Maximizing That FIRST GIFT: Establishing Donor Longevity

Maximizing That FIRST GIFT: Establishing Donor Longevity

We work hard to attract new donors to our cause. The last thing we want is to lose them before they really get to know us. They say that most people judge others on their first impressions. It is the same with new donors. How we communicate with them following that first gift will determine if they choose to give again.

Every organization needs a well-planned FIRST GIFT response program. No matter what the size of that first gift, consider it a test where the donor is trying to decide if your organization is worth their continued investment. Create a set of follow-up communications that:

  1. Welcome your new donor
  2. Thank them and let them know how much you depend on charitable gifts
  3. Provide a general written briefing on your vision, mission, programs, and successes
  4. Provide them with a contact person for questions, ideas, and concerns

FIRST GIFTS are often what can best be called a “TIP” as in a gratuity or the tip of the iceberg. They are probably less than 10% of individual gift capacity; something a donor can easily afford to lose. Most people do not give within their capacity until they know and feel good about the organization. Yet, many organizations capriciously accept the tips that are initially given with no comprehension that if handled properly, much more is available.

We must take the FIRST GIFT very seriously and go the extra mile to maximize the opportunity that it offers for building a new relationship. Here are some ideas to consider as part of your FIRST GIFT program:

  • Set up your systems to call out any FIRST GIFTS for special handling.
  • Have a staff or board member call immediately and personally thank every person who makes a FIRST GIFT no matter what the size.
  • Use that thank you call to learn something about your new donor and share with them something inspiring about your organization. Specifically, you want to know how they heard of you, who among your donors are their friends and associates, and how interested they are in your actual mission. You also want to know how best to communicate—email, home phone, cell, texting, etc…
  • Send their receipt back within 48 hours.
  • Write a personal thank you letter to go with the receipt (or send in a separate envelope) that acknowledges that you know and appreciate that they are a new supporter of the mission. Make sure in your letter to thank them for helping your clients rather than for supporting your organization.
  • If you have capacity, create a monthly orientation for new donors to attend.
  • Develop a Welcome Packet that automatically is sent to all first time donors.

Best fundraising practice says to spend your staff time with those who donate the most. An exception to this rule are those that make FIRST GIFTS. A strong first gift program will unlock their full potential. You may be surprised once you have taken the time to get acquainted and help them form a relationship with your organization.

Michael Friedline
Sparrow Solutions Consultant
Non-Profit Advantage, President
Shoreline, WA



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