Updated: Mar 29
A pastor friend and I are reading through Fusion, by Nelson Searcy. The book is about how Searcy, a fledgling church planter in New York City began to harness the power of first-time guests at his infant church.
A powerful realization struck Searcy in an extraordinary moment. He began to see his first-time guests as divine gifts that he had failed to celebrate with thankfulness.
At his church of fifty, Searcy had begun to notice and then dream about the people who visited his church for the first time.
He began to see their first-time visit as a gift that he should celebrate.
He determined that the average number of guests in his church each week was 1.5. "I was struck by the realization that our little congregation could more than double in a year if we were able to keep every first-time guest God was sending us."
"I [began] to realize that my response - or lack of response - to a gift speaks volumes to the giver. What you do with a gift you have received speaks volumes about your level of appreciation." - Nelson Searcy
Searcy began to dream of what his church would look like if he would make the all-out effort to receive and celebrate these first-time guests as extra unique divine gifts.
What would it look like if he received each guest as a providential gift from God? Could he, with intentional effort, make a plan that would more honor these guests as divine gifts? Was there a plan his church could follow that would more inspire his guests to make that second visit?
A new perspective of these first-time guests as gifts, Searcy contemplates:
"I have come to understand that receiving a gift always demands some kind of reciprocity. I've also begun to understand that my response - or lack of response - to a gift speaks volumes to the giver." - Nelson Searcy
Searcy concludes that not having a well-thought-out plan to integrate his first-time guests into the life of his church was a snub to the giver of these gifts.
"What you do with a gift you've been given speaks volumes about your level of appreciation." - Nelson Searcy
Selah. Pause and think about that.
You should know that today, Nelson Searcy's church has grown into thousands with campuses all over New York City and Boca Raton.
"My slips have taught me that failing to say thank you to the right people at the right time leads to embarrassment." - Nelson Searcy
What can nonprofits learn from Searcy's journey?
1. Like Searcy's first-time guests who never returned, most first-time donors never give a second gift.
Most first-time donors to nonprofits never give a second gift. Studies tell us that only two out of every ten first-time donors ever give a second gift. 80% of your new donors this year will not be donors next year.
MOST FIRST-TIME DONORS NEVER GIVE A SECOND GIFT.
Why is that?
THE NUMBER ONE REASON FIRST-TIME DONORS DON'T GIVE AGAIN IS THAT THEY ARE NOT PROPERLY CELEBRATED.
This week, a friend told me how his father-in-law gave a major gift to help build a school. No one ever came to personally thank him. He was furious. So much so, that he demanded his gift back! True story!
"How you respond when you've been given a gift - and what you do with the gift itself - proves just how much you really appreciate it." - Nelson Searcy
2. Know how you will thank first-time donors before you ask them to give.
Most nonprofits spend far more time asking and far less time thanking.
PLAN AHEAD. Before you ask, make sure you have brainstormed how to truly celebrate donors when they give to your nonprofit for the first time.
Just this week, I was looking over a list of major givers with a client. On the top of their list was a donor who gives five-digit gifts. Looking at his history, we were shocked to see that his first gift years ago was $25!
Somehow, this donor felt SO good about his initial gift that he gave again and at a much higher level.
Uhm... Hello? Major gifts flow from minor touches.
THE biggest giving program globally, Harvard University, has more million-dollar gifts than anyone else in the world. The majority of those givers' first gift was less than $100. (Read More Here)
HOW YOU RESPOND TO FIRST-TIME DONORS CAN DETERMINE IF THEY EVER GIVE AGAIN.
Develop a Welcome Packet: Make a welcome packet that includes:
A welcome letter from you that says a heartfelt thank you and outlines the donor’s impact.
A past newsletter
Any other marketing collateral from your nonprofit
2. Involve your board in the welcoming process
Get your board to help you write thank-you’s to first time donors
Educate your board to the power of celebrating first-time gifts
Give your board great examples of good thank-you notes they can follow
Just recently I gave to a local charity for the first time. I WAS BLOWN AWAY BY THEIR RESPONSE! Kristoff Cohran and Mission 3E responded to my first-time gift with a welcome packet that made me glad I gave and inspired me to give again!! Kristoff has given me permission to share their welcome packet with you. FREE, a gift from me (and Mission 3E!). Use Mission 3E’s packet to inspire your own. JUST DO IT!!