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What Inspires a Donor to Make a First-Time Gift?

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

Last week, Sharon shared a beautiful, moving story about her grandmother and her love of giving. It reminded me of many people in my own life as well as donors I’ve interacted with over the years.


Whether it’s a one-time gift or an ongoing commitment, seeing people’s passion for giving - and the impact it has on nonprofits - is a beautiful thing.


While we look at those long-time donors with a sense of admiration, it’s important to remember that the journey to life-long giving has to start somewhere.


At some point, something sparked a donor’s passion and started their journey with a nonprofit. How do we, as fundraisers, create that spark?


I found myself reflecting on that at, of all places, a soccer game a few weeks ago. This has turned into the Summer of Soccer here in St. Louis. Our city has long been known as one of the country’s great soccer cities, and this year, we joined the ranks of MLS when St. Louis CITY SC kicked off their inaugural season. Against all odds, the team is in first place and defying the low expectations that come with an expansion team.


Soccer at City Park has been the hottest ticket in town, and I was lucky enough to watch CITY beat FC Dallas in a thrilling 2-1 game at the end of August. The game was a blast, but the real highlight came before the opening kickoff.


It was Childhood Cancer Awareness Week across the league, and the team created an incredible mission moment before the game. Every guest had a placard that was either white or yellow, and for 60 seconds, the stadium went silent while they asked fans to hold up their placard.


Stadium football

The roaring sea of red turned into a silent picture of white and yellow for childhood cancer awareness. Across the stadium, you could see a glimmer in people’s eyes, and with it, the spark that starts a donor journey.


Best of all, every placard had a QR code on the back so people could make an instant donation to the Siteman Cancer Center. Periodic updates on the video board showed thousands of dollars in donations coming in, and I have to imagine that many of them were first-time donors.


It’s a lot easier to give that first-time gift now than it was before! The advent of QR codes, text to give, and other vehicles makes it easy for nonprofits to capture that passion.


The challenge?


Most of us don’t have 22,000 people in a soccer stadium to take in a coordinated presentation of our mission.


Still, there are ways for you to capture the magic, get a first-time gift, and turn a moment of passion into long-term support for your cause. Here are some ways to make that happen:


  • Make the mission real: We tell clients all the time that people give to people. Stats and grand visions for change are wonderful, but nothing beats being face to face with someone who has benefited from the great work of a nonprofit. List the ways you can show donors the “face” of your mission and find ways to share them every time you interact with donors.

  • Don’t forget to ask: Sounds simple, right? While we all get swept up in the mission moment, it’s easy to forget the call to action. Give the donor a simple request and make sure they know what they can do to get involved in your work. The mission moment at the soccer stadium was driven home by the reminder that anyone in the stadium could pull out their smartphone and get involved.

  • Make it easy to give: If giving is a lengthy process, attrition rates will be high. I love QR codes because they make it easy to give in a matter of seconds; whether it’s that, a simple form, text to give, or another method, make it as easy as possible for your donors.

  • Keep the love alive: We call them first-time gifts instead of one-time gifts because we anticipate more in the future. That only happens if you keep the donor engaged in your mission! Thank the donor early and often, keep them in the loop with what’s happening at the organization, and keep the mission (and asks, as appropriate) in front of them in the future.


These are important principles to keep in mind year-round, but they take on added importance as we approach the end of the year.


The most significant giving months are ahead of us, and now is the time to figure out how you’ll create magic, capture, and bring people along as you work to change the world.


Need help closing the deal with new donors? Team Kat & Mouse are here to help! Drop us a line to set up a free consultation.


Read More About: Resilience in Fundraising

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