Anatomy of a Committed Donor
Another likely breakdown in transitioning from first to second gift is when the donor's second contact with the organization is a largely or entirely unrelated experience from the initial one. How likely is it the donor will feel as though he or she knows what to expect when interacting with you? And how can the seed of trust planted with the first gift be grown if there is no reference to how it was used to help the cause in the second donor "touch"?
All this occurs in the microcosm of the first-to-second-gift scenario. When you extend this thinking to all the other "touches" (e.g., call center, e-mail marketing, website, social media, traditional media) your organization has with the donor, it is almost impossible to imagine a relationship being established unless the organization is actively, consistently and strategically pursuing one.
Commitment is an attitudinal framework. We are measuring how the donor thinks and feels. This is in direct contrast to what many nonprofits focus on, which is more typically a behavior-only view.
The great strength and weakness of direct marketing is this singular reliance on past behavior (most notably, the financial metrics of recency, frequency and monetary amount) to presume future behavior. Donors get put into buckets based on their past RFM behavior. This proven process still requires living in the world that was and assuming it always will be — good behavior begets good behavior and vice versa. The big problem is this belief creates a self-fulfilling prophecy for poor retention because the formerly "good" donor with, for example, two "missed" contributions quickly becomes tomorrow's "bad" donor — the dreaded shift from 12 to 13 months recent.
The even bigger problem is that nonprofits wind up implicitly accepting the premise that there is no real way (other than brute force of more solicitations) to impact future behavior — an almost fatalistic view that good donors are born, not created.