Always Ask For A Second Gift

I’ve met with hundreds of annual giving teams, over the course of my career, and explored countless solutions for their solicitation challenges. Often I’d begin our conversation with a question about donor retention rates – especially First Time Donor rates – and it would surprise me when many would have to research the answer. 

Now, I realize it’s impossible to keep tons of details in our heads but, I think first time donor retention rates is one of the more important ones.

Here’s why…
In most cases, the most important gift a donor may ever make will be their second one. And yet, many programs don’t specifically track their renewal the following year – certainly not month to month.

After that first gift, they sent the obligatory “Thank You” (sometimes not much more than a tax receipt) and a few provided a clever First Time Donor kit as a follow-up but, rarely did they message these first-time donors any differently thereafter.

I think that’s a lost opportunity. Regardless of how a first-time donor arrived, last year – direct mail, phone, digital, social media, whatever — they need to be treated differently, this year. They shouldn’t be thrown back into the Lybunt pool with everyone else.

Here’s an idea…

Take a peek at any of your first time FY’18 donors who haven’t renewed yet. No doubt you have them scheduled to receive an appeal or two over the next few months but how about changing it up a bit? Why not, send them a special hand-written card, in place of the more expensive mail piece? Treat it as a second ‘Thank You’ with a soft ask (at an amount higher than their last year’s gift).

If you engage them at this more personal level, there’s a good chance this additional level of attention will generate three things: an improved first time donor renewal rate, an increased overall donor count and a higher average gift. By the way, they’re cheaper than a conventional direct mail piece too!

Here’s another idea…

Check in on your unrenewed high-end donors while you’re at it. The same approach should work for them!

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