It’s no secret that new donors are worth their weight in gold – sometimes literally (Yes, acquisition campaigns are expensive!).  Acquiring a new donor and getting them to that all-important second gift is pivotal to the success of any annual giving program, but how do you continue to engage this new donor– especially when their 2020 giving was most likely motivated by a global pandemic and not your cause?

You’ve heard this before – but I’ll say it again. Thanking a donor is the single most important thing you can do as a fundraiser.

Just for a minute let’s look at stewardship through a major gift lens. What if you received a $10,000 gift from a new donor? Would you ignore them for weeks, send them a size 10 envelope with “tax receipt enclosed” in the mail two months later, and then ask them for another gift in four months? Unfortunately, that’s exactly how we sometimes treat our annual giving donors.  In her 2021 donor survey, Penelope Burke found that among donors who made a gift of $10,000 or more, 56% made at least one other-valued gift at less than $100 to another non-profit. Among your $100 donors are many undiscovered major gift and legacy prospects, yet far too many fundraisers simply don’t make that under $100 new donor thank you call!

I get it – it takes time to thank every single new donor, and there’s just not enough of it, right? Nope! Not true. I’ve used a treadmill and I know that time can in fact stretch out longer than you think.

Here are 5 tips you can use to take your fundraising time and make it fit your stewardship timeline!

Make stewardship a part of your acquisition campaign plan.

I’m almost positive You didn’t acquire large quantities of new donors organically; it was part of a carefully planned acquisition strategy. Work stewardship into this plan. If you’re targeting 2,000 new donors, you likely won’t be able to get the job done with 1 staff member working 8 hours a day! Recruit staff, board members and volunteers, and assign thank you calls to everyone on the acquisition stewardship team.

Don’t over-think it.

Unlike solicitation calls, stewardship needs nothing more than a phone line, a clear voice and a big smile. Yes, Smile and Dial is a real thing. Smiling has a positive effect on the sound of your voice. Turns out smiles are infectious, even over the phone!

Assign the time.

This sounds obvious, but the lack of time is a real deterrent to making thank-you calls. Every fundraiser knows that the time crunch of campaign season is a real thing. Whether you’re doing a 2-day long thank you call-a-thon with a dedicated group of 20 volunteers, or whether you’re spreading the wealth over a week between team members, set a deadline to complete the calls and assign the time to do them.

I’m calling to say thank you should be the first thing you say.

Multiple telemarketing solicitations have paved the way for what I like to call “donor phone fatigue”. Donors assume most calls from a charity are just more requests for more money! During my years of making stewardship calls, I’ve had great success with reversing the script of the call. Starting your call with “I’m calling to say thank you for your gift to XYZ charity”, as opposed to “I’m calling from XYZ charity to say thank you for your gift” is a minor edit, but it works to keep your donor on the phone!

Ask what inspired their gift.

What inspired your donor’s first gift is how their philanthropic journey with you begins. Asking this question – and capturing it in your database – is essential when mapping a new donor’s journey through your organization. Added bonus? It shows you care!

And once you know what drives this all-important member of your new donor family, you’re perfectly poised to personalize their donor journey and turn a new donor into a loyal donor!