Giant gummy bear

The Giant Mid-Level Fundraising Opportunity Your Nonprofit’s Missing

Giant gummy bear escaping from smaller gummies

Bet you’ve got some giants hiding in your midst.

Nonprofits pay a lot of attention to donor acquisition. Then?

They largely ignore these donors, unless…

They become worthy of attention by virtue of being ‘major’ donors. Then?

Nonprofits pay a lot of attention to major donor relationship building. But…

Between new donor acquisition and major donor cultivation, solicitation and stewardship, what happens?

Usually not enough.

This is a BIG missed opportunity.

You’ve likely got great donor prospects hiding inside your own donor base, and you’re essentially treating them like, well, poop.

What if you were to begin to look at your mid-level donors as the transformational fundraising opportunity they are?

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Major donor meeting, two women

Avoid these Key Obstacles to Successful Major Gift Asks

Major donor meeting, two womenIn Part 1 of this two-part series delving into the topic of major gift fundraising asks, we looked at a number of Proven Strategies to Take Charge of Major Donor Asks. Specifically, we covered (1) four elements of a successful visit and (2) four elements of a compelling offer. Feel free to refresh yourself before we move on.

Other Things You Need to Know about Asking

Now I want you to truly think about the offer from the recipient’s perspective.

As insiders, we often don’t stop to think about the outsider perspective. It’s just human nature to become so absorbed in a topic it starts to seem obvious. To us.

When crafting your compelling fundraising offer however, it’s important to stop and consider how it may be received. As noted in Part 1:

  1. If it’s too general or vague, it’s unlikely you’ll get the donor’s most passionate gift.
  2. If you offer something of little interest or relevance to the donor, they won’t give you their full attention.
  3. If the problem you describe is broad in scope, the idea of addressing it in any meaningful way may seem too daunting.

You can’t ask the donor to address your entire mission.

  • “Ending hunger” sounds awesome to you, but impossibly unrealistic to the donor.
  • “Curing cancer” sounds splendid to you, but too huge in scope to the donor.
  • “Eradicating poverty” sounds vital to you, but absolutely overwhelming to the donor.
  • “Becoming a world class symphony” sounds grand to you, but grandiose to the donor.
  • “Saving children” may be your priority today, but you also serve seniors and that’s what the donor most cares about.

2 Vital Things to Keep in Mind Going into Asks

When crafting and making a major gift fundraising ask, make sure you incorporate the following into your planning:

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Donor visit, two women

Proven Strategies to Take Charge of Major Donor Asks

Donor visit, two womenBefore asking, begin by assuring you and your donor are on the same page.

The major donor journey is generally a long one. It’s important to craft a blueprint for the process and take time, along the way, to assure the journey is sparking joy and bringing energy. If you’ve never asked for a major gift, it can seem scary. Even if you’ve asked in the past, the process can still seem daunting.  This article is designed to help take the worry out of asking for a major gift. How? By putting it in context and framing it as an opportunity, not a burden.

As long as you’re providing value to the donor, you’re in a good place. Value can take many forms.

  • An opportunity to feel noticed and special.
  • An opportunity to offer feedback.
  • An opportunity to share wisdom.
  • An opportunity to learn new things.
  • An opportunity to get behind-the-scene information.
  • An opportunity to meet someone new.
  • An opportunity to create connection.
  • An opportunity for a fun and friendly chat
  • An opportunity to find meaning and purpose.

Lead with the value you provide and the benefit they’ll gain if they meet with you. The value you offer at any point in time depends on the donor and where you are in the process of wooing. Provided you’re generally (1) clear, (2) compelling, (3) courageous and (4) careful, you’ll surely succeed.

Let’s dig a little deeper into each of these important components.

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Expert Secrets; 80-20 Rule

3 Nonprofit Secrets to Rock Major Gift Fundraising

Expert Secrets; 80-20 RuleThere’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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journey over rope bridge

6 Steps to Fuel Your Major Gift Journey

journey over rope bridgeThe major gift journey is a synergistic one. You see, it’s both your journey and your donor’s journey.

