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Speaker Offers Ways to Get the Vital Second Gift

NEW YORK — Acquiring a donor is an investment, so it's the second gift that can really benefit an organization, according to a speaker at the Association of Fundraising Professionals' 24th Annual Fundraising Day yesterday at the Marriott Marquis.

“Invest the most where the potential payback is the biggest,” said Joan H. Smyth, vice president of direct marketing at Covenant House, in a session titled “Getting That Second Gift.”

First-time donors are just “tryers,” she said. The second gift offers potential to convert the tryers into long-term donors.

Smyth suggested tactics for getting that second gift.

The first was to thank the donor for the first gift within a week of the donation. Covenant House sends thank-yous out in three days, she said. If it's impossible to get them out that quickly, prioritize by sending them for large donations first.

The purpose of the thank-you is to restate your mission and warm them up for the next solicitation, Smyth said.

The next tip: Mail early and often. Covenant House mails to its house file 22 times yearly, she said.

“You'll hear this every direct mail session you ever go to — but test, test, test,” Smyth said.

Renew donors the way they were acquired, she said. If they were brought on with a premium, try another premium to get the second gift.

As for packages, “use your winners every chance you get,” she said. Covenant House keeps track of its top five packages and mails them to new donors regularly.

Though it isn't a mailing tactic, Smyth also suggested using the phone to personally welcome new donors as well as to contact donors before they lapse. Welcome calls are effective because they are not a request for another donation, and most people rarely get such calls, she said.

“People like to be special,” Smyth said. To that end, inviting donors to join clubs for high-dollar contributors can get another gift, she said.

Perhaps most importantly, Smyth said, expenditures for acquiring second gifts depend upon the organization. She recommended spending at least as much as would be invested in acquiring a new donor.

Never give up, Smyth urged, as even a lapsed donor can be more valuable than a new prospect.

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