What Happened BEFORE Donors Gave Their Million Dollar Gift May Surprise You

Updated: May 2

Harvard University has 254 million-dollar-donors. Long before they gave their million, most of these donors did one thing. They gave a "test gift" of $100 or less.

A good friend of mine recently recounted how he felt moved to give a significant gift to a local nonprofit leader. He had never given to this leader or his organization before. He submitted the check, feeling like he had done something divine. This was money he could have spent on himself, but he gave it away instead.

And he felt good.

He felt really good!

But there was no recognition of the gift in any way. My friend couldn't help but wonder, "Had he received the check?” Yep, the check cleared the bank.

After a few days, he heard nothing.

After a few weeks, he heard nothing.

After a few months...nothing.

After a few months, my friend no longer felt good about his giving to that organization.

Knowing that I would understand, he lowered his voice and said, "I will NEVER give to him or his organization again."

It was then that my friend shared a very telling statement, "It speaks to what kind of person he is…I hate it, but I have lost some respect for him."

Studies tell us that most first-time donors never give a second gift.

BUT, IF you can get them to give a second gift, the odds of their joining you in your mission with a third, fourth, and fifth, or a million dollar gift SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASE.

So, THE biggest thing you can do to get that second gift: CELEBRATE THE FIRST ONE!

All nonprofits, missionaries, and churches should have a plan to welcome and celebrate first-time givers into their giving community.

Five Takeaways:

#1: Major donors will often test your mission, your systems, and you.

The survey of Harvard's 254 million-dollar-donors showed the majority started with a first-time gift of $100 or less.

Your immediate response to a donor's first gift will either shut down elevated giving from seasoned givers or open the door wider for increased giving.

How many millionaires stopped giving to your organization after their first gift went uncelebrated?

How many donors to your organization never give above the 'tip' level because their contributions have never been duly honored?

#2: A first-time gift is a prime indication of a donor's readiness to engage in relationship with your organization.

How you respond to THAT gift can make a HUGE difference in that person's life and your organization.

#3: Failing to engage a first-time donor when giving their first gift can instigate any number of unintended messages.

  • This organization is not grateful for my gift.

Most people don't give to be thanked, but the absence of the simplest of human kindness borders on rudeness and ingratitude.

  • My gift is not important.

  • My gifts don't matter.

  • I wonder if the organization received my gift?

  • Did I make a mistake in giving here?

#4: Ignoring first-time gifts can demonstrate a culture of mediocrity.

Organizations that don't celebrate first-time givers don't operate at the level of excellence required to accomplish impossible purposes. A culture of mediocrity does not motivate major donors to give. Without any further involvement, it lets donors know that there is a culture of mediocrity in some level at that organization.

#5: Most fundraisers/pastors do not connect this extraordinary decision with the just as extraordinary spiritual opportunity.

This incredible moment is not a business transaction reserved for the business secretary. It is a bold step into the spiritual life of your organization. It is a proclamation that the person is coming under your pastoral care. When someone shares their treasure with your organization, it is no time to act like it was their assigned duty, and no thank you is required.

Why don't nonprofits, missionaries, and churches have a plan for celebrating first-time gifts?

  • There has not been a celebration of first-time givers in the past.

  • Their donation software doesn't support flagging first-time gifts.

  • 'We say thank you once a year in our annual statement.'

  • 'We have too much to do already.'

  • The wrong staff (or no) person is in charge of fundraising.

First-time giver notes are really powerful. Getting started:

  • Consider nonprofit software that automatically schedules a task and alerts the right people when a donor gives for the first time (I set all my clients up on Bloomerang).

  • If you have an accounting team, have them immediately give you the names and addresses of first-time givers no later than 48 hours after they received the gift.

  • Make it handwritten. It doesn't matter if your handwriting looks like it came from an archeological dig; the personal touch is what matters.

  • Address the envelope in your handwriting as well.

  • Just a few sentences work wonders.

  • Have some board members write notes as well.

I believe nonprofits are led by 'angels' who often can know little about fundraising. Because of that, I have created a cheat sheet with copies and examples of some great thankyous. You can download it for free, no strings attached.

Refuse to remain naïve about the power of great 'thankyou's. Get my gift, "Getting That Elusive Second Gift By Writing Better Thankyous" and start down the path to getting your organization the money it needs!




Stories: The Currency Nonprofits Collect To Pay Their Donors

Your Response To A Gift Speaks VOLUMES

Why Your Nonprofit MUST Be Able To Describe A World Where It Is NOT Needed

Stop Asking Donors To Help You Help People

Do I Have To Meet With Donors Face-To-Face?

Get David's Latest Posts In Your Inbox Each Week

15 views0 comments