If you want to follow along the most direct pathway to sustainable philanthropy, you’ll want to consider the two-fold nature of the expeditious endeavor known as major gift fundraising. Or, as I prefer to call it, passionate philanthropy.

First understand it’s not just about the money;  it’s every bit as much about the experience.

Strive to become your donor’s favorite philanthropic journey guide.

If you do your job as guide well, they’ll find meaning, purpose and happiness being engaged with you.

  • If you make the experience a joyful one, your fellow traveler will become your donor.
  • If you continue to make the experience joyful, they’ll continue to travel the road with you by renewing and upgrading their support.

Major gift fundraisers, essentially, are in the happiness delivery business.

That’s right! It’s both  (1) a business, and (2) a donor journey toward joy.  You’ve got to treat it like a business if you want to make money. That means clarifying goals, setting specific objectives, planning strategies and tactics, and holding yourself accountable. Otherwise you’re just occasionally taking folks along for a stroll, without being thoughtful about what’s in it for both of you. And if you haven’t concretized what the benefits are, it’s hard to deliver on them!

Let’s take a look at the 6 steps you must take to build and sustain a winning major gifts program.

Expeditious Steps to Fuel Your Pathway to Passionate Philanthropy

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So, Your Nonprofit Donor Wants to Give Cryptocurrency?

Donor with cell phone, crypto

In Part 1 of this two-part series, I discussed cryptocurrency philanthropy basics.

Let’s say you’re intrigued, and want to dip your toes in the water?

How to Accept Crypto?

There is more than one way. These are listed in order of easiest to greatest need for tech and finance savvy.

  1. Donor advised funds and giving wallets. These are now being set up to accept cryptocurrency. If nothing else, you can alert supporters that if they have a DAF they can funnel crypto to you that way. Also, every.org and givewell are crypto wallets that act similarly to a DAF by accepting gifts from donors, then granting your nonprofit cash without you ever having to take custody of the asset. You never have to worry about accounting and legal concerns of accepting crypto.

 

  1. Software as a Service (SaaS solution) donor management platform. Organizations such as The Giving Block, engiven, Crypto for Charity by Freewill and Charitable Solutions, LLC are already set up to accept cryptocurrency on behalf of your organization (the list keeps growing). These dedicate crypto NGOs will sell the asset and transfer the proceeds to you. You can put a widget/button on your website to facilitate this. Crypto goes directly into exchange and is immediately traded for dollars (there is a small fee; around 1%). This is safe, secure and simple as generally the asset will be immediately liquidated (within milliseconds), which is super important with highly volatile assets like crypto. This protects you from a donor asking what you did with their $100,000, and you having to tell them you only realized $50,000 because you delayed a day to sell it.

 

  1. External custody. Behind the scenes, all platforms use a cryptocurrency brokerage or exchange. Three reputable ones are Coinbase Commerce, Kraken and Gemini. They typically charge 35 – 50 basis points per transaction. No donation processing or receipting is available. Nonprofits with expertise in asset management, trading and technology may consider building their own donation widget using these services. Be aware it can take many months to establish an account. Plus, you also need an “Alternative Asset Management Policy” [fold in crypto to your Gift Acceptance Policy; run this by your professional advisors and finance committee] to shield leadership.

 

  1. Self-custody. This is not for everyone and requires a hardware USB device that can be plugged into the computer when someone wants to make a transaction. They’re cold storage, kept off the internet, and highly secure. The downside is it requires a very savvy staff person and high security around custody. Plus it’s tricky to liquidate when you hold it in your hardware wallet. Some donors giving these digital assets like to see nonprofits holding those gifts as crypto, as part of an effort to see crypto go mainstream. If you have the ability to be strategic with investments, for example by building a reserve, you might consider holding onto crypto in its native form. UNICEF, for example, can receive, hold, and disburse cryptocurrency with its UNICEF CryptoFund. Again, you’ll want an “Alternative Asset Management Policy” to guide when you’ll sell.

How to Promote?

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Cryptocurrency coins

Deep Dive into Cryptocurrency for Nonprofits

Cryptocurrency coinsI’m sure you’ve wondered about this: Should we be accepting cryptocurrency?

You may not want to be thinking about this.

