You just released a killer appeal into the donor universe and you know it’s going to yield big results. The donations start rolling in and you have made a dent in your acquisition target. Congratulations!

Err… maybe hold that congratulations for a minute. Many seasoned fundraisers agree that a donor is not really yours until they make a second gift.  So how do you make that conversion? In the words of Simon Sinek, “It starts with Why”. Why do donors give and why would they repeat the behaviour?

There are lots of reasons for why donors give, but really, it comes down to doing something that makes them feel good.  It’s the same thing that causes all of us humans to irrationally (at times) strive for pleasure: dopamine. Huey Lewis had it right, it’s the drug that our brains just can’t ever get enough of.

So what’s the dope on dopamine? It not only processes the good things we bump into in life, it also programs our pre-frontal cortex (the part of the brain involved in decision making) to poke us when the pleasurable stimulus is available.

So how do you get a donor to make another gift to your cause? In a nutshell, keep making them feel good! Sounds easy, right? It actually is, and here are three simple ways to convert that first gift into a second:

  1. Thank them… promptly! Did I mention promptly? Have you ever given a gift to someone only to have it met with crickets or with a long overdue thank you? Remember how that felt? So do your donors. If you only do one thing, thank your donor promptly, genuinely and get as personal as your budget will allow. It’s the easiest way to reaffirm their decision to give to you. Acknowledgement feels wonderful!
  2. Tell them what their gift did. My fellow Good Worker Fraser Green wrote the book (literally) on connecting altruism with impact. In 3D Philanthropy, Fraser talks about how donors give with their heart but validate with their head. Following up with evidence of impact strengthens your donor’s resolve that they made the right decision to give to a cause that values their support and treats it with care. By nature, your donor wants to feel like they make a difference, no matter how small. Affirmation is completely underrated and feels amazing!
  3. The last and perhaps most overlooked way to improve your odds of a second gift? Ask! Remember that part about the pre-frontal cortex being on high alert for feel-good moments? You’ve thanked them genuinely and shown them that their gift makes a difference. Now invite them to give and feel good all over again. You may need to ask more than once because timing is everything. So mix it up, but don’t be shy about asking.

While you won’t convert every single first-time donor into a second gift, you can definitely improve your odds by offering repeated opportunities for good feelings. You appreciate their gift, so make sure they know!  Acquisition is expensive but if you take the time and care to tend to your first date with love and appreciation, it will evolve into a lasting love affair with your cause.