3 min read

The 90 days after a donor’s first gift are crucial for establishing a lasting relationship. Too many nonprofits squander this opportunity.

You’ve probably heard the apothegm cautioning that “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” This is true with any relationship—and it’s especially true when it comes to developing relationships with donors.

The tone of your donor relationships is established right off the bat. How you treat your donor after their first gift tells them just how much you value them. A donor who feels valued is far more likely to give to your organization again, which is vitally important to your ongoing fundraising success.

The way you welcome your donors over the first 90 days after their donation has a significant impact on your fundraising in the short term. But it doesn’t just matter during those 90 days—the effects can be felt for years or even decades to come.

I’ll get into the concrete proof and specifics of the new donor welcome process below (and, sneak peek, in two articles to come), but I can’t emphasize it enough: the first 90 days are critical to your short- and long-term fundraising success.  



You’ve acquired a shiny new donor, and now you have to retain them. Nonprofits, on the whole, are mediocre-to-terrible at retention.

When faced with poor donor retention rates, organizations often jump to pouring time, energy, and money into acquiring new donors. While acquisition is important, this overlooks another key way to maintain—and grow—your donor base: fixing the problems with your donor retention.

Guess where that problem solving begins? Right where your relationship with a new donor begins: those crucial first 90 days.

Improving your donor retention begins the moment a donor makes their first gift, with your new donor welcome experience. There’s significant opportunity for a second gift in a new donor’s first 90 days, and an unparalleled chance to cement the relationship. Welcome email read rates are 42% higher than the average email’s, and new donors who receive a phone call within those 90 days are nearly 25% more likely to retain.

Those 90 days deserve a closer look.

That’s why, in 2022, AmPhil partnered with NextAfter to scrutinize how nonprofits at large treat new donors—and to identify new strategies for building stronger relationships, improving retention rates, and increasing generosity. The results of this New Donor Welcome Study provide crucial guidance for nonprofits looking to increase their fundraising.



There’s no better way to see how new donors are treated than to be a new donor. That’s why we kicked off the New Donor Welcome Study by giving. Between February 11th and 18th, 2022, we donated $20 online to 147 organizations, and $20 via mail to the same 147. We then analyzed how these organizations followed up and communicated with our “online donor” and our “postal donor” between February 21st and May 21st, 2022.

Organizations communicated via email, mail, both email and mail, or neither (no answer, came the stern reply). These communications fell into one of two categories: solicitation (requests for a donor to make a financial transaction) and cultivation (communications other than a receipt or request for a financial transaction). 

Cataloguing number and method of communications doesn’t tell the whole story, though. Communication strategies were far from uniform. One organization sent eleven emails in a single week; eighteen organizations sent only one email over the course of the study.

The significant variance in nonprofits’ new donor welcome strategies is startling—and valuable. The array of new donor experiences provides an opportunity to get granular with data analysis, then draw high-level conclusions about what works and what doesn’t.

Those conclusions aren’t theoretical. They provide a clear guide for how nonprofits can make a first impression with donors that makes them feel welcomed, appreciated, and generous. I’ll be back next week to flesh out the study’s key findings and what they mean for your organization.

1 thought on “How you welcome new donors makes all the difference”

  1. Jim Hurley says:

    This is an analog to my experience working with Catholic Churches. Substitute first time donation for first time engaging. Donation of money and donation of time or mental/emotional capital is, in many ways, the same thing. I’ve been trying to impress this on Pastors and church administration who mostly don’t make the connection.

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