By Lisa Alvezi • July 3, 2020

    GRAVYTY FUNDRAISING ACADEMY: Pay Special Attention to First-Time Donors

    GRAVYTY FUNDRAISING ACADEMYThis post comes from the Gravyty Fundraising Academy, a series that examines how fundraisers adapt and strategize to evolve what's possible through philanthropy.

    Gravyty Fundraising Academy: Lisa AlveziYour guide for the Gravyty Fundraising Academy is Director of Customer Success, Lisa Alvezi. Lisa has worked with countless fundraisers across Higher Education, Health Care, and Nonprofit organizations to transform fundraising. As a former frontline fundraiser herself, her goal is to help you see better results from your fundraising efforts.


    We are officially halfway through the calendar year. Whether this means you’ve just closed your fiscal year or are halfway there — congratulations for weathering one of the most challenging years we’ve faced in modern history! At this point, so many of you have scrambled for so long and you’re likely starting to see that your rhythm is coming back.

    As we look at the future, we all understand how important it is to not only inspire gifts today but to build future pipeline, as well. To this end, I have a single piece of advice for you — pay attention to your first-time donors.

    First-time donors are typically small donors, which means that in the grand scheme of things, they’re often overlooked. However, when most organizations analyze their legacy and estate gifts, they notice that these people were not large donors. Typically, these donors made consistent, yet modest, gifts for more than a decade before committing to a larger, planned gift. Data analysis would be unlikely to flag these folks as potential major gift donors (in the form of planned giving), because overall giving and overall wealth don’t take established relationships into account.

    Testing the Waters

    Consider this: if a donor consistently gives for five years in a row, it’s likely that you have that donor for their entire life. So, when a first-time donor makes a gift, even at the $25 level, consider that they are dipping their toes in the water, testing your organization and their affinity to your mission. That donor has to start giving somewhere, and before they commit more, they want to see the positive steps your organization is taking. Your goal this year (or with what’s left of it) is to turn this first-time giver into a second-time giver — and then to repeat the process through the five year mark.

    If you can place these first-time donors into a stewardship program and make a personal touchpoint — even if that’s an email or a phone call — you greatly increase your chances to influence giving for the next year, as well. I’ll also suggest that you add another personal touchpoint within six months of their gift. The more these donors know you and your organization, the more likely they are to become repeat givers, get to that magic five-year giving mark, and eventually give consistently for more than a decade — turning into a prime major donor prospect via your planned giving program, or otherwise.

    This isn’t a strategy that has to be started with an empty scoreboard. Look back at giving histories, find those who have given for four consecutive years and establish personal touchpoints with them to reach that five-year mark. Work backwards and find ways to strengthen the giving pipeline and building from within. Pay attention to those first-time donors, consider those smaller gift amounts as “tests”, and turn the remainder of 2020 into the year that personal outreach made the pipeline as healthy as possible.

    If you’d like to learn more about how artificial intelligence can empower your fundraising staff to act as 2-3x its size, personally reach new donors, and inspire giving at scale, click the button below and let's connect.


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