Major individual gifts are the single largest source of philanthropy, by far. The most recent data from Giving USA[Free Summary Download] shows 72% of gifts come from individuals’ annual gifts and an additional 7% from bequests.
The process of individual donor development proceeds along a continuum – from awareness… to education… to involvement… to investment. People must first be made aware of the organization’s existence and its mission. Once this occurs, people who share values enacted by your organization can be identified, further educated and majorly involved.
When the relationship is sufficiently built – and only then — the prospect can be invited to significantly invest to assist in furtherance of your organization’s mission.
I was recently honored to write a full article for About.com Nonprofits addressing the subject of Why Asking Random People for Big Bucks Is Not a Major Gifts Strategy. There I suggested 10 questions you should ask to ascertain whether your prospect is ready for an ask. Here’s a companion 10-step process to help you get your major gifts strategy organized into a written plan.
- Provide regular opportunities at board, committee and staff meetings for those present to submit names of individuals they’ve met since the previous meeting who may be interested in what you do (cross-reference against existing database).
- Determine which mailings new people should receive; decide whether new people should also receive a cover note indicating why they are receiving this mailing (e.g. “At the suggestion of Naomi Bennett, we are sending you…”; “Everyone who joined our recent support group has been added to our mailing list to receive…”; “It has come to our attention that you may be interested in learning more about…”).
- Have volunteers and staff review names (may be done silently or at a screening meeting) to make comments regarding: linkage (connection); ability (capacity); interest (concern).
- Create Initial Key Prospect List (You may wish to organize into Tiers/Categories 1,2,3… in descending order of priority; then attack based on your available staff and volunteer resources – you can’t build relationship without people; no automated emails or generic letters will get this done)!
- Initiate Cultivation
- Develop opportunities for prospects/donors to meet and talk with other volunteers and staff (tours, lunches, receptions, open houses etc., usually beginning with Tier 1).
- Incorporate follow-up strategies into cultivation strategies (e.g., add names to mailing list; send thank you; make phone call; send information about volunteer opportunity or program of interest; invite to a more intimate get-together; write up contact report (staff) or debrief with staff (volunteers) and make a record of this information.
- Send relevant information (e.g., fact sheet, newsletters; annual report; other written materials).
- Develop Involvement Activities
- Direct service opportunities
- Committees; advisory groups; leadership development groups
- Focus groups
- Partnerships with other community organizations
- Advice meetings
- Evaluate where you are in the process (are the right people doing the cultivating/soliciting; are your matching the right programs to your prospect’s interests; should you connect the prospect with other people; did you assess capacity correctly; is the prospect ready for a solicitation; what are the best next steps, and who needs to be involved?)
- Assign the Solicitor(s)
- Solicit the Gift/Invite the Investment
- Make sure timing is right (don’t wait too long; don’t ask too early)
- Be specific about amount and purpose of the requested gift (match the donor’s interests to your organization’s opportunities; assure you demonstrate the impact of their gift so they value your accomplishments – and their own, by investing with you — propose a value-for-value exchange)
- Have a menu of recognition opportunities (this is not important to every donor, but it’s motivational for some)
- Follow through/Acknowledgement (the prospect needs a prompt response, whether they said “yes” or “no”; if information was requested, it should be sent right away; if the prospect should meet with someone else, this meeting should be scheduled for the near future; if the next step is a tour, this should be arranged. Follow through must be a seamless continuum of actions designed to build a sustainable relationship).
- Stewardship (investors must be kept apprised of the good accomplished with their investment; stewardship can be viewed as “cultivation after the fact”, and should be tailored to the donor’s wishes – even if in some cases this means no further contact at all, while in others it means constant contact, a private parking place, and a plaque on the wall).
- Renewal – start the cycle all over again (cultivation/stewardship is a never-ending process – just like any good, sustaining relationship – and that’s a good thing)!
Take advantage of my October Special! Since October is such a critical month for year-end fundraising – and I know how challenging it can be to cut through the clutter and get all the right stuff done before it’s too late – I’m offering my Hour of Power at a huge discount. Yup! You get 90 minutes for the price of 60. I offer a 100% guarantee. Got questions? Contact me!
I’ll be writing more about major gifts development as we approach the giving season, so if you’d like to receive posts and are not yet subscribed to Clairification, please sign up at the top of the page.
Photo: Flikr, Brian Butko