Ask A Donor - 5 reasons Why a Donor Doesn't Give After Their First Donation

Believe me when I say I’m a nice person. Pets instinctively like me. I over-tip at restaurants, and I don’t forget to tip hotel housekeepers. Sure, I suffer from the occasional road rage, but I keep my fingers on the steering wheel instead of out the window to avoid making unkind gestures. But I’m sorry, just because I gave to your nonprofit last year does not mean I’m going to give again this year.

Yes, I got your lovely pen in that five pound direct mail piece, but I kept the pen and tossed the rest with my recyclables (see, I recycle!) I also get all your emails, but I delete them immediately, and I’m probably going to unsubscribe soon too because, after deleting 50 of them, I have to ask why I’m still getting them at all!

I know what you’re probably thinking: “What gives? Why won’t you keep donating?”

Sorry, it’s not gonna happen…unless–

“Oh wait a minute, there’s a chance?”

Sure there is!

I’m going to let you in on some ways to win over those one-time donors who are just like me. The short answer? Understand why they gave to you in the first place.

5 Reasons Why a Donor Gives Once and Ghosts

Just because you received a gift doesn’t mean you’ve started a long-term relationship with that donor. It’s like going on a blind date. You may not know what someone’s motivation was for meeting you in the first place. And when the experience seems pretty positive, from your perspective, it’s a head-scratcher when you don’t end up on that second date.

Understanding why a donor gave is how you’ll ensure the relationship continues. Here are five reasons why a donor may have given, so you can learn what you can do to keep that relationship going.

Why Donors Give, Reason #1

They gave to a friend’s crowdfunding campaign

Being a nice person, I’m asked many times by friends, family, and coworkers to support the causes that are important to them, including yours. So when they send me the snazzy crowdfunding form you’d supplied them from DonorPerfect, I donate. I’m a people-pleaser – it’s what I do.

But your mistake is thinking I’d give again when you ask me directly. I have my own charities that I’m passionate about, and I give to them every year, even without a reminder.

Why Donors Give, Reason #2

They gave to your nonprofit on Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday is that genius social media fundraising holiday that puts the focus on donating to charity at a time when people just spent the last four days keeping the economy afloat with lots of shopping. Like a crowdfunding campaign, your one-time donor may have asked family and friends to shift their focus to gifts that really matter: donations to your cause! Given the Giving Tuesday social media trends and desire by some to be seen doing good, they may have loved sharing an “unselfie” on Instagram or Facebook without any thought of doing it again. Remember: your job is not to judge someone’s motivation – it’s to understand it so you can take actions to keep it going.

Why Donors Give, Reason #3

A story on the news or social media motivated them to find a cause like yours

When asked when they began to take COVID-19 seriously in the US, the consensus in a news poll was: the week Tom Hanks announced he had it and the NBA stopped their season. There is nothing like the power of a celebrity or a major news story to direct attention to a cause. Online giving has revolutionized the way we react to current events, from natural disasters and national tragedies to policy changes and social movements. Something they’d never imagined or considered becomes front and center in their life, and they want to be a part of it – whether to help, or to participate in something bigger than themselves.

Why Donors Give, Reason #4

They tagged along with a friend to your fundraising event

Whether your events are live or online, fundraising events are a big day or night “out” on a lot of social calendars. From Monte Carlo gambling nights to golf outings to charitable auctions, people like a fun event, and if a worthy cause benefited from it, all the better!

Why Donors Give, Reason #5

They benefited from giving to you

In some ways, people are like our pets, they are motivated to act in accordance with their self interests – lots of times with a treat. Perhaps you had an incredible giveaway contest that featured a prize they really wanted, so they contributed a few bucks to get a chance to win. Why not? It’s like buying a lottery ticket! Perhaps they knew their boss supported your cause and they wanted to impress to get the promotion (remember – no judging!) Fundraising tax laws, regulations, or other mandates may also provide an incentive to give to you – this is something to consider, especially for corporate and major donors.

The Key to Winning Back Your Lapsed Donors? Know Why They Gave in the First Place

Those are just some of the reasons a person may have given to you without any real affinity for your cause. This makes getting them to donate again even harder. The average nonprofit retains less than half their donors every year, and for most nonprofits only 19% of first-time donors give again. Do you know what your donor retention rate is for first time donors? In DonorPerfect, you can figure it out by looking at the donor retention rate for the current year on the Comprehensive Donor Revenue Analysis report and filtering for donors who gave their initial gift last year. Go take a look right now. I’ll wait.

Yikes! Shocking isn’t it?

Perhaps if you understood a donor’s motivation, you could decide on who and how to reach out to each donor. You can also decide on who not to reach out to so you can save time and money on that expensive direct mail piece or calling them. Yes, there’s a chance a new donor may become passionate about your cause and a lifelong donor. Your data, including the reason why I give, can tell you how likely that is, and if it’s worth it to keep trying.

There are several ways to learn about your lapsed donors:

Run a LYBUNT report

You’re probably saying to yourself right now, “Ugh, do I have to run a report? Can’t I just send an email to everyone without knowing this information? They gave us a gift once!”

I guess you could, but I’m one email away from unsubscribing forever.

So the first order of business is to run your LYBUNT report in DonorPerfect and identify which donors didn’t give again. LYBUNT stands for “Last Year But Unfortunately Not This (year)”. You’re going to want to target these donors differently than everyone else, including whether you should do it at all.

Track donor activity in your CRM

Understanding where they came from could be the key on how to properly ask them again. A system like DonorPerfect tracks where gifts come from – solicitations, events, forms, contacts – you name it! In my example, since you used DonorPerfect’s crowdfunding forms, you know that Lauren asked me to give. I wouldn’t have even thought about donating to you if she hadn’t asked!

So, your job is to make sure Lauren, and all those other people who raised money on your behalf, ask again this year! If she asks me again, I’ll donate (unless we’re not speaking, but remember: I’m a nice person, so we’re cool!). What if she asks me twice a year, would I donate twice? I’m kind of cheap, but if she’s a really good friend, family member, or coworker, maybe I will – she should try me!

Perhaps call on your crowdfunders at the start of all your fundraising campaigns or rally them for holidays people already care about. This is the kind of effort worth trying because you have vital data: you know that I give because of my personal relationships.

Go straight to the source

What if the gift came unsolicited, or after looking at the data, you’re not sure why the donor gave? Send them a very simple text-only email or text message (after you thanked me, of course) asking me one simple question: What made you donate to [YOUR ORGANIZATION]?” Imagine the possibilities open to you knowing the answers to that question, then multiply that by all your donors! This means targeted solicitations with the perfect messaging, fundraising events that I want to attend, news I want to hear, volunteer opportunities I’d consider giving up my not-so-busy weekends for.

Let the “Why” Behind Your Donor Reactivation Advise Your Donor Retention Strategy

Tailor your solicitations to the other reasons people gave that first gift, or learn the reason why it’s not worth your time, money, and effort to solicit further.

Track this information in DonorPerfect. Report on it. Meet about it. Take action on it. Knowing this information is key to retaining donors, which is the key to sustainable fundraising for your mission. And to my friends, family members, and coworkers: I’ll be expecting your “ask” with my credit card in hand (and a dwindling bank account soon after, but it will all have been worth it 😉).

Download Your Donor Retention Toolkit

by Sam Goldenberg

Aug 24 21
One Comment
  1. Well said! I made a similar point at https://dennisfischman.com/ty-thu-donor-mean-give-to-you/. It's worth having a procedure for reaching out to these donors that speaks to their reason for giving in the first place.

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