One of the indisputable realities of nonprofit fundraising is that new donors are vulnerable. In the big picture, about four out of five of them will give to you only once. That’s scary, especially when you calculate the cost to get that first gift.

Donor acquisition has historically been a losing proposition – or at best, break-even. But, the logic goes, we’ll make up for it from future giving, even though we will have costs to cultivate and retain that donor. And that used to be true.

But for more nonprofits than even before, the best way to net more money short-term is to do no acquisition. Of course, that’s foolish.  Attrition – losing donors due to death, reduced financial means, loss of interest, relocation, or other factors mostly out of the control of the nonprofit organization – will eventually leave you with very few donors and less funds.

Acquiring new donors is how we grow, how we achieve our vision, not just keep our doors open and the lights on.

So here’s your challenge: determine where the danger zone is for new donors. What’s the point where, if they haven’t given a second gift by then, the likelihood of them ever doing so is almost negligible? In many cases, this is probably 4 to 6 months, though if you are an annual membership program, if could be 12 to 15 months.

Once you know that danger zone, come up with a plan to pull out all the stops before that point to secure a second gift. Create special newsletters and letters, and have emails that talk about what has happened as a result of the donor’s support. Consider a small mission-focused premium for a second gift in 60 days, and promote that in your first receipt. Recruit volunteers to call and say “thank you” for every first-time donors, and write a personal note of appreciation on every first gift receipt.

Once you know how little time you have to save a donor from falling down the unending black hole that swallows up new donors and never spews them out again, you can start to solve the problem by creating a “courtship” that woos your first-time donors into a deeper relationship. It’s time to show them some love.