July 16, 2021 Jillian Jenkins

It’s pretty clear that new COVID-motivated donors aren’t behaving like disaster donors—but how are they responding? And how are we cultivating them for future growth?

COVID-19 has inspired a group of new donors in support of organizations that are actively helping those impacted by the pandemic.

Traditionally, donors who are acquired during a disaster (i.e. hurricanes, earthquakes, etc.) will retain at a 30-50% lower rate than non-disaster-acquired donors. When the crisis vanishes into the background, so does the reason to give.

This pandemic, however, is still present . . . but how long will COVID-19-triggered donors continue to give?

Only time will tell, but we’re getting our first indicators now by studying the behavior of 2020’s new donors. To accurately answer this, we need to measure New Donor Activation Rate of donors acquired since March 2020 and then compare this to the new donor activation rate from the same time period in 2019.

One organization we serve is seeing an increase in second gifts from new donors at TWICE the rate from the prior year, indicating new donors motivated by COVID-19 are extraordinary givers. So far, they are responding better than traditional disaster donors AND, in some cases, even better than donors acquired in “normal” acquisition efforts.

As we move further into year two of living with a pandemic, we have a great challenge, and even greater opportunity, to build the current momentum.

Don’t back off your acquisition efforts.

A surge of new donors doesn’t mean you don’t need to invest in acquisition this year. In fact, it points to the opposite! If your organization is attracting attention for the ways you are helping others recover from the pandemic, now is the absolute best time to invite even more to join the cause!

Welcome and thank your new donors, as warmly and personally as you can.

A prompt, accurate receipt letter is your first opportunity to show a new donor that they made a great decision by supporting you. Follow it up with a welcome newsletter (print, digital, or both!) that shows them the impact their gifts make possible. If feasible, a thank you phone call will go a long way in cementing their newly-formed relationship with you.

Be where your donors are.

Studies consistently show that those who give both on- and offline give more gifts and provide more revenue than those who give in a singular channel. So, be where your donors are: be in their mailboxes, their email inboxes, and their favorite social media platforms with content that reminds them that they can be part of what’s right with the world by supporting a great nonprofit like you!

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