Donating is like dating – no one gets married after the first date

Donating is like dating. No one gets married after the first date. Do they? I get irritated when charities and their staffs treat my donation as a one-time transaction or, worse, like a one night stand.

It typically goes something like this:

  • I make a gift.
  • I receive a receipt.
  • I never hear back from the charity until they want an additional gift, usually double or triple the size of my original gift. Or, they ask me for a regular gift or a major gift in this third interaction.

What’s wrong with this picture?

I liken the situation to dating. I think it should go something like this:

  • I make a gift (this is the first date).
  • I should receive a receipt. I should also receive a warm and fuzzy letter of appreciation and, perhaps, a welcome video or SMS (this is the charity dropping me off after the first date and suggesting we should go out again).
    • You can never thank someone enough or too much!
  • The charity courts me, informs me of ways in which my first gift and the countless others matter.
  • I get asked for a second gift.
    • Remember, do not call the person the next day, after a first day, for fear you will look desperate.
  • I make a second gift (this is the second date. Note: we did not go out again right away and nor did we have a one-night-stand!).
  • Eventually I may decide to make a larger gift or a regular gift (this means we are attracted to one another and are getting serious).
  • The major gift and/or a legacy gift are really about a commitment (this means we are fully committed to one another).

Why is it that a majority of our donor interactions are not about the relationship and instead are focused on the first transaction?

The above analogy may not be politically correct and may make some non-profit staff a bit uneasy. Take a few minutes and think about it. If we spent less time focused solely on the first transaction and more on retention of the newly acquired donors perhaps we would have a lot less attrition.