Keep ‘Em Around in 2013

You'll get lots of new donors this month; treat them well and they'll stick around.

It’s that time of year — the time when you get donations from people you have never heard from before. Unfortunately, many of them won’t be around in 2013. Attrition is a fact of life at nonprofits, but what you do now can increase the number of first-time donors who remain loyal in the new year.

Check your receipts

Make sure your receipt is valid for tax purposes. Sure, donors don’t need receipts for smaller gifts, but many want them and feel they should have them before filing taxes. You can reduce a lot of angst by sending receipts that acknowledge their gifts and meet the IRS’s criteria. Be sure to review IRS Publication 1771, “Charitable Contributions: Substantiation and Disclosure Requirements.”

What about sending a summary receipt for the year after you close your books on 2012? A good idea that might even net money if you enclose a warm letter of appreciation and a return envelope.

Provide specificity

Tell your donor on the receipt that you used her gift for the project she requested. New donors especially need assurance that you listened and honored their wishes. Having a receipt that includes the gift designation builds confidence in your integrity as an organization.

In addition to having the “gift designation” shown on the receipt, another option is to have a basic receipt letter with one paragraph that is variable depending on the designation. Talk specifically in that paragraph about how the donor’s gift will help advance your mission in 2013 through the project he helped fund.

Plan a welcome series

Research shows that you have a 90-day window to get a second gift from a new donor. How you treat donors for those three months is essential. Your goal is to strike a balance. You don’t want to overwhelm them with contacts, but you also don’t want them to feel ignored.

Pamela consults with nonprofits in the United States and internationally, helping them develop their fundraising strategy and writing copy to achieve their goals. Additionally she teaches fundraising at two universities, hoping to inspire the next generation of fundraisers to be passionate about the profession. Previously, Pamela led the fundraising programs for nonprofit organizations, getting hands-on experience in everything from direct mail to DRTV, and major gift solicitation to event management. Pamela is a CFRE, a graduate of Wheaton College (IL) and Dominican University, and has a Doctorate in Business Administration from California Southern University. Contact Pamela at or follow her on Twitter at @pjbarden.

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