January 31, 2018 Keith Cleghorn

It is one of the most difficult things to accomplish in fundraising: moving someone who has never given a financial gift to giving for the first time.

Donor acquisition is the lifeblood of every organization, but not all new donors are created equal. It can be a temptation to look at the results of an initial acquisition effort as the only metric for success, but acquiring new donors that give only one time will not build capacity for the future.

Getting a New Donor is Just the First Step

To accurately measure the success of your acquisition efforts, it’s wise to pay attention to the rate of activation of new donors in their first year.

For example: one-off donations, or gifts made in honor of a family member, can yield an activation rate as low as 15%. When you compare that to a 50% yield from a donor who gives to a cause that is tightly tied to their interests, you can quickly see the need for planning beyond that first gift.

Focus on Long-Term Value

Acquiring new donors can offset attrition, but to really grow you need to focus on long-term donor value.

There are many things to consider when acquiring new and better donors, from how you select your list to the creation of gift arrays. One of the first things to consider is the size of the donor’s first gift. Knowing this will help you decide how to segment and upgrade, create your gift arrays, but it will also provide intelligence into what motivates donors in the first place.

An integrated approach to fundraising communications that engages and retains more of your supporters helps your organization build donor file capacity by drawing and retaining donors with a higher long-term value.

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