By Pamela Grow

Are you constantly chasing after new donors – or are you cherishing those donors who have already made a gift to your organization, nurturing them on the path to becoming lifetime donors?

Even small improvements in the level of attrition can generate significantly larger improvements in the lifetime value of the fundraising database.

Fundraising expert Adrian Sargeant has noted that “Eight of 10 first-time donors do not make a second gift.” He also reported that “even small improvements in the level of attrition can generate significantly larger improvements in the lifetime value of the fundraising database.”

Keep in mind that lifetime donors will, in time, become major donors. Today’s $1,000 gift given by the CEO’s friend (who disappears once the CEO is gone) has nothing on that loyal donor who has given $50 a month every month for the past 10 years. Lifetime donors become monthly donors. Lifetime donors leave bequests. Lifetime donors tell their friends and family about the work your organization is doing.

How are you nurturing your donors? Let’s get busy building lifetime donors with these seven tips!

1. One very simple habit that you can implement into your day today is something I picked up years ago via change agent Hildy Gottlieb. Hildy penned a marvelous little article called The Sound a Thank You Makes. Reading that article made a profound difference in how I approached fundraising and I’ve made it a point in every fundraising job I’ve had since reading Hildy’s article to schedule 30 minutes into every day to simply pick up the phone and call a few donors.

2. Regularly question your donors. Find out what it is about your organization that they like? What would they like to see more of? Surveying donors does not have to be a complex process.

3. Send them gifts. I can hear you now. “What? Are you crazy? We don’t have the funds to send donors gifts!” I’m not talking about anything expensive. I’m talking about going out on a limb doing something fun and WOW-inducing and bold. Something like this.

4. Do you have a limited mailing list? Seek out the advice of the donors that you do have. Send them packets of information on your agency’s work and ask them to pass them along to friends, family or neighbors who might share their interest.

5. Get your board involved, either in calling donors or in writing personal thank you notes. Several of my clients regularly distributes note cards, along with the names, suggested scripts and gift amounts of one or two donors and schedules a small thanking party during board meetings.

6. Welcome kits play an excellent role in educating your new donors to your organization. Typically your welcome package would go beyond a mere thank you letter to include items such as photographs, surveys, a benefits brochure, even a small gift such as a bookmark. Send them in an oversized envelope marked with a bold “Welcome!”

7. Instead of the usual annual report, think about creating a Gratitude Report like the one Agents for Good developed for their client.

8. Think of different holidays when you could send out a simple card. I like to shower donors with love on Valentine’s Day. Sending out a thank you card the week of Thanksgiving creates more of an impact than a Christmas/Hanukkah card because it’s unexpected (but oh so appropriate). And don’t forget birthdays.

I worked for the State of Michigan’s House of Representatives for a number of years. One state representative, who shall remain nameless, was such a holy terror that she had long ago given up on hiring an actual staff member and used a temp agency instead. She was heartily disliked by staff and colleagues alike, but beloved by her constituents (she never was voted out of office and served until her 80s when she retired). Why? She made it a point to obtain her constituents’ birth dates and send out birthday cards to each and every one of them.


About Pamela Grow

Author, coach, copy-writer, nonprofit marketing consultant and political junkie, Pamela Grow is the author of Five Days to Foundation Grants and the creator of Simple Development Systems, the only online coaching program created for the overwhelmed fundraiser in the one-person marketing and development shop. With an eclectic 20 year background in politics, sales, marketing and philanthropy, Pamela’s greatest satisfaction lies in teaching the small community-based nonprofits how to, in her words, “market like the big boys” with limited time and resources.


What are some other ways that you can build lifetime donors? Click here for another great post by Pam Grow.

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