3 ways to sharpen your focus on second gifts

The way you go about meeting, courting and then cultivating new donors can dramatically affect your income, donor file growth and retention.

Knowing that…are you focusing enough on encouraging your donors to send a second gift?

After years of working with (and donating to) non-profits, I regularly see ministries that have lost their focus on this fundraising basic. For ministry marketing professionals, few jobs are more important than getting that all-important second gift.

That’s why I want to urge you to take a careful look at your second-gift strategy — what you’re doing and why — to be sure the following bases are being covered. That’s because, until you have a second gift, you really don’t have a donor.

Even if you’re not doing all that you want to do and can do right now, I believe this is a case of “doing something is better than doing nothing.” Don’t give in to a self-defeating philosophy of “it has to be perfect before we roll it out.”

Send what you have. Test carefully. Then commit to ongoing optimization — of your offer, impact timing, package format, copy, everything.

As you do, consider these 3 ways to sharpen your focus on getting second gifts:

1. Thank your new donors properly.

Make it a priority to get a thank-you letter and gift receipt out within 24 hours. We know from lots of research that every day of delay can hurt long-term value.

Then, make sure you’re sending out a well-conceived welcome kit to every new donor within a week. Use this chance to share more about your ministry, explain how gifts will be used, build rapport with donors (align their charitable-giving goals with your ministry’s proven accomplishments) and invite their continued support.

Remember: donors give for their own good reasons. Your job is to help them experience significance, meaning and purpose each time they give. Easier said than done, I know. Two-thirds of your new donors won’t give again. But that means one-third WILL! So it’s worth the effort to encourage as many as possible to become long-term partners. That means your welcome series must clearly connect your mission with the donor’s personal passion.

2. Use donor preferences when you communicate.

If someone makes an online contribution, you’ll want to communicate with them online, of course. But don’t limit your communication to online, since direct mail is still an effective solicitation “trigger.” You could also test a donor preference card that gives new donors the opportunity to indicate what kind of ongoing communication they would like from your organization. Recent testing with one of our clients showed that donors who gave via both on-line and offline channels had TWICE the annual value.

3. Always ask for a second gift.

Oftentimes, ministries don’t really get around to asking for a second gift. I’ve seen really long lapses — even up to 6 months — before the donor receives a second ask. Let me share a counter-intuitive fact with you:

Assuming you’re sending receipts out on a timely basis, you shouldn’t worry about asking for another gift, even as soon as a month after receiving the first. One reason why this is so important is that long-term donor value is directly correlated with when they send their second gift. It can be as much as TWICE as great, depending on when they send their second gift.

You’ve worked hard to get these new donors in the door. Now’s your chance to keep them around for many years to come by making the second gift a top priority.