How to crack the code: better communications for new donors

A decision is made with the brain. A commitment is made with the heart.

- Nido Qubein

Why do givers give?

There’s a good reason people are willing to invest thousands of dollars for volunteer vacations. While there are certainly critiques of this practice, it’s not hard to understand that people want to give their time and money to see first hand how they’re improving (or at least seemingly) the world with their own efforts. 

It’s hard to SEE and FEEL the impact of donating to a charitable organization. If you’re a first time giver you might see an appeal, feel compelled to give, send money through PayPal, and receive an automated thank you email from the organization. After that you’re most likely to hear again when there’s another appeal. I can tell you from experience this process doesn’t make me feel at all connected with the organization or more willing to give again.


donor communications

the questions donors are asking

There are no lack of deserving organizations that individuals have to choose from when deciding to donate. Because of this it’s crucial that we understand donors and what they’re looking for out of a relationship with a nonprofit. 

You’ve got to try to remember what it’s like as an individual who is new-ish to giving. At the forefront of your mind, keep the question they’re asking:

Why should I give to this organization rather than another?

Your first impulse may be to flood them with impact statements and raw numbers to prove your organization’s worthiness. While this is the right approach to make with grant funders, by doing this with individuals we're assuming they have something to compare those numbers and statements to. 

What does 4x return on every dollar invested really mean?

Why does that matter?

Is it uncommon? 

With what I can give, can I really make a difference?

These are the questions everyday donors are asking. 

bridge the distance between your donors and your beneficiaries

This is a given, but I’ll remind you - make your donor communications as human-centered as possible. Offer your donors opportunities to participate in person. Give them a glimpse into the latest advocacy fight you’re taking on. Invite them to share their skills with your organization. 

These steps are more than sharing success stories and estimates of what their donation will allow for your organization. Yes, these are also hugely important but they don’t allow your donor to become more personally and emotionally invested, which is what the new generation of donors is looking for. 

If you can invite your donors to join you, they have agency to participate, not just send a portion of their paycheck. 

Not all donors will want to participate further; some just want to give. But at least you're giving them the possibility of taking the next step in building a relationship with your organization.

how to treat new donors...differently

We have a real opportunity as individuals now have the means and desire to engage in philanthropy from a younger age. Recognizing first-time donors sets the stage for continued giving and transforming annual givers into major gifters.

So, where to start? 

The simplest move is to recognize first-time donors as first-time donors! They made a decision to give to your nonprofit over others, which is cause in itself to recognize them. Regardless of the amount, celebrate their act of generosity in a more explicit way than an automated thank-you email. 

Take a cue from major brands. Cultivating “brand loyalty” from this first transaction is what turns an impulse donation into an emotional commitment with your mission. Don’t forget to do this before asking them for another donation! You don’t want to burn them out before inviting them in. 

If you’re interested in learning more about millennial donors, check out this short video and if you want to hear a little more about donor loyalty, spend seven minutes of your time with this one. Enjoy!