Screening Sessions for Major Donors
Many times in smaller organizations, executive directors and development directors will bemoan the fact that they don’t have the “movers and shakers” on their board and, therefore, won’t consider a major-gifts program or capital campaign that relies heavily on leadership-level gifts.
Before writing off your board, consider doing some brainstorming on major-donor prospects. You might be surprised at the connections your board has in this regard.
Brainstorming is best done in the form of a screening and rating session. There are basically three ways to conduct screening for major-donor prospects. For all three methods, the screening committee could include:
* board members
* development committee members
* members of a leadership-gifts committee
* organization volunteers with broad community connections.
It is crucial to start with a preliminary list. It’s often hard to get a brainstorming session started with a blank slate. Prepare a list of the top 10 percent of donors to your organization or other prospects that you feel might have the potential to make a major gift. List the giving history of these people, with their largest gift and most recent gift. Provide a column for each of the key ingredients: linkages, ability and interest. Be sure to mark the sheets “highly confidential.” And, of course, if gifts have been made anonymously, do not list them.
Now, the three methods:
1. The open screening session. Invite the group to assemble in a quiet room and open the discussion with a brief explanation of the process, its importance to the organization and why they were selected to help with this task. Then distribute the lists and discuss each name, attempting to determine the best linkage -- who knows this person best or would be the best person to make the “ask”?
Often there will be several linkages, and the task of this group is to determine the best solicitation team.