Follow These 6 Steps to Cultivate a Transformational Gift
Do you want to know how successful major gifts officers help their donors give transformational gifts?
By “transformational,” I mean a gift that, for both the donor and the organization, takes the donor’s giving to a completely new level and fundamentally changes the organization. Usually it’s a six-, seven- or even an eight-figure gift.
Setting goals for the donors in your portfolio is important, but there’s another level of planning that successful major gifts officers do that leads to a transformational gift. Here’s how successful major gifts officers can cultivate a transformational gift:
1. Review Top Tier Donors
Through your knowledge of the relationship with the donor, understanding of their capacity and grasp of their passions, create a three- to five-year revenue goal. For example, say you have a donor who’s giving in the $50,000 range. They’re in your top level, and they’ve made significant, six- and seven-figure gifts to other organizations. You may set a three-year goal for $250,000 to $500,000. In your top level, I find there are anywhere between two to five donors who have the ability to make a transformational gift.
2. Create a Three-Year Plan
You’ll create a long-term, three-year plan to help this donor give that transformational gift. This is in addition to the 12-month strategic plan you already have for this donor. This new plan is predicated on knowing your donor’s passions and interests because you’ll be doing quite a bit of research around your programs and projects. This plan will include cultivating your donor with touches that are specific to the program or project you’re matching up with your donor.
3. Work With the Program and Finance Departments
When working toward a transformational gift, your work as a major gifts fundraiser is to sit down with program and finance colleagues to come up with the most appropriate offer the program will be able to fulfill if this type of gift is received. Finance needs to be at the table to make sure the gift is structured correctly and to work with the program to make sure all of the costs are included for the donor to invest in. There will also need to be buy-in from the program team so its staff can meet with the donor to help present the need.
4. Involve Leadership
It’s imperative that your leadership is involved in helping to cultivate a transformational gift. The CEO or executive director, some board members, and the chief operating officer or chief financial officer all need to have a clear plan about what their roles are with the donor. It’s your job as the major gifts fundraiser to quarterback the team of people whose help you’ll need to make this gift become a reality.
5. Communicate With the Donor
Successful major gifts officers, when working on a long-term plan for a transformational gift, talk about it with a donor all along the way. In other words, if you have a solid relationship with a donor, you can have frank, open and honest discussions about their future investments in your organization, including what it would take for your donor to want to make a transformational gift. This is much better than springing a large gift solicitation out of the blue on a donor. If you review how most donors make a transformational gift, it’s typically through years of working very closely with the gifts officer and the organization. The fundraiser helps to inspire the donor to make that incredible gift.
6. Show Impact
I stress this all of the time: Continue to show your donor how their previous giving is having an impact as it will have a great effect on how your donor perceives your organization. And coming up with both formal and informal ways to show the donor how their gifts have made a difference will have an enormous impact on whether a donor will be inspired to make that transformational gift. If you do this right, your chances of receiving that gift go up exponentially.
This is how successful major gifts officers help donors give transformational gifts. They plan for it. They work hard with the donor and with everyone in the organization to build the proper offer that will inspire the donor. And the gifts officer has to be dedicated to a long-term plan because exceptional gifts typically don’t happen out of the blue.
It’s having a goal, a plan and the discipline to stay with the plan that brings in a transformational gift. You can do it!
Jeff Schreifels is the principal owner of Veritus Group — an agency that partners with nonprofits to create, build and manage mid-level fundraising, major gifts and planned giving programs. In his 32-plus year career, Jeff has worked with hundreds of nonprofits, helping to raise more than $400 million in revenue.