For years, I have been presenting organizations with mountains of data that prove the donors most likely to give are those who have just given.
Yes, it is counter-intuitive. Yes, asking immediately after the donor has been properly thanked can feel rude and pushy. But it remains one of those unlikely fundraising truths the data force us to accept.
But now I understand it, because it happened to me.
When it comes to charitable giving, the year always seems to slip by, and suddenly it’s December and I find myself frantically writing checks to my favorite charities to make the December 31st tax deadline.
This year, I decided I wanted to do something in addition to writing checks. I visited my county’s volunteer website and found a charity in my neighborhood that needed volunteers to act as a “Secret Santa” for homeless and formerly homeless adults and families.
I volunteered to “adopt” four single adults and a family of six. I was provided with a wish list of items for each adoptee and instructed to choose one or two items for each with a suggested spending limit of $25 per person.
As someone who truly dreads shopping, I quickly came to question why—when presented with hundreds of volunteer opportunities—I chose the one I would enjoy the least?
But a commitment is a commitment, so I soldiered on.
I grudgingly entered a very crowded Target and began to hunt for items on the first wish list when something totally unexpected happened. I realized being a Secret Santa was amazing.
As I ticked off items on the wish list I began to feel what I have heard countless donors say motivates them to give: happiness. Yep, giving was making me happy.
Rather than choose one or two items, I purchased all of the items on each list. It took two Saturday afternoons and trips to multiple stores during peak holiday shopping season. And I loved every second of it!
When I arrived at the charity to deliver my gifts, the staff was incredibly welcoming and even posted a photo of me with the gift bags on their Facebook page.
At this point, I was absolutely in love with this organization. I couldn’t wait to get that good feeling back by giving again.
They had my attention, they had my interest, they had my trust. I was ready to develop a long-term donor relationship with this organization.
If only they had asked.