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How To Boost Donor Retention With Your Welcome Email Series

Do your new donors stick with you? The research says, “Probably not.” Give yourself a better chance at keeping new donors involved with your organization by making sure they feel welcome right away. How do you do that? A donor welcome email series.

“Give yourself a better chance at keeping new donors involved with your organization by making sure they feel welcome right away. How do you do that? A donor welcome email series.” tweet this

Say "hello" to your donors with a welcome email.

Let’s Talk About Retention

The overall retention rate for donors in 2016 was 45%. More than half of donors who made gifts in 2015 did not do so in 2016. The retention rates for new donors is even lower–only 19% give again. It’s hard to keep a donor coming back. Too often, they pop into our lives, make a gift, and then disappear.

Of course, new donors aren’t the only ones who disappear. Even previously loyal givers can fall off the map. Luckily, with consistent, clear, and exciting communication, you can bring more donors back for more.

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Why Do Donors Leave?

Before we consider how to keep donors, we should probably figure out why they leave. There are several reasons why donors stop giving to particular organizations. Check out this infographic from our friends at Bloomerang:

Donors leave organizations for a variety of reasons--a welcome email can help connect them to you.

Obviously, some of these reasons are way beyond our control as fundraisers, including:

  • Changes in personal finances–The donor may have less money to give
  • New giving priorities–The donor may have decided to confine their giving to one cause or organization.
  • Death–I’m not kidding. Sometimes people fall off your radar because they have died.  According to Bloomerang, 16% of donor stopped giving because they died. There is truly nothing we can do about that.

As you can see from the infographic, though, many of the reasons donors stop giving are completely and entirely under our control. Reasons like:

  • No one acknowledged their gift
  • No one ever told them how their gift made a difference
  • They felt they were communicated with poorly
  • They didn’t know the organization still needed them
  • They forgot they’d supported the organization

Yikes! These things are bad news! The good news is, these are problems that can be solved with a little communicating. You should start working to retain your donors the very instant they make their first gift, and ideally, never stop. That’s where a welcome email series comes in.

Welcoming Is Worth It

Before you run away yelling, “No! No more things for my to-do list!” remember that you can probably automate your series with your email provider, so you “set it and forget it.” Also consider:

  • It is easier to keep a donor than get a new one
  • It is cheaper to keep a donor than get a new one
  • People usually increase their giving over time, so by constantly restarting the donor cycle, you miss out on potentially larger donations.

A moment of morbidity: Remember all those people who stopped giving because they died? Some of those people thought ahead about scenario, and made planned gifts to the organizations they felt connected to. This is a hard thing to pull off with one-time donors.

So when you get a new donor, the goal should be to turn them into an un-new donor. A repeat donor! People only give again when they’re engaged with the organization. So send them some emails.

How Does a Welcome Series Work?

A welcome email series is a communication stream especially for new donors. The first time someone makes a gift, they begin to receive this stream. The welcome series consists of a few emails that donors receive before you fold them into your regular donor communications. Think of it like an extended introduction to your organization.

  1. The first email should be sent immediately when a gift is made, within 48 hours at the latest. This email is for welcoming the donor, thanking them for their gift, and then demonstrating the impact the gift will have, ideally through storytelling.
  2. The second email, sent a few weeks after the first, is an opportunity for the donor to get to know you better, and engage with you more. Share relevant, interesting information about what their gift is making possible. Tell a story of the impact they’ve made. Show some pictures. Ask your donor a question, or invite them to follow you on social media.
  3. The third email should be sent anywhere from eight to twelve weeks after the gift, and it should be an ask. Research has found that new donors who are asked to make a second gift within three months of their first are much more likely to give. Making a second gift is also a positive predictor of future giving.

Take a look at this fundraising email from Watsi. It’s simple, but it does the job. It thanks the donor for their past support, and makes them feel like a part of something bigger. The call-to-action is to become a monthly donor (which has shown to boost retention), but even if the reader doesn’t take that step, they’ll still feel connected to the organization.

Warm, authentic conversation with donors goes a long way towards retaining them.

A Welcome Email Checklist

The emails in your welcome series should be compelling. Remember, the goal is to make the donor want to keep engaging with you, so keep things short, sweet, and interesting. Make sure each email in your series has:

“The emails in your welcome series should be compelling. Remember, the goal is to make the donor want to keep engaging with you, so keep things short, sweet, and interesting.” tweet this

The Start Of A Beautiful Friendship

The great thing about a donor welcome email series is that you can write it once, and pretty much use it forever, with the occasional tweak. For the work of writing three short emails, you get three more opportunities to engage with your new donor during the critical beginning of their relationship with your organization. That’s a lot of bang for a pretty minimal buck.

What are you doing to keep your donors?

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