They're Out There
As a fundraiser, you might be asking yourself, “What am I thankful for this Thanksgiving?” Well, here’s one suggestion for what you should be thankful for, even if you don’t know it yet.
One of my colleagues calls them “hidden heavies.” I’ve heard others refer to them as “nuggets of gold.” They’re the donors — undetected — on your donor file today who have the ability to give significantly larger gifts. In fact, not only do they have the capacity to give more, they’re just waiting for you to ask.
Here are some practical steps you can take to begin a successful search for the donors you already have who love your cause and want to give you more of their money.
1. Use your internal resources to identify your best donors in terms of giving frequency, average gift and longevity of giving. This is a relatively easy step that uses your donor-management software tools to rank donors based on frequency, previous gift size and length of relationship.
Donors who frequently give are signaling their admiration of your cause. Three or more gifts per year is a very strong donor indication of shared beliefs and values. Gift size is another strong indicator. A donor who has given a gift of $100 or more, and who gives at a higher-than-normal frequency, is a strong supporter. The donor who has been doing this for several years truly is a stakeholder.
Sort and rank these donors based on these attributes of their behavior. Depending on the internal resources you have, choose an appropriate number of donors you believe you can contact to learn more about their interests and reasons for support. It might be as few as 15 to 20, or perhaps as many as several hundred.
2. Utilize special outside tools to identify donors who have the potential to give more, but whose current giving behavior doesn’t suggest such. These include wealth-data overlays, net-asset rankings and donor-behavior comparisons. These tools, if carefully used, can provide you with a clear indication of the donors on your file who have the potential to give more.
3. Talk to your highest-ranking and potential high-level donors. Listen to what they have to say about your cause and how they feel about being part of the solutions you offer. Remember, your donors are giving to accomplish your mission, not to support your organization. If you don’t know the difference, call me for a little chat.
4. Based on your findings, design a focused communications program for these best-of-the-best donors that blends several special touches into your existing communication efforts. Your goal is to provide your donor with opportunities to relate on a more personal level with what they want to accomplish.
There are many ways and means for you to do this. A special thank-you note after the next gift. A phone call reporting on a specific project the donor supported. A special report about progress being made toward a specific goal. An invitation to attend a briefing or special event that would interest the donor. Perhaps even a personal visit over coffee or lunch. The idea is to create dialogue and offer opportunities for participation.
Remember, the more control and choice you give your donors, the more likely they are to perceive their own roles as stakeholders in accomplishing your mission.
5. With just a few weeks remaining in the year, it’s also important to take one final step. Compare your best donors’ giving this year with last year. Highlight those donors who are giving less than they gave in 2005. Many of them won’t be aware of their reduced giving. Contact them and have an open conversation about their support, their degree of satisfaction and their intentions about year-end giving. Provide them with a significant giving opportunity tied to their interests. Connect their beliefs and passions with your year-end needs and, by doing so, watch their giving increase to match or surpass what they gave in 2005.
Timothy Burgess is co-founder and senior strategist at Merkle/Domain. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.