Most organizations, large or small, public or private, local or national, arrive at the intersection where major gifts and planned gifts cross, come into question, or even merge. Which road should they take? Should the major gift officer learn planned giving? Should the planned giving officer become a major gift officer? What business mo will…Details
“Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end; then stop.” So wrote Lewis Carroll in Alice in Wonderland.
It’s the same with major donor fundraising, except you don’t ever really stop. You just start up again. You do follow a prescribed path, however. And here’s what it looks like:
- Ground Floor
- Back Door
- Ask For
If you do this correctly, it becomes a transformational process for the donor. They want to stay connected and engaged and invested. Which is why you don’t stop. You follow up with “Some More.”
Today I want to talk about the heart of successful major gift fundraising.
It’s about reframing what you may think of as a “pitch” into what your donor would like to consider a “promise.”
The pitch is one way: You deliver a monologue about everything you know about your organization, how great it is, how pressing the need is, how you know this is what the donor cares about (maybe based on a computer print-out of the donor’s past history with your cause)… and then drop this bomb into your donor’s lap – often leaving them feeling like they didn’t get a chance to get a word in edgewise and/or they’ll be a ‘bad’ person if they don’t respond as you suggest.
The promise is two-way: Your donor promises to make a gift to accomplish something near and dear to their heart; you promise to put that gift to work effectively and report back to the donor on what their philanthropy accomplished.
The difference between these approaches is the difference between success and failure, especially over time.
For donors to give at their most passionate level, and to stick with you over time, they have to see and feel the promise. They have to believe and trust in you. They have to feel good about their giving.
If they give because they felt coerced or guilty by your perceived sales pitch, they aren’t likely to want to do this again. When you make giving transactional, you fail to build a relationship. Ultimately, these donors will evaporate.
Which brings us to the heart of effective major donor fundraising:
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.
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.”
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.
The 6-step formula I’m about to share is one I learned when I first entered this business decades ago.Details
You may feel talking about mortality right now is a big ‘no-no.’
You’d be wrong.
I know some of you will argue with me. I’ve already seen one fundraising guru (who I generally admire greatly) say this is the only type of fundraising they’d not recommend right now. They called it ‘creepy.’
I understand the impulse to avoid this subject.
Especially now. Because it may feel insensitive. A bit like ambulance chasing.
Yet that’s not what legacy philanthropy is about. Not today. Not ever.
What’s Different in an Era of Pandemic?
Honestly, nothing. At least in this particular area of fundraising. Other stuff must be postponed or canceled, sure.
- You may have to put your events on hold.
- You may have to put planned spring and summer appeals on hold (assuming they were targeted for particular programs that don’t seem relevant or urgent at this point in time.)
- You may have to put targeted legacy giving mailings on hold.
You don’t have to stop promoting meaningful legacy giving.
Because right now we’re all questioning the meaning of life. And our individual lives in particular. What can we do, as individuals, to make a difference? Not just today, but for tomorrow? What will our legacy be?
Whether we live or die, we’re all thinking about what life will be like on this planet moving forward. Yes, we’re in a pandemic. It’s scary and uncomfortable as all get out. Yet, let’s face it. People are seldom comfortable confronting the notion of their own death. Nevertheless death is as natural as birth. It’s inevitable, sooner or later, for everyone. Of course, we all hope for later.
Promoting legacy giving is not about actively seeking out folks on the verge of death and asking them to sign their estate over to you. That would, indeed, be crass. Again, legacy giving programs are not ambulance chasing! And, anyway, most of your supporters are not sick. Most will survive. Yet…Details
Here comes my occasional “Do’s vs. Don’ts” feature, where I share with you something arriving in my mailbox that seems a good ‘teaching opportunity.’
Today we’re going to review a major donor engagement strategy.
It arrived as an email. There’s a subject line, preview pane, the email itself, and what happens if/when you click through.
We’ll take a look at the various elements; then assess what works/doesn’t work.
I’ll ask you some questions.
- Would you open this email?
- If yes, why?
- If no, why?
- What looks good about the email?
- What looks not so good about the email?
- Would it inspire you to click through?
- If yes, why?
- If no, why?
First, I’d like you to think about your answers and jot them down.
Second, I’ll tell you what I think.
Really take the time to notice what you like and don’t like.
I promise you’ll learn a lot more this way. We learn best by doing.
Seriously, I mean it.
Let’s begin at the beginning.
Claire, tell us what you think
We’d like to hear from you
This may help: Take three minutes and jot down your answers to the first three questions on a piece of paper or your screen. I want to know if what was in the subject headline (“Claire, tell us what you think”) or the email preview pane (We’d like to hear from you”) would have caused you to open the email or hit ‘delete.’
Okay. Ready to learn what I think thus far, and also see what else we’re working with?
Does this Email Say “Open Me?”Details
The 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.
If you make the experience a joyful one for your prospect, they’ll become your donor. If you continue to make the experience joyful for your donor, they’ll continue as your donor.
Strive to become your donor’s favorite philanthropic journey guide, and they’ll come back to you time and again to find meaning, purpose and happiness.
Major gift fundraisers, essentially, are in the happiness delivery business.
I cover this (1) business, and the (2) donor journey toward joy, in great detail in my online course, Winning Major Gift Fundraising Strategies. Please sign up for it, or get on the waiting list if the course is currently full. Meanwhile, 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 PhilanthropyDetails
Competition for philanthropic dollars has intensified. You know long-term survival depends on strengthening revenue streams.
What are you doing about it?
If you’re like too many nonprofits, you’re missing what’s right in front of your eyes: legacy giving.
The lion’s share of philanthropy in the U.S. comes from individuals. Nearly 70% of people make gifts to charity during their lifetimes; only 10% leave a bequest. Why? No one asks them!
It turns out that the act of asking makes a huge difference. And don’t tell me you can’t ask because you’re too small or understaffed.
Just because you can’t afford (or aren’t quite ready yet) to mount a full-on legacy giving campaign is no excuse to avoid the basics.Details
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.Details
“The more that you know, the less they’ll say ‘No!’“
Such is the advice given by Jay Love, Founder of Bloomerang and a seasoned board member and major donor, some years ago at an online conference where we both presented major gifts master classes. His was on the topic of major gifts development from the donor’s perspective.
Do you think about your donor’s perspective before you ask for a major gift?
Here’s what I learned from Jay:
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.”
This advice is SO important I want to dig deeper into ways you can get inside your donor’s head and build the type of relationship that will be a win/win. When your donor gets what they want and need, you get what you want and need!
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?Details