How To Make Sure Your Major-Gifts Planning Is On Point
I'll never forget the major-gifts officer who had booked a flight to a city in another state to "visit" donors and he hadn't (a) actually analyzed whether they were the right donors (they weren't), or (b) booked any meetings. He was just gonna show up and "make it happen."
Then there's the major-gifts manager who has no plans for her MGOs, doesn't monitor (or care) who they're talking to, has never considered what programs and projects should be presented to donors, has no reporting in place and simply leads her staff with, "If the donor gives more than $1,000 in one financial period, then you manage them." Whew. This is just amazing. And what's more shocking is that the management above this person allows it.
I am repeatedly shocked at how so many major-gifts programs, managers and MGOs operate without any plans or any logical approach to work. You wouldn't plan a vacation that way, where you do not give thought to your destination until the morning you start out — although I have to admit that might be fun.
Yet, in many major-gifts programs we see (and we see a lot of them in North America and Europe), there is no formal logical approach to planning. It's no wonder that those programs are failing as managers and MGOs "lead from the gut."
In our writings for this blog, Jeff and I have carefully laid out what the initial planning process for a major-gifts program should be. Stated simply, it's basically this:
- You need to have the right talent. We've told you that criteria.
- You need to select the right donors. This is about recency, amount and capacity.
- You need to contact those donors and see if they want to relate to you — that's qualifying.
- Once you have your list of qualified donors, you need to set financial goals for each donor.
- You need to tier the donors in some hierarchy that shows relative value (A,B,C) so you know how to spend your time. Not all donors are equal.
- Then you have to create contact, cultivation and ask plans for each donor.
- You can't move forward without securing program information — something to present to the donors not only for reporting back on how their gifts made a difference but also preparing asks.
- And finally you need to, along with your manager, create performance evaluation measurements and reports in order to let people outside yourself know how you are doing.
So, before you can even get started you need to do all of this planning. If you don't, then you will be "leading from the gut," and I guarantee you will be off course by the end of the first day! If you're bored and impatient as you read this, you might want to consider a different job. Seriously, you will not succeed as you could, unless you line things up properly.
If you’re hanging with Richard it won’t be long before you’ll be laughing.
He always finds something funny in everything. But when the conversation is about people, their money and giving, you’ll find a deeply caring counselor who helps donors fulfill their passions and interests. Richard believes that successful major-gift fundraising is not fundamentally about securing revenue for good causes. Instead it is about helping donors express who they are through their giving. The Connections blog will provide practical information on how to do this successfully. Richard has more than 30 years of nonprofit leadership and fundraising experience, and is founding partner of the Veritus Group.