Franklin Forum: Nonprofit Professionals Stress Face-to-Face Contact is Key to Major Giving
Though we're in a recession, philanthropy is alive and well. The key to weathering the downturn is having a solid fundraising program with diversified sources of giving.
One of the key sources nonprofits need to continue to cultivate are major gifts, Mary Lizzul, president of MCL Consulting, said in the session "Major Gift Trends, Tactics and Techniques" at the Franklin Forum sponsored by the Association of Fundraising Professionals Greater Philadelphia Chapter in Philadelphia in late April. Case in point: The top 5 percent of constituents give 95 percent of the dollars donated to charity, she said.
The session presenters discussed how they approach major giving at their respective organizations and shared best practices they've gleaned from experience. But all stressed the need to cultivate major-donor relationships through face-to-face interactions.
R. Robin Austin, interim vice president for development at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, said donations to the hospital are down a bit, with a lot of people delaying big gifts until the economy gets better. In light of the economy, he and his team are focusing on the basics of stewardship. They're looking to engage past board members, families of children the hospital has helped who've given in the past, or grandparents of current patients.
Austin said going back to basics means a renewed focus on mission in solicitations. He also has encouraged his staff to pick up the phone and talk to prospects.
Betsy Deisroth, director of development at American Friends Service Committee, said major giving is all about partnerships with people. AFSC considers anyone who gives $1,000 or more a major donor.
The organization's direct-mail program is an important feeder system for major gifts, Deisroth said, and then those people who demonstrate interest in the organization are given more attention.
The organization conducts proactive and reactive research on prospects, and while paper research plays a role in that, Deisroth said there's nothing like human research, so she stressed the need to connect with donors face to face.
Cultivation to get a gift is important, but after you get a gift stewardship is crucial, as you don't want the donor to feel like he was getting tons of attention from you leading up to the gift and then none after he gave.
Frank Guthridge, vice president for development and communications at Elwyn, an organization that provides a range of services to people with special needs, advised attendees to follow their hearts and instincts, and do what they think is right when fundraising.
"Fundraising is integrity, ethics and transparency," Guthridge said.
His organization deems anything in excess of $100 a major gift. While he said this presents a challenge because even though $250 is a major gift, you can't spend the same amount of time on these donors as you do on a $1,000 donor, he added that the goal for his organization is to get the $100 donor to be a $250 donor, the $250 donors to be a $500 donor, etc. This requires taking the time to listen and figure out what donors want.