BIG Tips to Raise BIG Money for Your BIG Mission

If I had to tell you what you need to do to succeed with major gift fundraising in one sentence it would be this:

Identify major donor prospects… qualify them so you know they want to build a deeper relationship with you… cultivate them… visit with them… listen to them… reflect back to them what you heard… ask them for something specific that resonates with their passions… steward their gift and communicate in an ongoing way to make them feel like the hero they are!

Whew – that was a mouthful!

A shorter way to say this is: Meet with donors. Listen to donors. Ask donors.

See — it’s simple!

It’s definitely not rocket science. It’s just good old hard work. Satisfying and rewarding work. And it’s a type of work anyone can learn to do. [If you want to learn, please sign up for the next Certification Course for Major Gifts Fundraisers e-course . It may be the most important investment you make all year. Just one major gift will more than cover the cost].

Over my 37 years in fundraising, 30 of them working in the trenches as a director of development for organizations with budgets ranging from $1 – $40 million, I have asked for a lot of major gifts.  I know what works, and what doesn’t work. Today I want to give you:

(1) some of my best words of wisdom, and also

(2) answers to some of the questions folks frequently ask me .

I hope these tips will help you tweak your mindset and invigorate your systems so you can be more successful fundraising in the coming year!

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10 Approaches to Inspire Philanthropists to Help Your Nonprofit Cause

How Do Major Donors Think About Philanthropy? 

To a large extent, they think about it the same way as anyone else.  They just have more money.

It’s good to remember that major donors are, first and foremost, just people.

And like all human beings, they are on a continual quest for meaning. It’s the existential search to be all that one can be. To feel self-actualized.

And you can help them!

In fact, this is your job. This is part and parcel of your organization’s mission.

You (as executive management, development staff or board member) are a facilitator of philanthropy. Your organization exists, in part, to facilitate your donor’s quest for meaning and teach the joy of giving. To do this effectively, you must be attuned to your donors. And, since the wealthy have the ability to make a larger impact when it comes to furthering your mission, you especially must be attuned to these folks.

In the past I’ve looked at five major donor philanthropic triggers. You need to know about these things, because if you can key into any of them you’ll have a strong basis for pursuing a major gift from the prospect whom you’re approaching:

  1. They feel economically secure.
  2. They are in a reflective phase of life.
  3. They’ve demonstrated a desire to build a closer connection with your cause and community.
  4. They are looking for meaning and a sense of purpose.
  5. They are seeking to identify themselves as the person they want to see reflected in the mirror.

Today I’d like to review six more things you should be on the lookout for; then I’ll suggest four strategies to help you enter into your prospective donors’ worlds so you can make a win/win match – one that will help your major donors simultaneously help your cause and themselves.

Coincidentally, I found a back issue of Lifestyles Magazine from 2008 (yes, I’m a bit of a hoarder) and was struck by some of what the publication had to say—a veritable peek inside the minds of major donors. There’s a clue right in the way Lifestyles (now out of publication) describes their mission (highlights are mine):

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Unless You Do These 7 Things, Your Major Gifts Program Won’t Succeed

Every nonprofit should have a major gifts program.

That’s where the lion’s share of the money is.

It’s a rare organization that has a mailing list large enough to raise a million dollars from a million different $1 donors. But most nonprofits do have major donor prospects hiding in plain sight.

It’s up to you to find them; then move them along a cultivation path that prepares them – and you – to make an ask that results in a win/win values-based exchange.

Let’s review 7 secrets that will guarantee your major gifts program is a success, whatever your size.

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3 Nonprofit Secrets to Rock Major Gift Fundraising

There’s a treasure trove of knowledge and research around major gift fundraising. What works well.  What doesn’t work at all.  What’s, at best, half-baked.

It’s not rocket science.  But there’s definitely art, and some science, involved.

The gestalt way of thinking about the three secrets boils down to simply being:

(1) smart,

(2) systematic and

(3) passionate.

But, I’m pretty pragmatic. So I’d like to give you something more practical.

