3 Mistakes Preventing Donors From Giving a Second Gift

By Billy Sharma

Nonprofit direct marketing consultant, and author

There are lots of books and articles on why donors give, but few have figured out why they stop giving after that first donation.

The main culprit seems to be three mistakes that charities make that prevent donors from making that second gift.

They are:

1. Late or No Gift Acknowledgement

Not thanking donors promptly and adequately when they made that first gift is the biggest error. Your very first communication is key when it comes to how you respond when they first donate. 

Your failure not to appreciate their gift and to not thank them in a timely, genuine and proper manner is crucial.  If you don’t gain their trust right from the start they won’t stay.

Here’s what you need to do once they donate. Send them a thank-you email or a video showing your appreciation at once, not a week after you have cashed in their cheque. 

Remember, if Amazon can confirm a purchase from you in a Nano-second, then surely you too should be able to thank your new donors at once. Online donor forms like Sumac’s send automatic thank you emails with receipts. 

Next follow up by sending them a welcome package with a personal genuine thank you note and include a survey

Can’t afford a welcome pack because the budget won’t allow it? Pick up the phone, and call them to thank them and ask if you can send them a survey. Also, find out what prompted them to give, how often to contact them and ask them which method they prefer.

2. Not Reporting on What Their Gift Accomplished

You should report on how their donation helped in the first two weeks. Remember donors give with their heart, so strengthen your donors’ resolve that they made the right decision to give to a cause that also values their support and treats them and their funds with care.

Donors want to feel that they made a difference, no matter how big or small the gift. Affirmation that their hard earned money made a difference feels good!

Keep them engaged for the next few months without asking them for a second gift. Start building a rapport with your new donors. Yes, it is a slow process but like all relationships you need to first get to know them. 

As you get to know more about them you can even invite them to join your communications committee or ask them over for a tour. 

3. Not Knowing When to Ask for a Second Gift

This last and perhaps most misunderstood way to improve your odds of procuring a second gift from your new donors is timing! If you have faithfully followed the first two steps then knowing when to ask for that second gift will hinge on how well you have come to know them and how you can now prompt them to feel good all over again by making that second gift.

Research reported by the Analytical Ones in the chart below shows the value of donors depending on how long it takes an organization to convert them from a one-time donor to a repeat donor.

nonprofit donor analytical ones chart

As you can see, asking donors to give within the first three months called the “honeymoon” phase is key. This is an important short period during which first time donors are most inclined to give again, because they’re still feeling some of the glow they got from giving earlier and how you showed your appreciation for their gift, as outlined in the first two steps.

So, contact them in the first three months to keep alive that warm glow, and once again demonstrate the impact of their giving with gratitude. This contact can be in the form of a direct mail appeal, an email, a social media appeal, or even sending them your newsletter with a timely or necessary ask. 

When you do ask for that second donation remember two things:

1. Ask for a modest dollar contribution (within the range their first gift amount) A nonprofit CRM like Sumac can create ask letters that automatically solicit 5-10% more than their last contribution. 

2. Stick to a specific issue that you know concerns them (if they gave to your charity because you look after the homeless, ask for a pair of socks or a scarf to help them during winter)

Remember, with the passage of time, out of sight is out of mind. Attaining a new donor is expensive. We all know that the cost to acquire a new donor is about $1.25 to $2.00 on average. While, the cost to hold on to your current donors is on average about $0.20 to  $0.45.  

So for a fundraiser, there should be nothing more important than getting that second gift. Over time the lifetime value of each and every donor becomes priceless.

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