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Keep 'Em Around in 2013

You'll get lots of new donors this month; treat them well and they'll stick around.

December 2012 By Pamela Barden
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It's that time of year — the time when you get donations from people you have never heard from before. Unfortunately, many of them won't be around in 2013. Attrition is a fact of life at nonprofits, but what you do now can increase the number of first-time donors who remain loyal in the new year.

Check your receipts

Make sure your receipt is valid for tax purposes. Sure, donors don't need receipts for smaller gifts, but many want them and feel they should have them before filing taxes. You can reduce a lot of angst by sending receipts that acknowledge their gifts and meet the IRS's criteria. Be sure to review IRS Publication 1771, "Charitable Contributions: Substantiation and Disclosure Requirements."

What about sending a summary receipt for the year after you close your books on 2012? A good idea that might even net money if you enclose a warm letter of appreciation and a return envelope.

Provide specificity

Tell your donor on the receipt that you used her gift for the project she requested. New donors especially need assurance that you listened and honored their wishes. Having a receipt that includes the gift designation builds confidence in your integrity as an organization.

In addition to having the "gift designation" shown on the receipt, another option is to have a basic receipt letter with one paragraph that is variable depending on the designation. Talk specifically in that paragraph about how the donor's gift will help advance your mission in 2013 through the project he helped fund.

Plan a welcome series

Research shows that you have a 90-day window to get a second gift from a new donor. How you treat donors for those three months is essential. Your goal is to strike a balance. You don't want to overwhelm them with contacts, but you also don't want them to feel ignored.

Once the receipt is mailed, send a welcome mailing. Don't simply put your latest brochure in a No. 10 envelope and expect that to say, "Welcome!" Make sure you include information about your successes, a story (or two) that shows results, and a warm message of welcome. Provide a phone number a new donor can call if she has questions.

 

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