It makes you wonder. You see people on your nonprofit’s list of donors who gave once–sometimes very generously–and then didn’t give again. Not in a week, a month, or year. Never. “What happened?” you ask.
Recently, I was one of those one and done donors, and I thought telling my story would help you understand why people don’t give again, and what to do about it.
When and why I gave the first time
I hope you remember the horrific shooting in Buffalo, NY. Less than six weeks ago, on May 14, 2022, a young white man drove two hours so he could find a Black neighborhood and shoot up a supermarket there. Ten people died.
(I wouldn’t have to ask “Do you remember?” if we hadn’t had 39 more mass shootings in this country since then. A mass shooting nearly every day! Please do not get me started on the need for gun safety and the insidiousness of the Great Replacement Theory which targets both Jews and people of color. We could be here all day.)
Anyway, someone I know on Twitter called for donations to several Black nonprofit organizations in Buffalo. I looked into them, and I thought they were doing good work. It seemed like they would need more resources after the shooting than ever before. So I gave.
Give again? So soon?
You might not expect I’d give a second donation so soon. I usually don’t. But experts in the field say that soon after the first donation is a great time to ask, because the donor hasn’t yet forgotten why they gave the first time. (I surely didn’t!)
Donors who give again soon also have a greater chance of giving the third, fourth, etc. times. In fact, the lifetime value of a donor who makes the second gift soon is multiple times that of one who waits for a year or more.
I know all this. I’m in the field, after all! So why did I intend not to give again–and what could the Buffalo nonprofits have done to change my mind?
Why I didn’t give again
Like many donors of a certain age, I have a little list. They’re the organizations I’ve supported year in and year out, some for decades. I know, like, and trust these nonprofits. I’m loyal to them.
In contrast, my gifts to the Buffalo organizations were what people call disaster donations. I knew when I gave them that I would be giving to other organizations to combat the structural racism that led to the supermarket shooting. That’s a long-term donation strategy of mine. These gifts were to meet an immediate need.
Disaster donations to your nonprofit are hard to get renewed. Like donations in memory of an individual after they have just died, they come from people who aren’t necessarily meaning to give to YOU. They want to use their donation to show support for other people.
What might have made me give again?
It’s really hard for a nonprofit to get a disaster donor to become a regular donor. Try your best, and you still are likely to get no response from the majority. They are truly one and done.
What could the organizations I gave to have tried that might possibly have spurred my interest in giving again?
- Send a personal thank-you. Some of the groups I gave to sent no reply from the organization: they just let PayPal or GoFundMe do the job. The rest sent email that read like a cash register receipt or a record for the IRS. None sent an email–let alone a letter!–that made me glad I gave.
- Follow up with a welcome series. Even for a regular donation, reminding the donor who you are, what you do, and why they gave is essential. For a disaster donor, it may be the first time they really pay attention!
- Give them another way to feel involved. Can they sign a petition, call a legislator, show up for an event? Can they volunteer their time for the cause? The more invested they feel, the more they are likely to invest in the future.
- Ask. Not in the thank-you letter itself (the dreaded “thask”), but in a separate email, letter, or phone call. People don’t give if they are not asked…unless they are far more committed to the organization than your first-time donors are going to be!
Is your organization set up to persuade all donors that they made the right decision when they gave?
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