Focus On: Major Gifts: Take A Lesson from the Old School
Keep showing up
Even students for whom academics don’t come easily will find that they can succeed if they demonstrate to their professors that they care — by making it to every class, asking questions, showing that what the professors are taking the time to teach is important to them. It’s the same with donors.
Oddly enough, though, some fundraisers take the opposite approach, especially in a struggling economy, and pay less attention to their donors.
“Times are tough,” you hear over and over from development directors. “Major gifts are dropping off.” Maybe, some say, it’s just a difficult time for fundraising.
Indeed, times are tough, but what does that actually mean in terms of people?
Individuals’ paper assets may lose value, but 80 percent of individual giving is out of income, not assets. Still, what you’re seeing is belt-tightening among large and small donors alike.
Giving essentially is flat nationally, and some sectors of the nonprofit world also have been hit hard by government and foundation cutbacks. But this is no time to sit back and watch. Instead, nonprofits need to engage in continuous cultivation.
Take a fresh look at your current pool of major donors. Ask yourself honestly what each donor has received from you over the past year — reports, letters, thank-you notes, your time, your president’s time, etc.
Go down the list again and ask yourself whether you’ve asked enough of your donors. Have they been invited to take leadership positions? Do they sit on boards of prospective foundations? Have they been asked about planned giving? Can their companies become involved? Leave no stone unturned.
Then, make a plan to revisit each major donor. This can range from taking the top donors to dinner on down to creating an in-house e-mail list to keep them updated with a bit more information than they would find in your regular newsletter. That is to say, turn your donors into “insiders” — people who feel they have a continuous stake in your organization. Position fundraising as part of the solution. At a time when everything is negative, a large gift or two can be extremely positive.