Tech Support for Major Gifts
Nonprofit organizations, recognizing that their donors are what fuels their missions, want to make the most of the donors and prospects they have, add new prospects, convert prospects into lifelong donors, and help existing donors recognize their potential within the organization. For many organizations this means implementing and nurturing a major-gifts program.
There are different ways to implement such programs. Two well-known models are The Benevon™ approach (formerly called Raising More Money) and Moves Management® from the Institute for Charitable Giving.
Whatever model organizations choose, the key is the development of strong relationships with donors based on mutual respect for the organization's mission and the donor's desires. Neither the organization's mission nor the donor's desires operate on a predetermined schedule. But both are best met with well-defined and implemented processes.
A solid donor-management system can work in tandem with your major-gift process. Here's how:
Process: Rate your prospects
A process recognized by most major models, and clearly identified in Joan Flanagan's "Successful Fundraising," is to rate the prospects you have. Assign a dollar amount to each of your major-donor prospects. Aim high. If it turns out you are overestimating what a donor will give, don't worry; he or she will let you know.
Rating your prospects helps you to group them based on capacity and commitment to your organization, and it sets clear ask amounts for your organization.
Complement: Fundraising and donor-management applications enable you to rate your prospects by providing ways to identify donors who have given the most and most consistently. This information will complement your collection of information regarding your major-donor prospects. Entering the projected ask amount for each major-donor prospect makes this information available to anyone reviewing the donor's giving history or the planned strategy, or making visits and calls.
Process: Do research
Even if you know your major-donor prospects fairly well, and especially if you don't, it's crucial to research their interests. Find out why they became involved with your organization and who else knows them with connections to your organization. Conducting research about your prospects will aid you in the development of your relationships with them.
Complement: Quality donor-management software supports your outside research efforts by making it easy to bring newspaper articles, announcements and other research into your donor-management system on individual prospects, making it readily available to others. Your software also has areas defined for storing information like how a person came to give to your organization, his or her interests, and so on.
Process: Involve others in cultivation
One of the aspects of the Institute for Charitable Giving's Moves Management process is the identification of other influential people to help you in your efforts. Cultivating strong relationships between your organization and your major-donor prospects likely involves multiple people. Identify these people for each prospect and why you want them involved in the process. Then, ask them to help you in your efforts.
These people need not be restricted to staff and board members. You may find that some of the most influential people are other constituents and volunteers.
Complement: Donor-management software is designed to help you keep track of other people's involvement in the process. The interconnectivity of different people in your database is easy to define. You can associate the other people with the prospect, enter the reason why you are considering them as part of your cultivation efforts, and determine whether or not a particular person is especially influential to the prospect.
Your software will then let you associate these specific people with, for example, an appointment where you intend to highlight someone's involvement in activities of interest to your prospect. Or you can ask one of these people to come along on a tour of your facility. Because you can enter this information into your software, it is available for reference in the future.
Process: Assign an account manager
Most major-gift fundraising models recommend that you always assign a staff account manager to each major-donor prospect. A manager will oversee cultivation of the prospect, ensuring that nothing "falls through the cracks." The account manager doesn't have to be at every meeting with the prospect, and he or she likely won't "do the ask" (at least not alone) but will be responsible for the overall development of the relationship.
Complement: Identifying an account manager makes the built-in reporting, filtering, scheduling and querying features of donor-management systems most useful from the vantage point of major-donor cultivation.
Process: Plan ahead
Cultivating major donors cannot be done haphazardly. Stick to the processes your organization recommends, but be flexible. And remember that in an ongoing major-gifts program, cultivation happens on your prospect's timeline, not yours, and certainly not your software's.
However, recognizing that the relationship will develop on your prospect's timeline doesn't mean you shouldn't define a cultivation strategy for that prospect and tentatively schedule e-mails, calls and visits. Every major-gift fundraising model indicates it is imperative to plan ahead. Just be aware that these plans are only tentative, and accept that adjustments will occur.
Complement: Areas for documenting and updating your strategy for a prospect are readily available in donor-management systems that support major-gifts fundraising efforts. These systems also offer full-featured contact and appointment tracking including automatic, editable, pop-up reminders. Tickler systems remind you and your account managers of upcoming appointments. When a tickler displays, you can complete it and enter notes and other impressions from that individual contact with your prospect, reschedule, or make any other adjustments to the appointment you deem necessary.
Amanda Mallinger Reinartz is the development manager for ResultsPlus.