When do you want a donor’s second gift? The sooner the better!

Here’s a disturbing truth: Someone who gives to your organization once is pretty unlikely to give ever again.

In essence, there’s a big difference between a “gift” (someone donates one time) and a “donor” (someone who donates more than once).

There are a lot of things you can do to encourage gifts to become donors.

And one of the most meaningful is get going now!

This research, posted on the Analytical Ones blog at The Exponential Importance of Second Gift Timing shows how critical it is to get that next gift soon:

Second-gift

The graph shows the five-year value of donors by the timing of their second gift. That first stubby little column is the total value of the one-time givers. Those are gifts, not donors. For most organizations, it cost more than that to get that gift.

The profitability of fundraising starts when donors give repeat gifts. And as you can see here, the most valuable donors are those who give their second gift within three months.

The five-year value immediately starts to slide as time passes before that next gift. It has dropped almost in half if 10 months go by.

Two extremely important takeaways for fundraisers:

  1. You should really work to cement the relationship with first-time donors. Thank them quickly and well. Welcome them. Ask them again. And do this all right away!
  2. If you have a policy of not contacting donors for some length of time after their gift, you are strangling your future. This policy is commonly based on a gut instinct that asking again “too soon” will drive away donors. The numbers tell us the opposite. Waiting too long is what makes them go away!

One surprising thing in this data is how valuable donors are when 13-24 months pass before their second gift. It’s higher than expected, and it tells us that while your best opportunities are over by then, it may not be time to give up on one-time donors.


Comments

2 responses to “When do you want a donor’s second gift? The sooner the better!”

  1. Jeff, you know I’m a big fan of your blog. I’m skeptical about this post because:
    a) Selection bias. Getting donors to make the second gift sooner may not be making them more committed. Instead, more committed donors may be making their second gifts sooner.
    b) Gross vs. net value. Has anyone studied the lifetime value of the donors you gain by asking sooner MINUS the lifetime value of the donors you lose by doing that?
    My educated guess is that it’s going to vary widely from one nonprofit to another, and that larger, national organizations can play the numbers game while smaller ones have to know their donors well, and ask only as often as the donors desire to be asked.

  2. Jeff, you know I’m a big fan of your blog. I’m skeptical about this post because:
    a) Selection bias. Getting donors to make the second gift sooner may not be making them more committed. Instead, more committed donors may be making their second gifts sooner.
    b) Gross vs. net value. Has anyone studied the lifetime value of the donors you gain by asking sooner MINUS the lifetime value of the donors you lose by doing that?
    My educated guess is that it’s going to vary widely from one nonprofit to another, and that larger, national organizations can play the numbers game while smaller ones have to know their donors well, and ask only as often as the donors desire to be asked.

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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