Why a warm welcome to first-time donors matters

Tracking the performance of loyal supporters is basic best practice in most development shops these days. (I assume that includes yours.) But what about the folks who made a first-time gift to your organization during the past year? Have you singled them out for special attention?

If you answered yes, hurrah. If your answer is no, not a problem. We’re not so far into the new year that a follow-up thank you to 2011 first-timers will seem strange to them. In fact, the low-volume mail days of late January/early February are a great time for nabbing donor attention — if you do it right.


When reaching out to first-time supporters, take care to craft a welcome package that will inspire a repeat gift. A pro forma, ho-hum toss-away won’t do.

That’s the advice of Mark Phillips, founder and CEO of the London-based consulting firm Bluefrog and creator of Queer Ideas, “a bloody good fundraising blog.” He writes:

Fundraising isn’t just about asking. If it was that simple, charities would be awash with money. It’s about giving something to your donors that they need and value.

That doesn’t mean simply telling donors what your charity does (yet again) in a welcome pack. It’s about grabbing the one chance when you are virtually guaranteed that a donor will open your communication and read it. You can then give them just what they want:

  • Recognition for what they’ve done.
  • The opportunity to demonstrate that fact to others.
  • Authentic, personal treatment.
  • A reason to smile (or cry).

If we do that . . . it will go a long way to encourage a one-off donor to become a long-term supporter.


Development officers, and most especially those in one or two-person shops, may question the ROI of their time in singling out first-time donors. However, within faith-based nonprofits the worth of such efforts shouldn’t be questioned.

As Thom Jeavons and I note in Growing Givers’ Hearts: Treating Fundraising as Ministry, a piece of a person’s heart accompanies every contribution. It is essential that organizations honor this gift of self on par with the much-needed cash — beginning with the first gift.

Fundraising programs can be channels through which God’s love and joy can flow. That’s why a warm welcome to first-time donors matters.


  1. Carol Lytch says:

    I like the idea of taking advantage of the opening that is there when someone gives for the first time. Openings don’t always remain open, and it seems wise to walk though when the door is open.

    • Carol, I’m glad you found the idea of a special welcome to new donors to be a good one. You’re right about the door not staying open for long, and especially with so many great causes standing in line for their chance to walk through.

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