This week’s post by Bill Tedesco comes to us thanks to DonorSearch
Are you making the most of your major giving program?
As you move forward with major giving, ensure that you’re developing a thorough and thought out approach to finding new donors.
A portion of thinking through the process from start to finish should involve considering common major gift cultivation mistakes and brainstorming potential solutions. Luckily, this article will give you a head start.
Avoid these three mistakes next time you’re seeking major gifts, and you’ll be on your way to success!
For more information on major giving before diving into possible mistakes nonprofits make, check out this guide to major giving!
1. Forgetting to Look Inward to Your Own Donor Pool
Don’t let your vast donor pool of supporters go unchecked when you begin the search for major gift prospects. Past giving is a great indicator of future giving. Who better to look into than those who not only have a history of giving, but a history of giving to your organization?
Perform a prospect screening of your existing donor pool to find giving candidates with the perfect combination of ability to donate and affinity for your organization.
When searching for major gift prospects, you’ll be looking to find candidates who both want to give to your organization at the major giving level and have the financial capacity to do so.
Developing a pipeline of major gift donors takes time, and that time is largely consumed by the cultivation process. Although you should definitely be looking outward for donors who might be interested, pre-existing supporters of your cause are already a few steps further along in the cultivation process.
This potential should give you all the more reason to maintain a tip-top donor stewardship program, with practices like excellent acknowledgment methods.
Securing a donation from a supporter should be the start of your relationship and not the end. The more meaningful connections you make with your first-time donors, the better chance you’ll have of upgrading them to higher giving levels in the future.
2. Limiting the Scope of Your Outreach
Yes, major donors are a big deal. They often warrant additional cultivation and more strategic solicitation than other supporters.
You likely follow the standard with in-person meetings, follow-up phone calls, and presentations. All of those steps can prove pivotal. However, don’t let those activities hold you back from supplementary efforts that could make a big difference in the long run.
The whole point behind major gift cultivation is to build a solid foundation for your relationship with your prospect. Part of that process should involve unique activities such as:
- Informational luncheons
- Special events
- Volunteering experiences
- Advocacy gatherings
- Office tours
- And more
Take the “special events” suggestion, for example. Fundraising events, and fundraising in general, are often about more than raising money in the moment. In fact, they should be!
When you host an event catered to major donor acquisition, you can invite both your current major gift donors and your prospects. It gives your fundraisers more time to get to know your donors and prospects and provides your donors and prospects with an additional chance to learn more about your organization. Keep that in mind the next time you plan on hosting a gala or formal dinner.
No matter the way in which you’re building a connection with a major gift prospect, keep your plans open to inventive ways of connecting. Although you want your efforts to be strategic and well-thought out, you shouldn’t be limited by a hard-and-fast standard of cultivation.
Be open to cultivation outreach opportunities that suit the specific prospect you’re working with. Standards are necessary, but adaptability is crucial.
3. Forgoing Self-Assessment
You can’t improve without assessing your current state. Take advantage of the copious amount of tracking software available to your organization through nonprofit technology! Track your major gift efforts so that you can establish what is working and what needs tweaking.
Then, implement those newly realized adjustments the next time you approach a major gift donor.
Popular major gift fundraising metrics include:
- Average major gift size
- Average giving capacity
- Asks made
- Donor retention rate
- And so many more!
Selecting the right metrics to track will come down to the specific needs of your organization and the level of sophistication of your major giving program.
The options listed above, for example, are fairly general to overall major giving performance, whereas your organization might be looking to fix a specific area.
Speaking to the concept of “approaching major gift prospects,” you could zero in on cultivation strategies that yield the best results to better understand what practices your organization needs to keep around and which are a less beneficial use of resources and staff time.
Asking for donations is not always easy, and it gets more difficult the more you’re asking for. However, regardless of gift size, if your team can understand the potential mistakes and pitfalls, it can prepare and make the right adjustments. Major giving has its challenges, but performing well should not be a mystery.
Photo thanks to Ryan McGuire