A Step-By-Step Plan For Cultivating New Donors

Madison Barefield
Madison Barefield

Education Writer

Your last fundraising campaign has come to a close. Hopefully, you were able to meet your fundraising goals and engage and retain your current donors in the process. Fortunately, another fantastic byproduct of fundraising efforts is a handful of new, first-time donors. Chances are, a few of these donors will become the future lifelong supporters of your cause. The key is to continue connecting them to your mission—now. This is where cultivating new donor relationships comes into play.

In many fundraising environments, the period directly after a campaign is a time for reflection.

After all, it’s essential to determine what worked and what didn’t so you can learn and grow for next time. But if you really want to retain your first-time donors, then you don’t have time to spare.

Keep in mind; there is a direct correlation between retention and donation amount, meaning that the longer you keep a donor-connected with your organization, the more likely they’ll give a larger gift amount. Plus, your organization will save on the costs of recruiting new donors.

Basically, cultivating new donors now will make your job a whole lot easier down the road.

Follow this 60-day step-by-step plan to ensure you are properly cultivating your new first-time donors.

Inspiration Leads to Activation

Before we get started, let’s think about why these first-time donors recently gave to you in the first place—you inspired them. By using powerful images, video, and storytelling methods, you’ve connected your new donor to your cause through emotion. Great job!

Now, it’s time to take that inspiration-fueled emotion and encourage your supporters to do something with it. This 60-day plan is designed to turn that inspiration into activation through cultivating new donors, which is a key factor in ensuring retention down the road.

Download CauseVox’s Donor Engagement & Retention Playbook:

A Step-by-Step Plan for Cultivating New Donors: The First 60 Days

Days 1-7: Learn About Your Donor

Your donor came to you from somewhere, and that information is essential to you as you shape your plan to engage and retain this donor in the weeks and months to come.

First, determine how your donor came to give to you. Was it because they saw their friend’s peer-to-peer fundraising post on social media? Were they forwarded a link through email from one of your clients? Did they happen to stumble across your donation page through an online search?

Use your donation software such as a CRM or even a spreadsheet to track and monitor this essential donor data. If you captured any other pertinent data during the donation process, be sure to document this as well.

Action Step: Take inventory of your new donors and how they gave. Then, segment your donors based on this information.

Days 1-7: Make The “First Touch” Count

It’s always a great idea to follow up a donation with a “thank you” within 24 hours. In fact, most organizations choose to send a generic “thank you” email that doubles as a donation receipt.

While this is effective, it’s not necessarily personal. So go ahead and send this automatic message, but then follow it up with a second, more personal approach to connect with your donor on a deeper level.

Action Step: Within one week after receiving a first-time donation from a new donor, send a message (email, direct mail or phone) specifically to them. Introduce yourself, thank them for their gift, and ask them to connect in another way such as subscribing to your email newsletter or “Liking” your organization’s Facebook page.

Here’s a great example of a Thank You message from our friends at World Bicycle Relief.

first time donors

What you want is to have your first-time donor take action. Even though it may be as simple as clicking a button, this is just one small engagement step to build on.

Days 8-15: Focus On The Action Item & Follow Up

If you haven’t heard from your donor since your first connection attempt, it’s time to try again. Otherwise, focus on ensuring your first-time donor takes that essential “first engagement step” explained above.

Action Step: Take this week to send an email or letter to each of your new donors that specifically addresses the impact of their gift. Talk to your donor about the lives their changing and the work they’re now a part of. Share a special video or photograph of your clients or work in the field.

first time donor

Check out this superb impact-based email from World Help.

Days 16-30: Build On Your Donor-To-Nonprofit Relationship

While it may seem like a lot of effort, it’s important to continue showing your donor the impact of their gift throughout the beginning of your donor-to-nonprofit relationship.

Within the first 30 days following their first-time donation, share at least 2-3 nonprofit stories with your donors, providing a “zoomed out” view about why your organization is involved in your line of work and how your donor plays a role in that success.

Share these stories through email, direct mail, or even social media—however, you and your donor are most comfortable.

Action Step: Continue sharing impact-related stories with your first-time donors.

Days 30-45: Time For Activation

By this point, your new donor has a clearer idea of the work they are helping to fund and their role in the bigger picture. This background was laid as a way to inspire your donor. Now, that inspiration can blossom into activation.

Give your donor the opportunity to do something that will positively impact your organization and help form a strong bond between your donor and your cause.

Here are just two of an unlimited number of ways you can activate your first-time donor:

  • Ask them to share your social media posts on their personal pages
  • Send out a donor survey to get more information about your donor, including their affinities, preferred communication styles, and their desire/ability to volunteer.

Action Step: Present your donor with an opportunity that allows them to continue learning and investing in your organization.

Days 45-60: Follow Up Again

I know what you’re thinking: do I really need to follow up with my donor again? The answer is an astounding YES! Cultivating donors relationships may seem like you’re reaching out left and right, but your donor only sees the occasional email or social media post. It looks like a whole lot more effort to you than them!

By now, you’ve set the perfect stage. They know more about your organization, and you’re connected in *hopefully* multiple ways such as through email, social media, and direct mail. Since 6+ weeks have passed since their last gift, it’s perfectly acceptable to reach your to your first-time donor about your upcoming fundraising campaign.

If you’re running a fundraising event soon, let them know so they can put it on their calendar. Do you need personal fundraisers for an upcoming peer-to-peer fundraiser? Present them with the opportunity!

We love World Bicycle Relief’s call-to-action “Share the Joy” in this particular email, which encourages donors to share the message with their own friends and family.


Another superb way to get donors to convert to second-time and recurring donors is to create and/or promote a monthly giving program. Repeat donations are critical to the financial health of a nonprofit because they enable deeper and sustained impact. If you haven’t started your monthly giving program or are looking to revamp yours, take a look at what Watsi did to encourage recurring donations!

Action Step: Either make the “ask” for another gift or set the stage for your next fundraising campaign. Consider incorporating a new recurring giving program or promoting your current one.

Days 60+ Keep The Energy Up

Here at CauseVox, we believe wholeheartedly in digital fundraising. We’ve seen firsthand how impactful a simple recommendation or promotion is in “vouching” for your organization and bringing your fundraising campaigns to a wider audience.

When you rally your donors, you’re helping ensure retention with these loyal donors while also getting in front of a new group of potential donors.

As you move forward, slowly but surely building long-term relationships with these first-time donors, remember that each of these individuals has their own sphere of influence. Tap into their growing excitement for your cause and invite them to share an impact story with their own friends and family members. Remember, what your donors say about your cause is more impactful what you say. This is why it is crucial to continue nurturing and cultivating new and old donors.

Another effective way to rally your first-time donors is by asking them to fundraise for your organization. Peer-to-peer fundraising is a great way to keep your donors engaged and excited about your work.

Action Step: Ask your first-time donors to share their passion for your cause with their networks or become a personal fundraiser.

By learning about your donors, catering to their interests, and slowly building on that relationship, you set the stage for a long-term relationship that’s beneficial for your donor, your clients, and the world.

Good luck!

Download CauseVox’s Donor Engagement & Retention Playbook:

Simplify and grow your fundraising

It honestly felt like using CauseVox expanded our team by another member.

    Easy-to-use Free to get started Cancel anytime
    Copy link
    Powered by Social Snap