Is That a Tip or a Gift?


It That a Tip or a Real Gift?

Most people test out a nonprofit with a small first gift.  How (and how soon) the organization responds determines if there will be future gifts from that donor, and whether or not they will get larger.

In fundraising we call these first gifts—a “tip.”  It is similar to what happens in a restaurant.  After paying the stated price for your food, you might choose to leave a few dollars as a show of appreciation for the service.  A tip is money given with little expectation of return.  Whatever the amount, it is generally 5-10% of what that donor could comfortably give if they really cared and were engaged.

Never settle for just the tip from your donors.

If that first gift is $1000, which for most donors would be significant, it probably means that your donor has capacity to give you $10,000 or more on a regular basis.

Look beyond the “tip” and work for a real gift.

When it comes, you will know that the donor is committed and cares deeply about the mission.

In this season of Lent, we hear a lot about sacrifice, starting with our Lord’s amazing sacrifice to redeem all of us from sin.

What brought Jesus to the cross where he was willing to give his all for us?

Can we take that example and apply it to our donors?

The sacrifice Jesus made came out of his intimate firsthand knowledge of humankind.  He came to this world and lived among us, learning our good, bad, and ugly.  Then he went to the cross on our behalf out of love and devotion.

We can do things that connect our donors to our shared mission in such a way that they will want to stretch and even sacrifice in their giving (money, time, prayer) to our organization.  Here are a couple ways you can make that happen:

  • Treat any first gift as a treasure to be recognized and appreciated. With any size first gift take the time to call the donor on the phone and deliver a personal thank you.  Use the call to learn a bit more about them and why they gave to your organization.  If you can’t get through leave a warm and grateful message with your contact information.
  • When you receipt a donor’s first gift, add some information about your organization to the envelope (like a factsheet, or recent newsletter). Invite them for a tour.  Whatever you do, make sure you are communicating that you truly want them to get to know the organization, its leadership, and its programs.
  • Help all your donors get to know your organization better. Your programs are a conduit for those donors to do mission.  They need to know the people you serve, what you do, and how you do it.  The more they learn, the more committed they will become and the more willing they will be to give gifts and not just tips.  Tell them stories about real people and situations.  Set up tours of your facility.  Give them briefings and reports.  Don’t focus so much on what you and your staff are doing.  Instead, emphasize how lives are being changed (benefits not features).

There is nothing as fulfilling as a donor who is on fire for your shared mission.  They will tell others and recruit more donors.  They will prioritize your organization over their other charitable choices.  They will give more if it is needed to make a specific program or project happen.  They will share the responsibility for success when they are fully engaged.

Many of us find small ways to sacrifice during Lent.  It helps show honor and respect for what Jesus has done for us.  Good follow-up and an attitude of gratitude for your donors will lead them to a greater involvement in your mission.  Their treasure will follow their hearts.

Michael Friedline
Sparrow Solutions Group, Consultant

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