Meeting over coffee

Improve Major Donor Fundraising to Grab a Larger Piece of Philanthropy Pie

meringue pieIf 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. Thank 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 upcoming Certification Course for Major Gift Fundraisers. Use my exclusive Clairification School discount CODE Early10CA to save. It may be the most important investment you make all year. Just one major gift will more than cover the cost].

Over my 40 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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Giant gummy bear

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

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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Are you reading your major donors right?

Are You Reading Your Major Donors Correctly?

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?

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Thankful for Thanksgiving

Happy Days of Thanks(for)Giving

Thankful for ThanksgivingThis Thursday folks in the United States will celebrate what I consider to be the social benefit sector holiday of the year:

So it’s time for my annual Thanks(for)Giving post!

Just think about what ‘Thanksgiving’ means.  Literally, it’s a day for giving thanks for blessings.

Who, and what, do you count among yours?

I know when we go around the table at my family Thanksgivings, saying what we’re grateful for this year, most folks respond with a people-based answer. Sure, they’re happy about the feast in front of them. But they’re most grateful for caring friends… loving family…. and for being together sharing the warmth of good company. This year the company may be virtual, but the gratitude for shared connection will be the same.

Who are you grateful to at your organization?

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Show-me-you-know-me.jpg

Show Me You Know Me* — 5 Strategies To Sustain Donor Relationships

Let’s pretend you and your donor are not connecting meaningfully right now. You’re not sure why. Could it be they feel financially insecure…  they’re worried for their kids… they’ve been let down by politicians… they’re just feeling cynical and/or hopeless? For whatever reason, things aren’t singing between you and them. They haven’t renewed. They haven’t upgraded. They haven’t responded to any of your outreach. They seem to have other priorities.

So, you decide to go to counseling to reinvigorate the relationship. The therapist makes a wise observation: Sometimes in life, one partner feels strong; the other less strong. In such times, the stronger partner has resources to support the weaker partner. Other times, neither partner feels they have coping resources. During these times, we have to depend more on ourselves, be patient, and accept that our partner is not currently in a strong position – even though we really need their support.

Are you being a support for your donor? Are you helping, not selling all the time? Are you being patient, yet persistently showing you care?

We’re in turbulent times.. Giving has surged overall during the pandemic, but there are fewer individual givers.  Some industries, like education, are losing support. As are many smaller charities not involved in addressing hot-button topics. And prior to the pandemic studies showed giving to be sluggish. Donors are less loyal. Donors may be distracted by emergencies. Or so-called rage giving. Or simply uncertainty about what lies ahead. So they’re giving less consistently. As a result, donor centered fundraising has never been as important as it is now.

People are feeling a need to be nurtured. In other words: Ask not what your donors can do for you, but what you can do for your donors. Recognize they don’t serve you; you serve them. They don’t owe you; you owe them.  Your job is to help them experience the joy of giving. It is through you they will achieve their most meaningful work.

Embrace the true meaning of philanthropy as love of humankind.  Remember your donors are humankind; you must love them if you want to be a part of philanthropy.  Otherwise, you’re just transacting business.

So… what can you do to embrace the love and thereby keep your donors close?

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Photo of Claire

How to Segment Nonprofit Donors: Identity vs. Identification

There are lots of aspects to a donor’s identity; not all are equally important to them.

Well, duh, you may say.

But this matters more than you may know. Because if you don’t really understand the difference between identity and identification you may be wasting a lot of time heading in the wrong directions.

Let me explain further.

If you loosely segment donors by aspects of their identity that are relatively meaningless as far as they’re concerned, you won’t improve your fundraising results.  You’ll certainly be busy doing all this segmentation – and you’ll be able to report back to your boss on all the great, ‘scientific’ work you did – but it will end up being a lot of sound and fury. Signifying nothing.

