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Updated: Jul 7, 2023

If I asked you which donor was the MOST important donor to your organization, what would you guess? Major? Monthly? Family Foundation?

While all of those donors are important, there is a strong case to be made these days for first-time donors. Why? There are a number of reasons, but these are the most important, in my opinion:

  • The number of donors overall in the U.S. continues to decrease, so fewer donors are giving money to charity;

  • First-time donors have the lowest retention rate of all donors, which has hovered for years at around 20%;

  • If you can secure a second gift from a first-time donor, the chance they will give a third gift increases by 300 times to 60%; and

  • Study after study has shown that it is far more costly and time-consuming to acquire a new donor than it is to keep an existing one.

Those statistics underscore the importance of paying proper attention to first-time donors. So what is “proper attention?” Taking extra time to make your follow-up and thank-you as personalized as possible.

Many of you may be thinking, “That sounds like hard work – we already send a thank you note right after the donation.” Ok, but you know what’s harder than creating a more thoughtful acknowledgment process? Trying to acquire first-time donors.

If someone has already been moved to donate to your organization, you want to keep that momentum. Remember the old saying, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush?” The first-time donor is the bird, and you want to treat that bird like royalty!

Graphic from Bloomerang. Click HERE to read the blog post.

It also costs significantly more money to acquire a new donor than it does to keep a new donor. And like any investment, nurturing a first-time donor often means increasing money accrual over time. For example, according to a study by Bloomerang, just a 10% improvement in new donor retention (from 20% to 30%) can secure 1,000 new donors and $250,000 in new monies over 10 years for your organization.

And that doesn’t account for these donors’ potential to give a major or planned gift. So it isn’t hard to see from the math that your biggest impact area for fundraising could simply be loving up your first-time donors and making sure they give again . . . and again!

Also, remember that second donation mentioned above? This donation is known in fundraising circles as “the golden donation” because it usually means an individual will likely continue to give to your organization for many years. So enticing a first-time donor to give a second gift is a move that can create a lasting relationship.

The next time your team has a conversation about fundraising planning – be it your overall annual plan or specific campaigns – the question you should be asking is not how can we attract more donors but how do we keep the donors we attract?

Want to learn more about the importance of first-time donor retention and best practices for making them one of your best supporters? Then join me next Thursday, July 6, for a FREE WORKSHOP with CauseVox – Transforming Supporters into Superheroes! Registration is open now, and you can sign up HERE.

Questions? Need help building a stewardship plan for your organization? Give me a shout at or book a FREE CALL to discuss HERE.

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