5 Ways to Get Repeat Gifts

By Laurence A. Pagnoni, MPA

When you ask a donor to renew his or her support, you’re offering a unique opportunity to make something significant happen in the world, something they deeply want, but cannot affect by themselves. You (the fundraiser) have to be clear about that opportunity and what would happen if it did not exist.

This is what engages donors.

A unique feature of really engaged donors is their desire to build the future with you. For this reason, fundraisers almost always ask donors to give their support over three or five years.

Truly transformative gifts are often made as multi-year pledges which require both the nonprofit and the donor to plan ahead. I’ve found that major donors want to know about multi-year giving (pledging) because it’s a terrific opportunity for them to play a pivotal role in making a positive change.

How do you ask donors to give over multiple years?

Here are a five approaches I’ve used to great success. All embrace fundraising best-practices, including donor appreciation, celebrating successes, and providing opportunities for donor recognition. Here we go!

1. Engage Them

After the gift is made, update donors often about your progress. Send them newsletters, announce new supporters, provide updates on plans, and share news stories about your project. Then call your supporters to chat or, better, meet with them in person. Let your success inspire them to give again. Most nonprofits forget their donors after a gift is made. That kills the possibility of repeat giving.

2. Set Mini Goals

Establish celebration points and mini-goals within your annual fund or your campaign. For example, if you’re conducting a capital campaign, your first goal might be the funds you need to hire an architect or to do the demolition work.

When you reach this point you can return to donors who made one-time gifts, thank them for getting you to your first goal, and then ask them for a renewed gift for the next phase of the campaign. Repeat this strategy for each phase of your annual fund drive or campaign. 

3. Offer Naming Opportunities

Provide naming opportunities for multiple-year givers too, not just for the largest givers. For example, if you have a donor who makes a single-year gift of $10,000 and you have a naming opportunity available at $20,000, return to the donor the following year to present that new option.

Let your donor know that the naming opportunities are for their total campaign commitment so that if they choose to make a repeat gift they’ll receive recognition in the same way as if they had made the gift in one pledge.

My colleague, Terry Axelrod, encourages us to create Multi-year Giving Societies to recognize these donors. I concur.

4. Thank Your Donors

Good stewardship is central to securing repeat support. Make sure you send out acknowledgment letters for donations within 48 hours of receiving them. Also, pick-up the phone and call your major donors: leave a voice message if you don’t reach them. Provide public recognition plaques for donors who want one. When your supporters feel appreciated, they’ll more likely be ready and willing to give again when you ask.

5. Try Again for That Multiyear Pledge

Unless your supporter specifically expressed opposition to making a multi-year commitment, don’t shy away from revisiting a multi-year pledge when asking for a repeat gift. Your donor’s financial situation may have changed over the previous year. He or she may have more confidence in your campaign’s success, and, if you’ve done your job right, will feel more connected to your organization than ever before.

As you ask donors to make repeat gifts, keep these tips in mind. And think about what they represent — appreciation, success, and recognition — when developing new fundraising approaches.

We welcome your comments about this post on the LAPA blog.

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