Getting Major Donors

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A recent training I did for a client on the process of getting Major Gift donors. This client\'s particular challenge was a Board with few or no contacts. This process skirts leveraging Board …

A recent training I did for a client on the process of getting Major Gift donors. This client\'s particular challenge was a Board with few or no contacts. This process skirts leveraging Board contacts.

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  • 1. Getting Major Donors
    Karen HornMajor Gifts OfficerAmerican Red Cross of Northern New Jersey
  • 2. The Basic Process of Major Gifts
  • 3. Prospecting
  • 4. Finding Prospects Beyond the Usual Means
    The “usual means” is through Board Members, newspapers, leads. Is a great way to start, but in the current economy “cold calling” is necessary.
    Put yourself in contact with the prospective donors
    Have Board Members take you to their favorite Country Clubs. Don’t play have them just play golf, but go to the bar and mingle.
    Identify events that CEO’s attend and go
    Create events that will target the level of prospects you want.
    Get your MGO’s highlighted events. Better yet, at your own organization’s events.
    Example: We all flock to the honoree of an event, why not have your MGO be an honoree for the amount of money they’ve raised and have prospective donors flock to him/her?
  • 5. Identifying a Strong Prospect
    Identifying and researching a donor can often be the same step
    Consider the likelihood of giving a donation to any organization
    Consider their capacity to give
    Gage the prospect’s level of interest in your organization
    A donor is not always interested in the entire organization. Do not discard a possibility if they display interest in only one program.
  • 6. Research a Prospect
    The most important aspect of research is creating a donor’s character profile
    Identify events/places where your MGO’s are likely to meet this donor
    Attend these events if possible, put your MGO’s in their path
    If possible, identify the prospect’s phone, email and address.
    Never stop researching!
    Set up google alerts for even the most established donors
  • 7. Contact = Communication = The Most Important Step
    Communication Plans are the foundation of your entire fundraising program
    How often, when, where, how, and why you contact donors should be defined for a minimum of one year increments
    How much does this plan cost your organization?
    Mailings cost money
    Systematically contact every prospect
    If the communication is free (phone call, email): do not stop contacting this prospect until they tell you to stop
    If communication costs money (mailings): define how long you will keep prospects and lapsed donors on the list
    Always track all communication attempts. Note which finally works.
  • 8. Cultivation
  • 9. Cultivation: The First Meeting
    The first meeting is not the time to ask for a gift, it is your chance to get to know each other
    Inform them about the overall organizational picture
    Ask questions!
    What interests the donor about the organization
    How often should we contact you
    How would you like to be more involved?
    Most importantly, when can we meet again
  • 10. Individualize Communication
    The communications/contact schedule should be consistent across your organization until a prospect/donor states otherwise
    Most major gift donors will ask to be contacted in a specific manner over a specific period of time.
    Adhere strictly to the timeline they define.
    Imposing a timeline on a donor or prospect is a grave mistake!
    Ask regularly if prospects/donors are happy with the amount of communication they are receiving
  • 11. Individualize Communication Content
    Just because you love every aspect of your organization does not mean your prospect/donor does
    There is a definitive link between the level of donation and the donor’s interest level.
    Prospects/Donors rarely state they are not interested.
    Proactively listen. Do they lean forward when you talk about one program? Do they ask more questions? Do they only respond to one mailing?
    Capitalize on this. If you note they’re clearly more interested in one aspect over another, then redefine that prospect/donors communication plan to emphasize their program of interest.
  • 12. Be Creative
    We are all after the same major donor
    And we are all following this same process: so stand out
    Create one or two communications/touch points per year that are different and personalized
    This does not require grand gestures
    Hand deliver cookies at Christmas
    Send a $5 gift card to a coffee shop, ask to meet them for a coffee
  • 13. Cultivation Meetings
    Cultivation meetings must be at the prospect/donor’s convenience
    Do not force the conversation, guide it, but don’t force it.
    Remember that the individual is doing this for fun and on their time off.
    This is important!
