Just how important is a donor’s second gift?

Apparently, not very important judging from the scant — or non-existent — attention the subject receives at nonprofit board meetings, not to mention by most CEOs and far too many fundraisers.

In a must-read post on the Bloomerang Blog, Jay Love notes that over the past 30+ years that he’s served on many a board “…never have any of the meetings ever included a discussion regarding the strategy to help secure a second gift from a first-time donor! In fact, a relatively new board member would assume that the overall game plan is to keep securing more and more new donors in order maintain or grow fundraising related revenue.”

And folks wonder why retention rates suck.

Jay applauds the increased attention being paid by some organizations to the issue of retention, but notes that few do anything with that number.

Simply knowing what your organization’s retention is provides no pathway to success. As Jay puts it: “Just knowing the number without any knowledge of how to influence it may lead to more frustration than actually increasing success. An analogy might be knowing your vehicle’s gas mileage (MPG) without knowing about any of the factors that might influence the mileage in either direction.”

So, let’s cut to the chase.

There are lots of actions an organization can take to improve retention rates. Most of them are easy and inexpensive. There’s a host of Agitator posts on steps to take here, here, here, here and in my book Retention Fundraising: The new art and science of keeping your donors for life. There you will find all the information and guidance you need for eliminating virtually any excuse of ‘not knowing how’ or ‘not having the tools’. And for additional background check out Bloomerang’s “A Guide to Retention” with Dr. Adrian Sargeant’s video on donor retention.

Top Factor for Donor Retention

If you want to focus on the top factor in building higher retention rates, then focus on securing the second gift from a new donor.

As Jay notes, “Once a donor donates the second time we have moved beyond impulse giving … They are now truly supporting your mission by consciously choosing to provide funds.”

Look at the illustration below to see the power of the second gift when it comes to retention rates of first-year donors. More than 3 times greater!

So, what tactics and techniques should you be employing to secure a second gift? We’ll deal with that in detail in a future post.

For now,  here are five steps that Jeff Brooks over at Future Fundraising Now  recommends:

  • Acknowledge the first gift promptly.
  • Be specific and relevant in that acknowledgement.
  • Report back (soon!) on the impact of the first gift.
  • Ask again soon.
  • Ask often.

Agitator thanks to Jay for continuing to raise important points about retention. Please read his post.

What steps are you taking to secure that all-important second gift?



This article was posted in: Board Meeting Swipe File, Donor retention / loyalty / commitment, Fundraising analytics / data, Nonprofit management, Research.
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