Industry Survey Analysis: First-Time Donors

Last month, FFE analyzed how fraternal foundations compare to the nonprofit sector in overall donor retention and first-time donor retention

While our member organizations saw a minor YOY decline in 2022 for first-time donor retention, the fraternal industry results nearly 16% higher on average than the nonprofit sector as a whole. So, let’s look at our pool of first-time donors. 

Based upon data in 2022 Industry Survey Insights Report, our foundations saw an average of 27% first-time donors across their total unique donors for the year. 

As an industry, our averages for both men’s and women’s groups have hovered in the 24-30% range for first-time donors over the past three years.  

Men’s Groups: 2020 – 23 participants; 2021 – 21 participants; 2022 – 19 participants  

Avg % First-Time Donors  
2020: 23.8% 
2021: 30.1% 
2022: 25.1% 


Women’s Groups: 2020 – 15 participants; 2021 – 14 participants; 2022 – 15 participants  

Avg % First-Time Donors 
2020: 27.9% 
2021: 29.6% 
2022: 28.8% 

The opportunity remains to reduce the trend of declining retention rates by improving stewardship efforts, especially those focused on first-time donors.  

According to data from theFundraising Effectiveness Project, the donor retention rate for those who contribute the “golden donation,” also known as the repeat donor retention rate, averages at about 60%. Meanwhile, our new donors who have only given once have a little under 30% likelihood (2022 industry average) of contributing again. 

When working with the Cygnus team for our 2020 Cygnus Research Project, they shared with FFE that their research for a large university shared that its top 20 donors took 11 years to go from their first gift to their largest gift. This same university study recognized that their top 20 donors’ first gifts were all under $500.  

Should we be asking ourselves… 

  • What member types make up our organizations’ first-time donor audience? What is the average gift amount for our first-time donors? 
  • We know it’s more costly to acquire new donors than retain the ones we have. How are our foundations measuring success for their stewardship efforts – qualitative and quantitative? And are we tracking first-time donor retention rates both annually and by campaign? 
  • What would our first-time donors share about their experience giving to our foundations – from making the first gift to receiving their second ask? And, are we willing to be consistent and diligent about the small details in our cultivation and stewardship to retain donors for the long-haul? 

By effectively engaging and evaluating our first-time donors, we have the potential to drive long-term fundraising growth and affinity for our missions. 

Comprehensive results of the Industry Survey are shared only with those groups who participate in the survey with 100% completion. If you’d like to confirm your organization’s historical participation, contact Director of Programs Desiree Paulhamus.