keep them involved and engaged is by continuing the introductory process after their first donation.

Strengthen your relationships with new donors through an email onboarding series, which welcomes new donors and helps them get to know your organization. By giving new supporters the right information and content, you can make a smooth transition from acquisition to retention.

The Why of Onboarding

A new donor is fundamentally different from a repeat donor. A brand-new donor may have given based on emotion, to support a friend’s fundraiser, or simply because they got a bonus at work and wanted to give back. In other words, their donation doesn’t necessarily mean they were convinced by your cause and solutions.

A repeat donor not only made that first gift, but they were satisfied by the experience or convinced that is was a good idea and repeated the process. That second donation is crucial.

While first-time donor retention can be as low as 27 percent, the rate of retention shoots up when the person becomes a repeat donor. A donor who makes that first gift is really just giving you a chance. It’s up to you to show them they did the right thing.

It’s kind of like trying out a new restaurant. Maybe a customer knows they like Mexican food and hears about a new place in town. This is a good sign they might like the restaurant, so they go in to try it out. If the restaurant wants the customer to come back, if they want to retain this patron, they must make sure this first experience is good.

An email onboarding series is a way to reassure donors that they made a good decision and should stay involved with your organization.

The Mission of Your Onboarding Series

With an email onboarding series for new donors, you want to affirm the importance of your cause, the value of your organization, and the ability of the donor to make a difference. Here are three areas to focus on when writing your emails.

1. Inform

While first-time donors will go through varying levels of research before making that first gift, it’s still a good idea to share some details about your organization in your onboarding series. Include important facts about your cause and your organization. If the nonprofit itself has a compelling story, you can share this too.

2. Impact

Showing your organization’s impact is another important step in onboarding donors. Now that the donor is informed about your cause and mission, show them that your organization is making progress and helping people. This is why you should include impact stories in your onboarding series. The power of an individual’s story can be more compelling and effective than statistics and numbers. By all means, highlight any large-scale impact your organization has made, but combine it with a more personal story, too.

3. Inspire

After you inform your new donors about your cause, and show them how your nonprofit is making an impact, the last step is to inspire them to get involved.

It’s important to show how donors and fundraisers are directly driving your organization’s impact. You can do this by connecting an individual donation with some result, or translating a campaign’s total funds into their concrete impact. If you can, highlight individual fundraising campaigns that were able to fund a tangible outcome, such as building a school or vaccinating a village.

While you should make the connection between your supporters and your impact, you must also give readers the opportunity to act. Especially in your final emails in the onboarding series, make sure to include eye-catching calls to action. Remember, the whole point of onboarding your new donor is to make them want to get more involved, either by volunteering, donating, or fundraising.

How Many, How Often?

Along with content, consider how long your onboarding series should be. When deciding, it is good to remember why you’re sending these messages in the first place. The recipient has shown interest in your mission, but they may still have questions or may not feel very committed.

In most cases, two or three emails are enough to get someone up to date. Tell your brand new donors what they need to know without sending them a wall of text. Be concise and efficient in your emails so as not to overwhelm them. You can always link to blog posts and other content if you want to provide more information on a given topic. That way, the donor can choose to learn about the programs that interest them the most.

When it comes to timing, limit your sends to once a week. This gives the donor time to look at each email without spamming their inbox. Of course, you should use your best judgment based on what you know about your donors and organization. These are all general suggestions, so feel free to blend them with what has worked for you in the past.

How does your organization onboard new donors? Let us know in the comments.

Give Donors the Welcome They Deserve

nonprofit welcome emails

Image Credit: Flickr User Nathan

  • I would be interested in any tests that have been run on different types of content. I would also be interested in any research as to how interactive content has improved retention – any ideas? Gut feel is it would be positive but would be great to see research

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