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4 Strategies to Retain Your #GivingTuesday Donors

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Look at you, rockstar!

Nailing #GivingTuesday like a boss. Smiling from ear to ear. Radiating a post-gift glow. Blushing over all those new donors.

I hope your #GivingTuesday exceeded your every expectation whether you doubled your fundraising goals or tried something completely and out of the box this year. And if you sat this year out, I hope that was stress free and relaxing.

Whether you just brought in a bumper crop of new donors or you sat this round out and are planning to blow it out of the water come December 31st I have some news for you.  

You worked HARD to get those new donors to your file. You don’t have to tell me. I see you. Eating a frozen dinner at your desk. 538 windows open on your computer. Night sweats over the fundraising copy. The email segments. The direct mail drops.

Time to make sure you can keep those new donors you worked hard to get in the first place (and every other donor too!)  

Fact: According to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, the donor retention rate for first-time donors giving under $100 is only 21%.

Truth: However, if you can get the second gift, the retention rate jumps to 64%.

Fact: First time donors who get a personal thank you within 48 hours are 4 times more likely to give again (source: Tom Ahern).  

What was that you just said? If I can get them to give again their retention rate can soar to 64%? If I thank them in 48 hours I’ll have a 400% improvement in renewal rates? Buckle up, buttercup! I’m telling you how with these 4 Strategies to Retain (and upgrade!) your Giving Tuesday (or end of year) donors

1. Honor and recognize those brand-new donors as first timers   

If this was their first-time gift RECOGNIZE it as such! Call them out as first-time donors in your thank you. Why does this matter? The greatest gift we can give our donors it the gift of being known by us. When you roll out the red carpet to welcome a first-time donor you make them feel part of your family. You set the expectation of great things ahead if they give again. Steal this sample script for first-time donors:

Dear John,

I am overjoyed to see such a generous first-time gift from you and honored to welcome you into our donor family!

Mr. Pickles is one of 200 dogs we will rescue this year. Mr. Pickles is a terrier/pit bull mix dropped off at our doorstep howling and limping because of an infected paw. He was malnourished, afraid of people, and in incredible pain.

John, you know that no dog is beyond hope. When we looked at Mr. Pickles we knew he was an amazing dog. Even in pain, he took treats from our staff and wagged his tail. He received emergency surgery from our vet clinic and was rehabilitated by our expert staff. Today, he’s receiving daily obedience training classes from volunteers and spends time snuggling with our Development staff in between meetings.

Your generosity and commitment to help dogs like Mr. Pickles is what enables us to rehabilitate and adopt out hundreds of dogs each year. Thank you so much – on behalf of Mr. Pickles and all the dogs we serve – for believing in second chances. We couldn’t do this without you, John!

For the love of animals,


Anytown Pets Rescue

P.S. Please call me at (512) 452-1746 if you’d like to stop by the shelter and meet Mr. Pickles or one of our other amazing dogs (or cats!) and see your donation at work.

2. Call out all donors for their loyalty

I am giving you the secret recipe to your donors feel amazing. Whether they gave their first gift a month ago, a year ago or ten years ago NOW IS THE TIME to make them feel like heroes and let them BASK in all the good they’ve done your cause. Why now? Because you want to WARM THEM up for your end of year ask! With the exception of your recent #GivingTuesday donors most donors have likely forgotten when they made their first gift to you and how long they’ve been giving to you. When you remind them of that you are reminding them that you are in fact one of their top philanthropic commitments. What do I say?

“5 years ago you made your first gift to X.  Thanks to you (describe an accomplishment that is real, tangible and emotional. It’s better to stick to one story – one family, child, student, or animal etc).


“You made your gift just one month (one year, 5 years) ago and already you’ve…”

3. Pick up the phone to call and thank donors.

What is the most inexpensive and underutilized tool in your toolbox of end of year fundraising? The phone. Truth be told people get sweaty palms about picking up the phone to call donors and ask for gifts. Start with some thank you calls to warm them up and you’ll feel a lot more confident when it’s time for end of year phone asks.  

Do thank you phone calls really work? Last year Roger Craver reported fresh donor thank you data from America’s public radio stations in The Agitator: “In its first year, the ‘thank-you call’ program generated 56% increase in first-year donor retention, 72% increase in first-year retention revenue.”

4. Craft a donor stewardship plan to retain and upgrade them

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. It’s one thing to want to do a better job stewarding your donors, it’s another to actually do it. You need a plan! Here’s a handy downloadable sample stewardship plan to help you. Notice that it’s organized not by gift amount but by the longevity of the donor and includes lots of new donor welcome techniques. As Penelope Burke observes, “Fundraisers rely too heavily on gift value as a determinant of future potential.” Donors don’t know what kind of better treatment awaits them at higher gift amounts. If you don’t welcome our new donors properly you aren’t going to inspire them to give again.

Remember: saying thank you isn’t a chore. It’s a privilege! If top fundraisers can do this, so can you.

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