Perhaps you’re an organization that develops personas or avatars for your constituents. This is something marketers do to know who they’re selling to, and what that person may value. Sell sweaters? It helps to know if you’re creating messaging for “Chilly Charlie” (who wants warm sweaters), “Stylin’ Stella” (who wants fashionable, trency sweaters), or “Frugal Freda” (who wants discount priced sweaters).

So too it helps when you write to ‘Suzy Soccer Mom’ vs. ‘Funky Grandpa.’ You assume they’re interested in different things, and they generally are. So you tailor your appeal differently to different target market segments.

But wait…

Get even smarter about donor identity.

Ask yourself if the way you’re segmenting your donors is too generic. As helpful as it is to group prospective supporters by persona, it’s important not to go overboard with this strategy.

Why?  Because it’s non-specific and based on the most obvious common denominator. If you don’t drill down a bit, you may miss the forest for the trees.

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Gifts of many colors

Top Nonprofit Marketing Tip: If You Want Gifts, You Must Give Them

Gifts of many colorsI often say “If you want gifts, you must give them.”

I’ve written about this multiple times, suggesting little gifts of useful or inspirational content – things that cost you virtually nothing – you can ‘gift’ to your constituents.

  • Often it’s information you use in your daily work, and it’s just a matter of sharing your expertise and recommendations with your larger community.
  • Other times it’s inspirational stories to uplift spirits.
  • Or you can share a news article if you don’t have the expertise you wish to share in-house. It’s okay to outsource from another publication.  Just make sure to give credit where credit is due.

Think from the perspective of your donors and volunteers.

What information do you have they might find helpful, thought-provoking, inspiring or fun?

Rather than guess, why not ask?

1. You can survey your constituents directly using a simple format like Survey Monkey, or

2. You can ask your staff who work with your clients and/or supporters on a regular basis. For example:

  • Ask your reception person what some of the most frequently asked questions are when folks call your organization.
  • Ask your webmaster or marketing person what website pages are most frequently visited.
  • Ask your marketing staff what e-newsletter or blog articles are most frequently opened.
  • Ask your volunteer coordinator what most inspires and keeps your volunteers engaged.
  • Ask your program staff what their clients and client families most need from them.

Here are some content ideas from different sectors — especially for the times we’re in:

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Skyrocketing

10 Strategies to Skyrocket Major Gift Fundraising

Skyrocketing“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:

  1. Before
  2. Ground Floor
  3. Explore
  4. Back Door
  5. Adore
  6. Mentor
  7. Ask For
  8. Implore
  9. Rapport
  10. Report

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.”

But first…

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Me wearing a mask

Plan ‘Random Acts’ of Nonprofit Donor Kindness, Especially Now

There’s a pandemic out there killing people.

What can your nonprofit organization do to offer a remedy?

Kill ‘ em with kindness.

I’m talking about your supporters, of course.

In order for people to do good they have to feel good.

Seriously, philanthropy takes energy. It takes the ability to step out of one’s day-to-day grind and think about someone, or something, else. And it’s more difficult than usual for folks to find this generous space right now.

You can help.

Make this the giving season.

I often say “If you want gifts you must give them.”

Maya Angelou says “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Let’s talk about what you can give – as nonprofit staff and board — to create happier supporters.

Notice a lot of folks saying “2020 is a bad year?” People can use a bit of cheer.  They’re tired of doom and gloom.

Remember when “random acts of kindness” was a thing? People would buy a coffee for the person behind them in line. Or they’d pay the bridge toll for the next car. Their reward was simply imagining the unexpected delight their gift would give to someone that day. Ever have it happen to you?  Ever try it?

Now’s your chance!

I’d like to suggest practicing some creative planned (not random) acts of kindness.

Something to bring your donors and volunteers a bit of good cheer. It can be as simple as letting them know what they did to change someone’s life for the better. Or it can be a modest, human gesture showing them how grateful you are for their support. This is something you can have fun with.  And the rewards will be huge, both for you and your donors.

10 Acts of Donor Kindness For a Pandemic, and Beyond

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