Fundraising Report Highlights How First-Time Donors Come Back

A new report from the online fundraising platform Classy does a deep dive into the characteristics of repeat donors and how they engage with the nonprofits they support.

What can turn a first-time donor into a repeat donor—and is there a way to speed up that process?

A new report from the online fundraising firm Classy takes a close look at the behaviors that lead to return donations. The State of Modern Philanthropy [registration] reports that while it takes nearly a year on average (349 days to be exact) for a one-time donor to give again, nearly one in five donors returns much more quickly—and is much more likely to keep giving.

In the report, Dr. Ben Cipollini, the company’s head of data science, says effective engagement is what ultimately leads donors to recur “and, over time, develop a meaningful relationship with your organization.”

“When a donor has a great experience, they carry it with them,” Cipollini wrote. “It’s these touchpoints that have the power to influence how a donor perceives your brand and the work you’re doing to change the world for good.”

A few highlights from the report:

Getting into a habit. When a donor uses a specific donation method the first time, they’re far more likely to give again using that method. For example: More than three quarters (77 percent) of donors who used a mobile device did so again the second time around, while 87 percent who donated via a social referral source such as Facebook or Twitter used that method again. (It’s worth noting, by the way, that social referrals come from mobile devices about 60 percent of the time.)

Looking at demographics. Women made about 60 percent of donations, whether the first time or the second. Donors’ median household income hovered around $75,000 for all campaign types (donation pages, crowdfunding, peer-to-peer, and events with registration), although donors at ticketed events had slightly higher median incomes. This was true for both first-time and repeat donors.

Campaign change-up. While second-time donors generally gave through the same method they used the first time, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll stick with the same campaign—in fact, just a third of respondents did so. “Donors who started their journey on a donation page were the most likely to return to the same campaign, while donors that started their journey on ticketed event pages were the most likely to return to a different campaign,” according to the report.

The Giving Tuesday effect. Among people who became recurring donors, those who gave for the first time on Giving Tuesday tended to become repeat donors faster than those who gave at other times (at a median of 194 days, compared to 215 days).

In a news release, Cipollini noted that fundraisers often focus on “donor churn”—whether a first-time donor continues to give. “While we believe in the importance of that focus, we wanted to use this opportunity to bring attention to the supporters who do come back,” he said. “By examining the behavioral patterns of donors who re-engage with an organization, we’re hoping we can help nonprofits better nurture those supporters and keep them coming back time and again.”

(diane555/DigitalVision Vectors/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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