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Major Donor fundraising is an art. It is all about relationships and looking after your donors. It is about building relationships with high net worth individuals to the point where they naturally want to make a difference by the level of their donation
Organisations will have different views about what constitutes a major donor. For some it may be an individual donation of £1,000+. For others it might mean a gift of £100,000+. There is no right or wrong level but it is about the donor’s ability to give and ideally at a level that challenges them.
Major Donors should be a valuable and ongoing source of income. The time spent cultivating a potential major donor is crucial and also cost effective as one donor can bring about serious change for your organisation’s income. It is also easier to build a long term, meaningful relationship with a substantial donor than using direct mail however personal that may look. However it is important to check if your organisation is ready to launch a major donor campaign and that the right culture exists to embrace this approach. Serious donors need to feel ownership of the organisation’s mission and will expect an inside track to your future plans, goals, achievements and challenges. They may expect to have regular contact with your CEO and Chair and at times they can be challenging and demanding but this can often be because they are passionate about the cause.
Major Donors have a wide variety of reasons for identifying with and giving to a cause. They are not mutually exclusive and one reason is not necessarily better than another:
It is useful to work out their motivations and then to match these with what your organisation can offer. At all times they have to feel good about giving and that they are making a difference to those your organisation is supporting . Make sure they know how their gift is changing the lives of homeless people, or for cancer sufferers or those struggling with poverty.
Influence is crucial in all that a fundraiser undertakes – the 5 P’s are a good model to look at this:
Passion – emotional engagement – donors need you to be passionate about the cause you are representing, take them on a journey to the heart of how you help change lives.
Proposal – define problem/issue and suggest solution (this is your case for support).
Preparation – What do you want outcomes to be ? Consider a range of outcomes in order of priority. Eliminate negatives.
Persuasion - Rapport (tone) Language Perception/donor point of view.
Persistence – Intelligent flexibility. Change/adapt – go for your goal.
Traditionally there is a seven step approach to engaging with major donors. This is a useful tool but as with all relationships should not be rigidly adhered to, take the donor on a journey, at their time and pace.
Who are your potential donors? Always good to start with your existing customers. Are there any hidden gems in your database? Donors who may be giving small sums but have the potential to give a significant gift given the right approach.
Research the people you’ve identified – are they good prospects? What can you find out about them? There is increasing amounts of public information available, search engines, rich lists, Who’s Who etc but it is often soft information that is most valuable so find out who may know your prospects – ask your trustees, existing donors who are close to you even your friends and relatives!
A plan should be tailored to their motivations, it can take three years to successfully engage a key prospect.
You generally need four prospects at ‘ask’ to get one donation. For example the NSPCC average was just over three ‘asks’ to every gift.
Engage the donor and build a relationship with them. Are there briefings they can attend or small dinners, breakfast meetings where they can ask questions?
Some people will give a donation at the first meeting. Other people will take years to get to the point where they donate.
You might need a final meeting for them to talk with a Trustee/Finance Director/Chief Executive. This might need to be done in stages so that they are comfortable that their donation will be spent well.
This is used extensively in the States and adapted by the NSPCC.
Allia is a charitable investment service supporting causes that give people a better future. Its charitable bonds provide a way for supporters to make a secure, fixed-return social investment and release an up-front, tax-free gift for their chosen cause.
What is your experience of major donor fundraising? Have you had to deal with difficult issues or found it hard to get off the ground? What advice would you give to others?
Share your experience or ask your questions on the Fundraising forum.
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