But now that there are actual payment processing platforms (e.g., The Giving Block; engiven; Crypto for Charity by Freewill and Charitable Solutions, LLC) and at least two nonprofits serving as cryptocurrency wallets (every.org and givewell) dedicated to helping you with this, the time has come. [You can compare some of the platforms and wallets here; new ones are springing up.]

Opportunity is knocking. Will you open the door?

Changes in Major Gift Demographics

Here are some of the trends:

  • Dollars being given are moving from middle class to wealthy donors (especially from Boomers to Millennials).
  • Fewer donors are giving larger impact gifts. There’s a lot of money out there[1], and if your charity is savvy enough to attract it, you’ll likely find your donor distribution shifting. The Pareto 80-20 Principle is more 85/15, 90/10 or even 95/5.
  • More comes from appreciated assets than cash (stocks, bonds, land and cryptocurrency).
  • The availability of crypto for giving has spurred new waves of younger people to consider philanthropy.

Profile of Donors Holding Cryptocurrency

Of course, there’s no way to know for sure which of your donors hold crypto.  But we do know some things.

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Money on Table

How to Stop Leaving Money on the Table

Money on TableMoney left on the table is one of my pet peeves. It’s really beyond a peeve.

I can’t stand it when organizations could be serving more people, or doing so more effectively, but they don’t because they’re too smug (“what we’re doing now works just fine, and don’t try to tell me otherwise”) … self-reportedly “too stressed” … or simply not open to the idea of trying out some new strategies.

This “resting on one’s laurels” modus operandi leads to status quo organizations that fail to evolve to meet the moment. They get stuck in the past and, too often, begin to wither and die. Or they become what I call a “boutique charity” appealing to a niche group of insiders, content with the status quo.

That’s “nice,” but if you’re dedicated to solving pressing societal problems, meeting insistent human needs, and creating transformational personal and societal change, you’ll need to connect with donors on a more direct, visceral level.

How to Stop Leaving Money on Your Table

Your best donors have linkage, interest and ability (LIA). Begin with those already linked to you by virtue of having made a previous donation, been a loyal volunteer, served on your staff or board, or been a repeat purchase of services or products. In other words, they’re hiding in plain sight in your database.

Consider how you might learn more about these folks to better connect with them and make the best use of limited resources. You can do this in one of two ways:

  1. Donor Analytics: Find out how wealthy they are (ability)
  2. Supporter Connection Survey: Find out what they care about most (interest)

It’s funny, but too many nonprofits start with the former and often completely ignore the latter. It’s a way to go (and I confess I’ve been there), but is it the best way? I no longer think so – which is why I’m writing this article.

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Laptop, notebook, coffee

How to Write a Foolproof Nonprofit Grant Proposal

Too often grant proposals begin with some variation of “we want money because we’re a good cause and, since you’re good guys too, naturally this will be a match made in heaven.”

There’s nothing natural about this request.

In fact, it’s a version of “Alice in Wonderland Through the Looking Glass” thinking.

To paraphrase the Cheshire Cat speaking to Alice: If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.

Or not.

In fact, Alice tells the Cat she just wants to get “somewhere.” Could this, perhaps, be like you just wanting to bring in ‘some’ money to balance your budget? Hmnn… The Cat tells Alice “Oh, you’re sure to do that. If you only walk long enough.

Guess what?

Most funders reading your proposal will not want to read long enough. In fact, if you’re not clear on your destination from the get-go, they’re likely to abandon you before you get there. If you get there. In other words, wherever you end up, you won’t arrive there together.

And that’s the point of a grant proposal, right?

You seek a partnership… a travelling companion… an investor who cares about the outcome.

Where you’re Going… How you’re Going There… and How Much it Will Cost

Right from the get-go, this is what funders need to hear from you.

No beating around the bush.

Get right to the point with the specifics.

If the funder must read through several paragraphs – or pages – before it’s clear how much money you’re requesting and what, specifically, you intend to use it for, they’ll be in a ticked-off frame of mind as they read your proposal.

Not good.

Get organized!

The 6-step formula I’m about to share is one I learned when I first entered this business decades ago.

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