From first gift to last, a donor’s involvement with a charity might be as brief as a one-time click on a “donate” button to a lifetime of support. To guide those first-gift donors on their philanthropic journey with your organization, you need a map.
In The Donor Lifecycle Map: A Model for Fundraising Success (Charity Channel Press, 2017), author Deborah Kaplan Polivy, Ph.D., explains that the Donor Lifecycle Map provides a framework for not only building a plan to retain donors but also to move them along to the ultimate or endowment gift.
Set aside the Donor Pyramid for the time being (this may be difficult) and think of an open circle instead: first gift, second gift, second-year active, multiyear active, major or “stretch” gifts (gifts seemingly out of proportion to donors’ resources that require them to make sacrifices or live more modestly than their income would allow) and ultimate gift.
Once an individual has made that first gift, the next task is to keep them by moving them to the second gift. The key to advancing donors along the Donor Lifecycle Map is asking how to do it. How do you move first-year donors to second-year donors — and beyond? Do you have the tools that you need to do so?
It really does not make much difference whether you count the amount of money you raise or the number of donors you retain. The goal in either case is to move donors forward and not lose them along the way to the ultimate gift. For the most part, first gifts are not being converted into second donations. If the process continues, the number of people in the pipeline to major or stretch giving will decline.
Much greater effort must be made to not only increase the number of second-gift donations but also more strongly connect those already in that segment—no matter how few there may be — to your organization as second-year active contributors.
Multiyear-active donors provide a good potential source of major or stretch gifts as well as ultimate contributions, and they merit their own development managers or “philanthropy concierges.” These supporters need the most cultivation if your organization is truly interested in increasing the number of its major-gift donors and building an endowment.
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