Case Study: The Home for Little Wanderers
Most larger nonprofit organizations have an aggressive major-donor program in place. Once a donor — whether connected with the organization via direct mail, the Internet, special events or other medium — reaches a certain giving level, the major-gifts folks take over and treat him very differently than other, lower-value donors. The contacts are more personal and focus on face-to-face solicitations.
But what of smaller organizations that can’t afford similar approaches? The challenge of securing major gifts is no less vital to them than to their larger counterparts.
In that case, major-donor solicitation through the mail is a terrific opportunity. It can be done, but it does have its challenges.
Here’s how Boston-based The Home for Little Wanderers, one of New England’s largest child-welfare agencies, instituted such a program.
Serving thousands of abused, neglected or at-risk children and their families each year, the organization works to ensure the healthy emotional and social development of children through an integrated system of residential group homes, special-education schools, adoption services, and counseling and advocacy programs.
The Home’s total annual operating budget is around $41 million; of that, only $4 million comes from its fundraising program and, of that, about $1.2 million is from direct mail.
Case in point
The Home relies heavily on major-donor support and was looking for ways to effectively cultivate these donors. Its development team had multiple sources for acquiring major donors and potential donors, including fundraising galas, an annual golf tournament, cultivation events and through its board of directors. Many of these supporters previously had given just one major gift of $1,000 or more, but most were not direct-mail donors. The organization also developed a list of prospects that had been identified as having the capacity and propensity to make gifts of $1,000 or more.
Demographically, this audience differed significantly from The Home’s usual direct-mail donors, who are women over 55 years old. By comparison, its major donors were males with higher incomes.
Related story: Big Ideas for Smaller Nonprofits