Why do most nonprofits raise fewer major gifts (relative to size, mission, etc.) than hospitals and big universities? Simple, they don't know how. They don't know the process of major gift work. Smaller, less established non-profits have missions, clients, causes, volunteers, and staff that are just as good and with same ability to make donor’s feel the impact of their gift (foreshadowing here!). But it’s their size, tools used, practices implemented, the direction given to staff, and the simple momentum of years of donor relationship that builds on itself. Put simply: winners continue to win because they know winning practices (process, if you will).
So when Matt Wasserman and I discussed what could change this, it was a natural conclusion that I join Make Philanthropy Work. Our mission is to give smaller institutions those tools, techniques, and confidence to inspire more donors to give larger contributions. We want them to develop those major gift donor relationships and execute the same best practices that the bigger institutions have. After thousands of donor visits, hundreds of requests for funding, and dozens of successful campaigns, we know what works (click here for major gifts — the process and cycle). Plus, we’ve seen some creative failures or two along the way.
How does a top-notch fundraising operation work? There are so many ways but none out of reach for smaller or less established non-profits.
- When was the last time you had a genuine conversation with your top donor of all time, showed them what their gift did by meeting the beneficiary, and then asked them what further impact they'd like to make?
- Or, do you know who really loves your mission and do you know if they could become a true advocate?
- Have you had a conversation with the staff and board about their role in fundraising, what connections they may have, or simply what insight they hold that could be the key to your next campaign?
Ah, but where to start? That’s the good news, it’s easy and never too late. I’d suggest you start with a visualization exercise, what I coin, the “concentric circle” method. Imagine a concentric circle around you or your cause. Who’s closest to that circle and capable of giving or getting a gift. Now consider an appropriate request for them to consider - be it a meaningful gift, vital introduction or some other way for them to become part of your cause. After you’ve done this for everyone you consider to be in the immediate circle, move to those who are further out and repeat. Simple, yes. Effective? absolutely!
Yes, there’s a process, that’s influenced by opportunity and guided by instinct and data (more on that in future blogs but here's a taste). And yes, most successful fundraising use the 90/10 rule. Meaning, 90% of the funds will come from the top 10% of donors. But those 10% were once part of the 90% in almost every case. So don’t neglect the 90% either, particularly in the digital era.
This is just the start of information we hope to share with you every couple of weeks, along with one last offer. Be the first to let us know what you're thinking and how we might help you. For that superhero feat, we'll give you an hour advisement please click the green button below - something we hope puts you on the right track.
Matt and I hope we're giving you insight and confidence. And whether you work with us or someone else, we just want your dream, your clients, and your good work to succeed, all of you!