During difficult economic times, a strong base of loyal, multi-year donors is more important than ever. While a focus on donor acquisition, retention and reactivation remains vital, fundraisers often overlook the importance of a timely second gift in cultivating essential multi-year donors.
In the data analysis we have performed for many clients, we are seeing second gift conversion for many donors (often 70%+) taking three, four or even five years. While it certainly is reasonable that a major donor has multi-year gaps between giving—though I would suggest that well-structured programs ought to encourage regular annual giving alongside periodic significant gifts even for major donors—if the majority of donors are not giving a second gift within 12 months, your organization may well find that a strong foundation of loyal donors is not merely stagnant, but shrinking.
The good news is that properly thanking, stewarding and cultivating new donors can be achieved using cost-effective, scalable techniques that can be self-sustaining with minimal staff time once implemented. I want to share 5 core principals that are essential to securing a donor’s second gift. I will post the first two today, and the next three in a later post.
- Make your second ask quickly – Most organizations wait far too long to ask a donor for a second gift. The reality is that the sooner you ask, the more likely the donor is to respond positively. In addition, research shows time and again that the earlier you acquire a second gift, the higher the lifetime value of a donor. Ideally, that ask is occurring within the first 90 days of the donor’s original gift, and this does not simply apply to direct response or annual fund donors. There is no reason a mid-level or major donor cannot be asked for a second gift quickly. Why not secure a smaller recurring unrestricted annual gift that deepens the donor’s connection to the organization?
- Steward First, Ask Second – Despite the desire to acquire the second gift quickly, we all know that proper stewardship is the key to cultivating long term donor loyalty. While we do want to ask quickly for the second gift, we do not want to do so at the expense of depriving the donor of the emotional ROI that comes from seeing the impact of their gift. Quick effective second asks require strong communication of the change the donor’s first gift has made in the lives of those you serve. This communication should occur within 30-60 days after the initial gift and it should focus on the specific impact of the gift on individual lives, not simply generic statements about progressing toward funding goals or intangible outcomes.