A couple of blog items floated across my screen the past few days regarding how to “Wow” that first-time giver and get the all-important second gift (e.g., Jeff Brooks here).

It seems the conventional fundraising wisdom is that you have zero chance of getting a third gift and building a donor relationship unless you get a second gift.

I think that wisdom has been handed down ever since it was discovered that 3 followed 2. [I think by Sumerian fundraisers, although Babyloniaphiles would credit Sargon of Akkad with that honor.]

But seriously, how do fundraisers capture that critical 2nd gift, and — as Roger would insist on knowing — why is it given?

Going back to the conventional wisdom, the sound tactical advice is:

  1. The donor was well-thanked for her initial gift (as in, promptly, sincerely, with a personal touch).
  2. The donor was clearly, concretely told how their gift had made a difference (as in, here is a photo of the cat you saved).
  3. And then, 2nd ask was relevant to the first (as in, she was a cat-lover, so she wasn’t asked to love dogs).

This would seem to be well-proven, easily-followed advice.

Then why do too many fundraisers operate as though they believe the following are the chief reasons donors might give a second time?

  1. Blind faith — they’re true believers, ready to respond to any cue … doesn’t matter what you say or do.
  2. Hoping against hope — they’re gluttons for punishment … no matter how badly you ignore them or ignore their preferences, they’re emotional suckers, elevating commitment to the cause over your mistreatment.
  3. Forgetfulness — they don’t actually remember donating to you previously at all, but — lucky for you — they find your subsequent appeal novel and compelling.

I figure — finger to the wind — these three reasons together account for maybe 5% of 2nd gifts.

However, overestimating their impact — “Of course they’ll give again, we just have to ask!” — could be why so many organizations have trouble getting that 2nd gift and hanging on to donors.

What’s your 2nd gift rate?



This article was posted in: Copywriting / creative, Donor retention / loyalty / commitment.
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