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Direct Response: The 90 Day Plan

I’ve had numerous conversations with direct marketer and donor development expert Mary Hutchison about what happens right after a person sends your church, ministry, or non-profit organization their first donation.  Like most things in life, first steps matter.  Mary responded with what she calls “The First 90 Days” – it’s an interesting look at how important your follow up really is.  If you have a humanitarian or non-profit organization, pass this around to your team and discuss.  Here’s Mary’s thoughts:

If you need your audience to help underwrite your organization or project, the first 90 days from when a first-time donor gives a gift will determine if they will stay and support you, or move on to the next cause.

We have seen many donor files that 70% or more of the income is coming from these first timers.  One organization, the number was a staggering 97%!

The end result is the entire burden is on the program —the TV “talent” and the producers to work harder and harder bring in new donors.  But they still never grow because people are leaving at a faster pace than they can be replaced. It is discouraging, demoralizing, and totally preventable.

Here is what you need to do:

It is a fact across  donor files that unless a person gives a second gift within 90 days of the first one, there is less than a 10% chance they ever will.  You need to call your IT guy and ask for a report that shows what percent of donors are actually making a second gift in those first 90 days.  Do not accept a middle manager’s guess.  See the black and white numbers and know what you are dealing with.

If you find you are converting about 20%, consider yourself about average for organizations who never really looked at this window.  Now you can start to fix it.
Send a gift in yourself under a different name.  Document every touch  point for 90 days.

With this information, look for things that can prevent that second gift:

Were you thanked within two weeks?  Was the letter warm and affirming?  Did it make it easy for a donor to give again?

Was the second communication close in call to action to what you responded to in the first place (i.e. If you gave to missions, was it a missions appeal vs. if you gave to get a product?)

If you did order a product, did it come in the within two weeks.  (The statement “allow 6 – 8 weeks for shipping and handling does not fly in this Amazon/Ebay world).

The ministries that are seeing better than a 30% conversion rate in that first 90 days have invested in a well tooled strategy that goes out like clock work, building the relationship, meeting the donor’s  needs and desires.  The result:

Moving from a 20% to a 30% conversion rate will do this to your bottom line; for every 1000 new donors that you are bringing on at $100:

–There is an increase in Year One in Gross Income of $19,500
–There is an increase in Year Two in Gross Income of $13,000

And that is just the beginning of the pay-off.

Let me challenge you today to look and see what percent of new donors you are converting in the first 90 days.

The guys on TV and producing it work way too hard to make the phone ring and the website ding.  So don’t lose them on the back-end…

Be ready with the right 90 Day Plan.

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5 Comments

  1. Good job. We need to hear this. According to Kivi MIller in Nonprofit Marketing Guide (best book I’ve read in a while on nonprofit marketing), donors want two things after a gift: thank you and a report on what the money is doing. (thanks Robin). It sounds simple, but I guess the organizations that really do these two things in a timely, personalized manner are few. How sad. It’s good to see the numbers on second gift conversions. Good wake-up call.

  2. I also want to be educated, and I want it to be efficient.
    I recently received a followup tel from a call center asking me to start a regular donation. First thing I did was look up their fund raising efficiency. As expected it was lower than best in class.

    I recognize the apparent dilemma for charities. Personally, I don’t do one-offs except for emergency relief, and I’ve never been converted from those to regular giving.

  3. How about in those 90 days (or at least sometime in the next year) telling me (the donor) how my contribution was actually USED and what was really ACCOMPLISHED…before barraging me with the next urgent request.

    Having been on both sides of the ask/give program, I think it is incredibly important to give progress reports on projects involving donors.  Doing so builds immense loyalty and desire to contribute more.

    But, I kind of think I’m odd man out on this approach.

  4. This is gold Phil. How many organizations spend squillions on a killer acquisition strategy without any consideration – or at least a lack luster conversion and cultivation strategy. I continually see a ledge at 90 days – but at 180 days there is a cliff and funds spent trying to obtain a second gift after that time would be better spent on going to lunch! (taking a major donor of course!)

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