    You are not a coworker to them, you are a confidant guiding them toward making a better community
    Remember this! And treat them accordingly.
  • 14. What To Talk About at a Meeting
    Feel free to ask a donor what other organizations they are donating to or meeting with
    Be knowledgeable about these organizations
    Never disparage another organization
    Ask about their work
    Ask about family
    Talk about yourself
    An update about your organization is a reason to meet
  • 15. Cultivation Never Ends
    Did you notice I almost always use “prospect/donor” above?
    The only difference is who has already given a gift
    The most important aspect of cultivation is that it never ends
    A gift is not the end, but the last step to that cycle. The next cycle begins with stewardship and moves back to cultivation
    Phone calls, emails, meetings must continue until the prospect/donor requests that they end
  • 16. The Primary Goal
  • 17. What You Want From the Donor
    The primary goal is exactly what you want from this specific individual
    The goal should be concise, but not precise: We wish donor X to give $200,000 toward the Youth Program.
    The steps toward attaining the goal is “cultivation”
    Throughout the process qualify and requalify the prospect/donor
    Is donor X still interested in the Youth Program to give $200,000 toward it, or is he/she becoming more interested in the Animal Program?
    The ask should occur when you can definitively answer “yes”
  • 18. The Goal and the Communication Plan
    The Primary Goal should guide the communication plan, but not override it.
    Even if a donor is giving $1 million toward the building of a structure, keep them informed on all aspects of your organization. Just make sure that you send them regular updates on the building.
    Continuing the donor on the communication plan gives you a door to continue talking to them after the gift has been implemented
    Gives donors information on how they’re helping the bigger picture
  • 19. Qualifying the Primary Goal
    As you qualify the Primary Goal, you will be leading yourself step by step to the ask.
    Don’t be afraid to outright ask a prospect if they’re interested in supporting a program.
    Test your goal with a prospect by asking for small gifts in areas of possible interest
    Always try to gear these gifts toward your primary goal.
    If they say no, this is a good indication that they may not be interested in your plan for them. But qualify this no before you assume they’re not interested
  • 20. Test Gift Example
    If you are working with a prospect with the capacity for a $20,000 gift, you may ask for $1,000 toward an event.
    If yes, they are becoming invested in your organization.
    If no, ask why not, and adjust your communications accordingly
    Example. A donor may not yet feel the organization does enough good. Start discussing more case statements, organization tours of your programs/facility, etc.
  • 21. When to Make the Ask
    When you absolutely know what a donor is interested in, and their interest level, you will know when to make the ask
    This process is much shorter for an established donor than for a strong prospect
    Do not try to stick to a predefined schedule. Let this play out naturally.
    Remain flexible: always look for an opportunity to qualify or make a ask, if not “the” ask
    Do not let the relationship lag in the “cultivation” step
  • 22. How Do I Know if Cultivation is “Lagging”
    Lagging is when the donor is showing no more or less interest in your organization or program
    If this starts occurring early in the cultivation process, and the individual is still a “prospect”, change your cultivation techniques
    If you’re just meeting for dinners, then meet at your office, or at a program site
    Do something that will make the donor “see” your organization in process
    Bring a Board Member/Executive along
    If this starts just before “the” ask, then jump ahead and make the ask. Even if the answer is “no” it will create an opening in the conversation
  • 23. “No” is not the end
    Do not take a “no” personally
    Do not be afraid to discuss the prospect’s answer.
    Do not take the answer at face value.
    A no will often give you more insight than a yes and can often be more valuable in growing the relationship
    Organizations often make the mistake of ending the discussion after a yes and then slotting a donor into that area. Ex. “youth program donor, ask for X amount next year”
    No will force you to continue the discussion
  • 24. Yes!
    “Yes!” Is frankly most organizations’ greatest downfall
    It is exciting, but it’s not the end!
    The day after you receive the check, say thank you, and then go back to slide 10 and begin again
  • 25. Stewardship
    Stewardship is the first step to renewed cultivation
    Say thank you as publicly and as often as the donor wishes
    Ask donors if there is more that your organization can do to thank them
  • 26. Final Overview
    Our next meeting will discuss communications