Case Study: Ask and Receive
But there’s always room to improve. That’s exactly what Maryland Food Bank set out to do after noticing an unexpected drop in new-donor retention rates in 2006. Concerned the drop could lead to further erosion, the organization was advised by Robbins to adapt its new-donor communications strategy in response to trends observed in the marketplace.
Patterns in new-donor retention
According to Rohrbach, Robbins has noticed distinct patterns in new-donor retention across the nonprofit industry.
“We know that … the more gifts [donors] give in the first year, the higher the retention rate,” he says. “We also know that the longer [the] time that elapses between the date of the first gift and that of the second gift, the less likelihood there is the donor will ever make that second gift.”
Rohrbach adds that work for one Robbins client indicated the critical time period for renewing new donors is three months. After that, the greatest amount of erosion occurred.
This, in particular, presents problems for many nonprofit organizations. Lead times associated with production schedules often mean new donors aren’t inserted into a nonprofit’s normal mail program until several months after their first gifts are received. By then, the critical time for renewal has already passed.
To help its clients overcome this challenge and reach new donors before the window of opportunity closes, Robbins came up with the idea for a new-donor, second-gift mailing. This mailing is timed to reach new donors while their donations are still fresh in their minds. It aims to inspire them to invest in the nonprofit’s work, both emotionally and financially.
“We look at each mailing as giving the donor the opportunity to continue to participate in the work that they’ve begun with their first gift,” Rohrbach explains.
The second-gift mailing package
Maryland Food Bank rolled out the new-donor, second-gift mailing in 2007. The package consists of a folded note card, which contains a thank-you message letting donors know how their donations are being used. Below the message, in handwriting, is the statement: “Thank you for making a difference. Repeating your gift of (amount) would mean so much.”