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Three Steps to Move a First-Time Giver into a Major Donor

Reprinted from Kivi's Nonprofit Communications Blog

Converting a first-time donor into a major donor is easier than you think. In fact, if you apply these rules, you can convert the majority of your first-time donors into major givers. All it takes is cultivation. The secret sauce is thanking your donors properly, learning more about your donor's interests, and holding yourself accountable. Ready to cue the music and get started?

Step one: Thank the bejesus out of your donor.

Out of 1.52 million different organizations, your donor chose you. Congratulations! I recommend celebrating by telling that donor just how thankful you are for his or her gift. Bonus points if you:

  • Get a handwritten thank-you card out the door in 48 hours
  • Have a board member thank the donor as well
  • Connect the gift with a meaningful outcome it will have, i.e., giving a fragile kitten a lifesaving vaccine

Why get your board member engaged in thanking a new donor? Because being thanked personally by a volunteer board member is the most powerful and meaningful kind of thanks a donor can get. It also has the added benefit of making your board member feel confident and enjoy fundraising. Who doesn't want board members feeling excited and empowered about fundraising?

I know some folks out there are saying they don't have time for this. To quote my friend Shanon Doolittle, "Saying thank-you is a privilege." Donors are under-giving with their first gifts, and they don't know what is waiting for them at higher gift levels. My colleague wrote an incredible white paper on this very topic, In the Mind of the Donor.

Step two: Learn more about your donor.

We have many tools at our disposal to learn more about our donors, some free and some paid. Paid tools can screen your donor's wealth capacity. Free tools include:

  • Google search and setting up a Google alert search on the donor's name
  • Adding the donor to your network on LinkedIn
  • Liking the donor's company on Facebook
  • Following the donor on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest

In addition to these tools, I recommend asking your donor questions to reveal his or her interests. Use every moment with your donor strategically to learn more about them and connect them to your cause. You can ask them at least one of these questions when you call to thank them for their gift. And don't forget to ask how they'd like to hear from you as you reach out to them to let them know more about how their gift is making an impact. In this multichannel world it's more important than ever that we honor our donors' communication preferences. Some of my favorite questions to reveal donors' interests are:

  • What made you decide give to us?
  • What was the best gift you ever gave and what made it great?
  • If you could change the world, what would you do?

Step three: Set a revenue goal and a cultivation plan for your donor.

Lewis Carroll said, "If you don't know where you're going any road will get you there." This is especially true in fundraising. How many times have you gone to a meeting where people talked about the right strategy to approach a donor but nothing ever happened? In step 2 you researched your donor to learn more about them and their capacities. Leverage those data into a solid time bound of meaningful interactions with those donor and a dollar amount for which you will ask. If you want some help on metrics you should set for yourself as gift officer, I recommend this webinar on gift officer accountability.

Your donor is waiting. Get on your way!

Three-Steps-to-Move-a-First-Time-Giver-into-a-Major-Donor_Rachel-Muir.jpgRachel Muir, CFRE, Pursuant
© 2014, Pursuant

Rachel Muir, CFRE, is vice president of training at Pursuant, where she transforms individuals into confident, successful fundraisers. When she was 26 years old, Rachel Muir launched Girlstart, a nonprofit organization to empower girls in math, science, engineering, and technology, in the living room of her apartment with $500 and a credit card. Several years later she had raised over $10 million dollars and was featured on Oprah, CNN, and the Today Show. Catch Rachel at an upcoming training at Pursuant or follow them on Twitter @pursuant.

Topics: Fundraising