How to Retain New Donors with an Effective Welcome Email Series

Donor acquisition may be the forefront of many fundraising strategies, but nearly three out of four new donors leave and never come back. Ten years ago the average donor retention rate of newly acquired donors was roughly 33 percent. Today it can be as low as 27 percent.

These statistics prove that even when a supporter finally makes their first gift, the donor acquisition process has only just begun. The inherent challenge is in how to get these donors to keep giving and stay committed to your cause.

A welcome email series can help establish and solidify your relationships with first-time givers in a meaningful way. Through this series, you can properly welcome new donors, teach them about your mission, and showcase the impact of your work. Your email series acts as a nurture track that can help deepen their relationship with your organization.

Here are six ways to optimize your welcome email series so you can cultivate and grow your relationships with new donors.

1. Have Clear Calls to Action

Your onboarding series is the first piece of a larger nurture track you’ll take your donors down, so it’s important to engage them early on.

These calls to action help you convey what your ultimate goal is with your new donors. Consider how you want your relationship to progress. Do you want to push your donors into your regular communications cycle, such as your newsletter? Do you want them to become a recurring donor? Do you want them to volunteer at your next event?

Whatever your goal, the underlying idea is to guide donors to deeper involvement. Your organization should identify this ultimate goal to help you craft an onboarding email series that will help move donors in the right direction.

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2. Tailor Your Emails

First-time donors are more likely to stay connected to your cause when you communicate in a way that’s relevant to them. This means you should tailor your welcome email series according to the context in which they donated.

For example, some first-time donors give through a friend’s personal fundraising page, others might attend one of your events and give there. The event attendee has a personal connection to your cause while the first-time donor probably cares more about supporting their friend than your organization. You wouldn’t want to send the same message to both of these individuals. Miscommunication could turn off a third-party donor, and you could lose a potential supporter right from the start.

3. Provide Inspirational and Informative Content

Your first-time donors may have done some research before making their gift, but this is your chance to engage them with the information you want them to see. In other words, this is your chance to wow them.

It’s most effective if you can deliver these facts and impact stories through visual content. Photos and videos are easily digestible and help to build empathetic connections with your readers. It’s so powerful, in fact, that using the word “video” in an email subject line has proven to boost email open rates. And emails with a video receive a 300 percent higher click-through rate than those without!

This is also a great way to show your gratitude — filming a thank you video for your supporters.

4. Keep Your Emails Short and Sweet

You want to inform and inspire your first-time donors, and that means finding the right balance of what to include and what to hold back. People don’t want extensive emails that take an hour to read, especially from an organization with which they are just becoming familiar.

Instead, keep each message concise and to the point. If you have more information you’d like to share on a certain subject, you can link to blog posts or other sections on your website. This also helps direct more traffic back to your site, where donors can learn more about your programs, staff, and upcoming events at their own pace.

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5. Say Thank You

One of the most powerful ways to build a strong relationship with your first-time donors is to express gratitude. In the first email you send after receiving a donation, express your sincere appreciation for the gift, and show the donor how it will help make a difference.

Insert a thank you video into the body of your email as a clear and simple acknowledgement of your donor’s gift. A 2- to 5-minute video not only engages donors, it also helps them form a personal connection with your organization. One way to film your video is to have those impacted by the donations deliver the thank you message. Have each person share a brief comment about the impact one donation makes.

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6. Don’t Overload Their Inbox

Receiving too many emails is one of the biggest reasons people choose to unsubscribe from an organization’s email list. Your first-time donors don’t want their inboxes cluttered, no matter how insightful your emails may be. In fact, the last thing a donor wants is to receive an email every day of the week asking them to donate again.

When it comes to timing, send one email per week. This will help you finish the onboarding process without overloading them. Ideally you will have them enter your regular communication cycle within a month of making their first gift.

Don’t throw away your relationship with new donors.

An effective welcome email series can make the difference between a one-time donation and recurring gifts. With a targeted communication strategy, you will gradually deepen donors’ connections to your mission and show them the impact their donations make.

You can find more nonprofit marketing advice here!

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