Being successful at major gifts is an art unto itself. That’s why we wanted to share more with you in this two-part series.
So last week (if you need a refresher, you can check out the blog here), we talked about the importance of (1) a plan and (2) knowing what you’re asking your donors for…
But that’s not all…
Here’s the rest of the secret sauce.
In addition to planning and knowing what you need funding for, there are two more elements to put into place so you can secure gifts that will make a difference to your organization…especially if you’re in a small shop.
What are they…first, some cowbell…
*If you have been hiding under a rock, you need to watch Christopher Larkin and Will Farrell’s skit on Saturday Night Live, ‘More Cowbell’!
So what do you need to know exactly? Let’s break it down.
Listen to your Donors
Remember the importance of the database we shared in our last blog? Well go back to it and look at all of your donors who are giving at the major gift level for your organization. Do you have 5 donors who give more than $1,000? Or $500?
Then guess what…your major giving program starts with them.
And what do you do with them? You…
You’re not reaching out to ask them for another donation…
You simply want to learn what inspired them to give to see if it will help to inform your future fundraising program.
And then listen to what they have to say.
And try to implement it, within reason. You may learn a lot from chatting with these donors.
So, if you have a handful of donors and you meet with them and chat about what they think, there is one question you want to make sure to ask during your conversation:
Is there anyone they know who they think would
like to know more about your organization?
And then ask them if they’d feel comfortable making an introduction so you can provide them more information. And perhaps ask if they’d like to be part of the conversation.
The goal is not to solicit this person at that first meeting. It’s simply to introduce them to your organization and see if they’d like to continue to be involved.
That might be your major giving program for your first year.
That’s cool. It means you’re being intentional about talking to your larger individual donors. You’ll learn some interesting things from them that you may try to incorporate into your fundraising and stewardship program.
Woo hoo! You’re on your way.
Now, let’s say you’ve done the above already and you have a relationship with a handful – or more – donors who are giving $1,000. That means a couple of things:
Run a Cultivation Event
So, you have some donors but you don’t have enough resources to justify a full-time person doing major gift fundraising. Do you have staff resources to develop a well-oiled, regular cultivation event?
One of the things that COVID has done is made it acceptable to host tours using tools like Zoom. It’s so much easier to get people to say yes to a one-hour virtual commitment because they don’t have to travel anywhere. It really becomes a one-hour time commitment vs. 2 – 3 hours that included travel time in the past.
This notion of regular cultivation events is based on the following principles:
The basic structure of running a well-oiled, cultivation event is this:
Your volunteers’ job is to get people to come.
Your job is to inspire them to want to get involved.
That includes the event itself (the dog and pony show, as I like to call it) and the follow-up conversation. You ask strategic questions and ultimately, you ask their permission to stay in touch with them. If they give you permission, you get to continue to inform them about your work. And you add them to your stewardship program so that they get regular correspondence from you.
There are variations and permutations for how to use this kind of model for solicitation. Some organizations I work with solicit donations at this event. Some wait for more follow up and have a face-to-face solicitation later.
But don’t go to all of the effort with this kind of model if you don’t have a plan for how to do the solicitation.
At the end of the day…
Like we said before, a major gifts program takes multiple steps to get right. Because fundraising is about building successful programs that bring in more donations. And we’re all about helping you bring in more donations.
Yippee kay yay,
Cathy Mann and the team at Fundraising Lab
P.S. Want to see our other free blogs that are chock-full of great information? Check out our page here.
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