Locating and engaging major donors

Nonprofits should have in-person meetings with major giving prospects.
Date Published
09/28/2015

Fundraising depends on a variety of donors. Big events and projects need large groups of people contributing what they can and organizations need major donors offering huge gifts on a regular basis.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy recently quoted research from Bloomberg and the Giving USA Foundation suggesting wealthier donors have been more active in recent years, and the charities targeted by major giving are much more successful than their peers

How can a nonprofit organization hope to locate big gifts and dedicated wealthy donors? Here are a few best practices for attracting and keeping substantial supporters:

Create a major giving strategy
The first thing a nonprofit has to do is figure out what sum to define as a major gift. An organization can’t get by living off the example of others. It must carefully examine its finances, needs and future goals and create benchmarks for what to expect from major donors.

Second, the nonprofit must determine which donors could possibly offer the major gift it defined. The Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training said there are numerous names nonprofits could add to their major gift prospects lists. Organizations should start by speaking to their board members and determining if they have leads. If a head of the nonprofit is hesitant to suggest friends or family, it could indicate the board member is not fully committed to the mission or does not trust current fundraising tactics. This is an issue the whole organization must address.

Nonprofit staff members could look for major donors by searching through the wealthier communities in town, seeing who gives to similar organizations or touching base with previous major gift givers. People who donated in the past may have recommendations for who the nonprofit should approach in the future. Staff must create detailed profiles for each promising prospect.

Once the organization has determined how much it needs and who could possibly contribute, a major fundraising plan is necessary. A charity must contact each person on the prospect list and update a data profile after every interaction. Complete nonprofit software records help organizations track progress and avoid missing opportunities. Data about successful engagements can inform future asks.

Meet major donors in person
Nonprofit organizations use a variety of channels to reach donors. If a charity wants to request a sizable contribution, however, representatives need to meet with the prospect in person. Staff members can make first contact on the phone or through email, but they want to save the ask for a sit down engagement.

The Guardian shared a variety of recent studies conducted by numerous organizations that all found donors are influenced by their peers. If a board member recommends a contact as a source of a major gift, it is best the charity head makes the ask him or herself. If no such relationship exists beforehand, nonprofit agents should work to create a real sense of emotional investment with the potential donor.

An organization should ask its major donors what they hope to see their funds achieve. Nonprofits shouldn’t be afraid to ask for criticisms and insights. After each interaction the charity should provide the donor with a follow up, according to the Grassroots Fundraising Journal. If a person makes a large contribution that led to success, the organization should deliver a thank you that demonstrates the results. Fundraising software displays how gifts contributed to overall goals. A modern digital tool can also help create graphs or other materials staff members can share with donors.

Major contributions from all donors
An organization shouldn’t disregard its smaller donors in its search for large gifts. The sizable groups of normal contributors are the backbone of many fundraising efforts. Also, people who can’t contribute substantial gifts themselves may help organization engage a prospect who can.

A nonprofit can attract big gifts by gathering smaller ones. The Guardian said nonprofits  that demonstrate success are more likely to receive future donations. Major donors are prone to favor charities that can prove achievement and progress. The average contributor might also provide a lead on a major source of funds. Organizations should use their fundraising messaging campaigns to promote the idea of matching gifts, 101 Fundraising said. People may work for large companies that would donate in equal amounts to all of their employees.

Just because a donor can’t give a large gift now, doesn’t mean he or she won’t be able to  in the future. Keeping an engaged relationship with all donors helps organization stay at the forefront of people’s minds. The Nonprofit Times said contributors who don’t have much in terms of daily funds may leave money to an organization in their wills. If the organization is really important to a person, he or she may also provide funds through life insurance or retirement plans.

When an organization has donor management tools and strategies in place to explore every possibility, data-supported plans avoid missing out on major sources of funds.

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