What if you had a new strategy for building the types of committed, transformative relationships with donors necessary to build, nurture and sustain a meaningful major gift fundraising program? Most nonprofits know how important a major gifts strategy can be to their overall survival. After all, the 80-20 rule is than alive and well…Details
Not as much as you might think.
Yet people tell me all the time how much they’re afraid to ask wealthy people for major gifts. If you share those fears, it’s time for a little “Charity Clairity:”
Contrary to what your gut may be telling you, NOT asking is not making would-be donors feel good. Quite the opposite, in fact.
In this article, I’ll let you in on:
Three major donor truths. And I’ll cover why (1) you must stop short-changing your would-be major donors by not offering them opportunities to be the change they want to see in the world, and (2) you must stop robbing would-be major donors of chances to feel good about themselves.
Six major donor triggers. We’ll explore how you can make donors feel so good they’ll want to say “yes” — and passionately — to your solicitation.
Bottom line: When you don’t make donors feel good, they’ll go elsewhere.
The Rich Are Just Like You and Me
F. Scott Fitzgerald is famously supposed to have told Ernest Hemingway “the rich are different than you and I.” “Yes, Scott,” Hemingway supposedly retorted. “They have more money.”
It’s good to remember major donors are, first and foremost, just people.
They may have more money, yet many of them actually don’t even feel “wealthy” (just as often so-called seniors don’t feel “old.”) In fact, a survey of 4,000 investors by UBS found that 70% of people with investible assets of $1 million or more do NOT consider themselves “wealthy.”
What most donors share (no matter their net worth) isDetails
Twice at the end of last calendar year I was asked for a major gift.
Pretty much out of the blue.
Without much preparation, relationship-building or making of an inspiring case for support.
It was clear to me what the charity would get out of it: my money. It was not so clear what I would get out of it. Should I not care?
Perhaps if I were the ideal, perfect donor I would give with no expectation of receiving anything in return.
Perhaps if I were less ego-centric, I’d just do it because it was the “right thing to do.”
Perhaps if I were not on a quest for personal meaning, I’d give just because the person who asked is someone I know (though, not all that well); it would give them a feeling of success, and that would bring me some happiness.
Perhaps if I were not searching for a community of folks who share my values, I’d give without quite understanding the depth and breadth of values enacted by these charities or without having met more of the people involved.
Perhaps if I were not examining what it is that sparks joy in my life, I’d give whether or not this cause was currently at the top of my list or I’d been given opportunity for reflection and consideration.
But I’m not perfect.
I’m betting most of your donors aren’t either.
Donors have expectations… egos… personal meaning they’re seeking… communities they’d like to form… and cups of joy that need filling. Otherwise they wouldn’t be human.
And even if you could find a perfect donor prospect, in the instances where I was asked the case for why this was the right thing for me to do wasn’t even made all that well. The ask was about money, not impact.
There was simply an assumption that since I’d shown interest in the past, I would welcome this opportunity to demonstrate my interest even more passionately.
Okay. That’s not a bad starting place. But… you should never assume. You know what they say about the word “assume,” right?Details
Sometimes major donors give less than the previous year. Sometimes they stop giving to you entirely. What’s the worst sin committed by fundraisers when this happens? Not noticing. What’s the second worst sin? Assuming it has nothing to do with you. Sure, sometimes donors’ priorities change. Or some of their money goes to an emergency…Details
As explored in Part 1 of this 2-part series, small to mid-sized organizations are uniquely capable of creating a sense of community, even family. This is what people yearn for. And it gives you a secret advantage when it comes to nurturing the relationships essential to developing and sustaining a strong mid-level and major gifts…Details
If you’re a small to medium-sized organization or movement, especially if you’re local, you’ve got an unfair advantage over your larger compatriots in the social benefit sector. Perhaps you’ve never loed at it this way. Perhaps you fret about not being able to compete with the behemoths. Perhaps you’ve been waiting to hire a major…Details
A couple of years ago I wrote about 4 Strategies to Listen so Others Will Talk, noting the secret to building authentic relationships is to use your two ears and one mouth in that proportion.
It’s a good start, but there’s more.
You can’t just listen passively.
Active listening, supported by powerful, succinct, to-the-point generative questions – that’s what will draw you and your donor (or anyone with whom you’re in relationship) closer together.
But not all active listening is created equal. And you may think you’re actively listening, when really you’ve listened for a hot minute; then gone down your own rabbit hole of reality.
In that rabbit hole, you become the narrator. It thus becomes your story, not the donor’s.
Today we’ll explore how to draw your donor out so you truly hear their voice and sense their emotions, not your own.
10 Tools to Connect and Co-Create with Donors
1. Economy of language.
This is something I value, as an outsider looking in.
I’m not good at it.Details
On will makers are everywhere you lo these days. From FreeWill, Rocket Lawyer, Trust & Will and GivingDocs to the comprehensive LegacyPlanner, it feels like everyone is offering their own version. And sometimes it seems like they all just appeared overnight, too. But the truth is, the industry has been around for decades — both…Details
How can I make the biggest impact on the future?
Have you ever wondered how 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 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.
And you can help them!
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.
NOTE: I am not suggesting you eschew small gift fundraising. All gifts are important, and some of your smaller donors will likely engage in other critically important ways as well. They may become ambassadors, advocates, inlfuencers, volunteers and even legacy donors. You never want to put all your eggs in one basket. At the same time, it’s smart to develop a strategy to unlock giving from those who have potential to make transformative gifts.
6 Things that May Trigger Major Gift Philanthropy
In the past I’ve looked at six 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:
- They feel economically secure.
- They are in a reflective phase of life.
- They’ve demonstrated a desire to build a closer connection with your cause and community.
- They are looking for meaning and a sense of purpose.
- They are seeking autonomy.
- 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):Details
“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there” – Lewis Carroll This is actually a paraphrase of an exchange between Alice and the Cheshire Cat in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I use it often to encourage people to develop and stick to a plan. Lewis Carroll, on the other hand,…Details