Not so fast 2014. We have some unfinished business with 2013, December in particular. For most nonprofit organizations, we know that giving in the last month of the year is disproportionately high, especially for the online channel when a third of the year’s gifts are made. This volume brings a substantial stream of first-time donors to nonprofits en masse.

As a nonprofit, what steps will you take in 2014 to retain and grow these new relationships?

The odds are unfortunately against us. The donorCentrics™ Internet and Multichannel Giving Benchmarking Report tells us that 70% of new donors will never give again. However, with a retention strategy focused on these fresh-faced friends we have an opportunity to exceed the average and capitalize on an early opportunity within the new year.

Below are five of the most effective retention strategies in use by nonprofits. While these tactics are appropriate for your new donors drawn from year-end giving, they’re equally effective (and important) for less visible everyday donors giving throughout the year.

Consider that first gift an acquisition gift.

First time donors are qualified leads.By giving to your organization, the donor has shown propensity and interest in supporting your organization. Now it’s up to you to invest and build the relationship.

There’s not much of an investment argument here as the value proposition for retaining donors is so much greater than finding new ones; ensure that budget and a plan is set aside for first-time donor conversion.

Consider this the start of a conversation on the way to optimizing lifetime value of your new friend.

Listen to what your new donor is telling you.

That first gift holds great insights.What data from this gift is of most interest to you?

First gift amount, billing city/state, and solicitation campaign are incredibly meaningful in helping to hone in on a new constituent messaging strategy. In an email campaign targeted to all new online constituents, The ALS Association tailors its call to action distinctly for general online donors versus tribute donors, by introducing tribute donors to their independent fundraising program called Community of Hope. Community of Hope enables anyone to create an honor/memorial fund as a tribute to a loved one with ALS. This initial introduction to the program is the first step in a streamlined strategy to cultivate one-time tribute donors into becoming personal fundraising champions.

Giving channel, of course, is also incredibly telling in helping to determine follow up communication. Online acquired donors, for instance, generally have poor online retention; we know that a multichannel communication strategy will be important. In contrast, offline acquired donors are far less likely to cross the multichannel bridge and a single channel communication strategy may be appropriate.

All of these lessons – from that single first gift – are meaningful for dialogue, subsequent messaging and targeting.

Thank your donor.

Now that we’ve agreed a hot lead is on our hands and we know a bit more about him or her, let’s put our best foot forward with a timely thank you acknowledgement of the first gift given.

The Nonprofit Donor Engagement Benchmark Report produced by Charity Dynamics and NTEN indicates that 21% of donors say that were never thanked (!) for a gift. Perhaps these organizations confused delivering a tax receipt with an indelible acknowledgement showcasing the contribution’s impact.Goodwill Industries International features a patent-pending donation Impact Calculator online that allows donors to translate goods donations in to real-world programs impact. In donating six pairs of blue jeans at my local Goodwill®, the donor is told that their gift is worth a 46 minute financial planning class for services recipient Candace Cameron to teach her how to clear debt and start saving. Now that’s stewardship! This offers immediate validation for a donor who has completed a giving decision.

You can’t say thank you enough. Even if you’ve done an instant acknowledgement after the donation is completed in December, send a follow up to donors in January to share gratitude, let them know how the year wrapped for your organization and share 2014 plans. It’s the equivalent of giving a gift to a friend or family member at a party and having them say thank you when they open the gift, and then receiving a follow up note in the mail.

Engage relevantly.

Beyond a simple acknowledgement, continue to communicate with your constituent with the insights we’ve learned from the upfront gift. Many nonprofits struggle here as constituent insight from a development activity may not readily be available to marketing or communications teams responsible for stewardship messaging.

Challenge all teams within your organization to tailor message content based on donor program interest and affinity. Localization can help to communicate services available from a national organization within the donor’s community.The Nonprofit Donor Engagement Benchmark Report tells us that a nonprofit’s website is the top choice for donors learning about their favorite charity, followed by email and Facebook. Consider your appropriate channel mix to deliver highly relevant engagement. What role would direct mail or follow up volunteer phone calls play?

Finally, convert to the next stage of giving.

Relevant engagement has established a conversation and dialogue with new donors. Now we’re ready to use what we know to convert these constituents with that second, follow up gift by driving action and response for the best program suited to this donor’s needs or affinity.This “next stage of giving” could be a renewal gift, an upgrade or graduation to a monthly or mid-level giving program, among others with the job made easier by each of the communication and stewardship steps taken since the first gift was given.

Solicitation tactics vary depending on degree and sophistication of a nonprofits’ direct response program. Regardless, dedication to engagement activities will strengthen response to all appeals.

While you may be in the midst of executing your 2013 year-end fundraising strategy, now is the perfect time to evaluate your retention strategy for the new year. Identity your first time donors today and commit to holding on to them through next year.