How to Convert New Donors into Monthly Donors in 4 Short Emails

Year-end giving is in full swing and that means most nonprofits are scrambling to bring in new donors and donations. What better time to implement a donor retention plan than now?

According to a Dec. 4, 2017 Bloomerang post, donor retention is “generally abysmal,” with only 23% of first-time donors renewing, and only 46% of all donors renewing on average.

I just came across an even more staggering statistic attributed to Bloomerang stating that for every 100 donors gained by nonprofits in 2016, 99 were lost due to attrition.

That’s a shocking stat and should be making us all do a double-take on our donor retention and new-donor follow-up strategies.

We’re really good at asking donors to give again and again, but we don’t necessarily do a good job of 1) making them feel like an important part of our community, 2) informing them about the impact of their gifts, and 3) asking them to sign on as monthly donors.

How can we do this better?

It’s simple. And it all starts with your thank you note.

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Here’s a simple 4-step email strategy you can implement today to nurture new donor relationships and convert them into monthly or recurring donors.

It involves 4 short emails (4-12 sentences each) issued once a week for 4 weeks, following the TERRA model: Thank/Engage, Report, Report again, Ask.

Rather than explaining the contents of each email, I’ve drafted four sample emails to highlight the main points and key messages you need to focus on in each one.

Warning: The sample articles below revolve around a fake organization and fake facts made-up specifically for this piece. These pieces serve only to demonstrate how to achieve the objectives cited below. They most certainly qualify as “fake news.”


Email #1 – Thank & Engage

Your first thank-you note should go out within a few hours of receiving the donation. Your objectives here are to: 1) ensure your donor feels recognized and appreciated, and 2) strengthen your donor’s sense of connection to your community.

Subject Line: Thank you & welcome to the family

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Email #2 – Report

Your second email should go out approximately one week after sending Email #1. The objectives of this email are to:

  • Strengthen the emotional connection between the donor and your organization/beneficiaries
  • Share the important impact of their gift
  • Make donor feel like a hero

Subject Line: Saving Arctic Animals, One fox at a Time

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Email #3 – Report Again

Your third email should go out within a week of Email #2.

Your objectives are to continue the work you started in terms of strengthening the donor’s emotional connection to your organization and making him/her feel like a hero. If the donor gave to a specific program within your organization, this might also be a good time to introduce your organization’s overall mission, or the bigger picture.

Sample Subject Line: You’ll be Surprised to Learn How Many Arctic Foxes You Helped Save

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Email #4 — Ask

Your final email for this campaign should be sent within a week of Email #3.The objective here is straight forward: Convert one-time donors to recurring donors.

Subject:  More Endangered Arctic Animals Will Perish Unless We Act Today

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So there you have it. Utilizing the TERRA methodology of retaining donors, these four email samples can guide you in drafting your own emails aimed at converting first-time donors to recurring donors.

And like I said, it all starts with your first thank-you letter. With more than 1/3 of all donations being made during the month of December, there’s no better time than now to implement this strategy!

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