Major Donors – In the Beginning

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Recently, an organization wanted to take a look at where their $1,000+ donors originated. After a quick channel analysis, we came up with this chart.

For this nonprofit, 55% of their $1,000+ donors came in through their Acquisition Mailings. Another 23% gave their first gifts online.

Four percent gave their first gifts to codes categorized as “Cultivation Mail” – mostly newsletters – and 9% of the $1,000+ donors gave their gifts to “Miscellaneous” codes like White Mail.

So, Acquisition Mailings are extremely important – not just for the new donors they bring on for direct mail – but also as the entry point for future major donors. Over half of new major donor come in to the organization this way.

Do you treat your newly acquired direct mail donors like they are your future major donors?


  1. avatar

    Keep in mind that, according to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, $1,000 – 44,999 first time donors retain at 57% while under $100 first time donors retain at just 17%.

    Also, those same bigger donors repeat after the second gift at a rate of 87% compared with just 47% for under $100 donors.

  2. avatar

    Gregory, thanks for your comment. Those numbers from the Fundraising Effectiveness Project are a little lower than we typically see. I usually see retention for first time donors under $100 around 30-35% unless the organization is very events-focused.

    But $1,000+ first time donors definitely retain at those higher rates. Unfortunately, there are generally very few of those first time $1,000+ donors out there.

  3. avatar

    Has a comparison study been done between acquisition mail – direct mail – versus acquisition phone calling? As part of our hospital foundation’s grateful patient program we (our vendor) are currently calling patients after they’ve been discharged. We’ve been having good success – good response rates and gift levels, committing to regular giving – since the program was started last fall.

    I’m wondering whether a phone calling program would have as much success in leading to major donors.


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