Get Outside of Your Comfort Zone
There was a disconnect.
The client was well connected to area foundations, communicated with them regularly and made annual visits.
Moving beyond foundations to major individual donors—and even the organization’s own board members—were not as connected or committed.
While our research found some substantial financial support from foundations, it dropped dramatically when moving to individuals. And in terms of potential campaign leadership—a essential element in campaign success—very few leaders felt connected enough to suggest that they would serve on a campaign-steering committee.
There was an experienced executive director in place who was highly regarded and seen as the leader in the nonprofit’s mission area. The development director had been in place a few years. For whatever reason, there was a big disconnect between them and their potential major donors.
The statistics are clear—while foundation and corporate support are important and for some organizations government support—there is no replacing the core of a strong, major gifts effort.
When we asked about the disconnect, the client pushed back. Then, we dug deeper and asked about personal visits to some key former board and major donor prospects. There hadn’t been any lately. It sunk in: The organization had largely neglected individual donors—for whatever reason, this hadn’t been a focus.
It seemed to be a comfort level of dealing with foundations and guidelines that are well articulated versus individual donors who are less predictable. Be willing to get outside of your comfort zone and connect with your best major donor prospects. Chances are, most of them are individuals.
Looking for Jeff? You'll find him either on the lake, laughing with good friends, or helping nonprofits develop to their full potential.
Jeff believes that successful fundraising is built on a bedrock of relevant, consistent messaging; sound practices; the nurturing of relationships; and impeccable stewardship. And that organizations that adhere to those standards serve as beacons to others that aspire to them. The Bedrocks & Beacons blog will provide strategic information to help nonprofits be both.
Jeff has more than 25 years of nonprofit leadership experience and is a member of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.