If I had to pick the top three practical secrets to success, they would be the following:

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Are You Reading Your Major Donors Correctly?

Some years ago I had the opportunity to present a major gifts master class where Jay Love, Founder and President of Bloomerang (and a board member and major donor himself) offered his thoughts on major gifts development from the donor’s perspective.

SO important!

The more that you know, the less they’ll say “No!”

The more you know:

  • what floats your donor’s boat,,,
  • what other things compete for your donor’s attention (not just causes, but also career and family)…
  • how your donor prefers to communicate…
  • how your donor prefers to be wooed…
  • how your donor prefers to be recognized…

… the more likely you’ll get a “Yes.”

If you can’t show your major donor prospect you really know them, how can they trust you’ll be a good steward of their passionate philanthropic investment?

We all want to be known before we enter into a major engagement.

Which brings us to the crux of successful major donor development. Not surprisingly, it begins and ends with the same thing.

Can you guess what that might be?

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Shared Cure-Alls: Philanthropy and Placebo Effect

Stuffed animal with heart of lightCan the act of philanthropy make people feel better?

I say “Yes. Absolutely.” Much has been written about the warm glow that comes from giving.

So why not think about fundraising as a caring act, and fundraisers (aka ‘philanthropy facilitators’) as trusted helpers and healers?

Reframing fundraising in this way can be your key to:

(1) committing to major individual donor fundraising (helping people to be the people they’d like to see in the mirror), and

(2) engaging more staff, volunteers and board members in this noble endeavor (so they experience not just the joy of giving, but the joy of helping others give).

It helps to understand the similarities in findings from functional MRI research on both the placebo and philanthropy effects.

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7 Magic Words that Increase Charitable Donations

You’ve still got time to sprinkle a little magic into your year-end fundraising!

Consider each of these seven words a magic potion unto themselves.

  1. You
  2. Because
  3. Thanks
  4. Small
  5. Immediate
  6. Expert
  7. Support

The more of these words you use, the more powerful a spell your appeal will cast.

Each of these packs a bigger persuasive punch than you might imagine.

 

Let’s take a closer look at how this works.

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Major Donor Fundraising: What to Know about New Tax Law

When the new Tax Bill passed, I wrote How Worried Should Your Nonprofit Be? That was back in January, when the impacts of the new law on philanthropic giving may have seemed remote. Now the end of the calendar year is closing in, so it’s worth taking a look at some of the ways you can help your major donors get the biggest bang for their donation.

Keep in mind, of course, the primary reason people give is not to get a tax deduction. It’s to see themselves reflected in a mirror as the person, deep down, they really want to be.

That being said, if you want gifts you must give them.  Help more than you sell.

And one gift you can offer is a little bit of wisdom about ways donors can maximize the impact of their gift and minimize the cost to themselves. Especially when you’re talking to major donors.  Because, for most of them, the impact of the new tax law will truly be icing on their philanthropy cake.

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You Deserve to Rock Nonprofit Email Subject Lines!

Five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”

— David Ogilvy, advertising legend

Your email subject line matters. A lot.

So this article is all about learning how to rock your online ‘envelope’ – which is really what determines if your email will get opened.

When you stop to think about this, it makes a lot of sense. Your email subject line has a function! And its form should follow that function.

  • First, it must capture attention.
  • Second, it must convince people to open your message.

People’s inboxes are increasingly cluttered, so you need to stand out. Big time!  Really, you’ve probably got no more than two seconds to make an impression.

Do you think carefully about purpose when you create your email subject line?  Do you even craft it at all, or do you delegate this essential function to someone else, perhaps an assistant or someone in your marketing or digital communications department? Someone who perhaps doesn’t really understand the email’s primary purpose as well as do you?

If you’re like most nonprofit fundraisers and marketers, you likely spend a lot of time crafting the perfect email body copy, selecting images and figuring out just the right design that will entice someone to respond to your call to action.  Then, at the last minute, you’re ready to send it and hastily come up with a subject line.

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