Should Major Donors Get Fund Appeals?
At Veritus, we get asked all the time whether or not a major donor, who is a part of a portfolio of a major gift officer, should get fund appeal letters, email solicitations, etc. The short answer is... YES!
Typically, most major donors move through your major gift pipeline by giving through your direct-response program. In fact, when we review the data, it shows that a good chunk of major donors come through a direct response mail appeal and give a gift of $25.
For some reason, nonprofit leaders think that once a donor has hit the major gift level of giving and has been qualified, then they should pull them out of the regular communication schedule and stop sending them appeals, e-appeals, newsletters, etc.
Why would you do that?
That is not donor-centric thinking. You’ve created a story in your head that because a donor gives at a certain level, somehow all the “stuff” you send them is no longer good for the donor.
The only times Richard and I would advocate taking a donor out of the regular stream of donor communications is if the donor requests it or you’ve come to a place in the relationship with the donor that the only way they will give to your organization is through a direct one-on-one solicitation. But, even then, we’ve had donors who have complained to the organization that they no longer get “their mail” anymore and wonder what happened.
We have analyzed many organizations that have taken major donors out of the regular stream of appeals and have seen devastating effects on income. In some cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue has been lost because of this bad decision.
We have to realize that many major donors not only give through a direct, personal one-on-one solicitation, but have also given more gifts through a direct response appeal during the course of a calendar year.
Now if you are a leader or manager of a major gift officer or team, I want to make it clear about two issues as it relates to direct response solicitations to major donors:
- If the donor is in a major gift officer’s portfolio and the donor gives through a direct response solicitation, the major gift officer gets the credit for it. Soft credit goes to the direct-response team. We are assuming that the work the major gift officer is doing with the donor is affecting response, whether it’s face-to-face solicitation or through other means.
- You have to be diligent with the major gift officer, so they do not rely on a direct response solicitation to “take the place of” a personal one-on-one solicitation. This happens all too frequently in major gift fundraising. We see this by looking at the data and seeing donors who give the same amount year after year — they are in a portfolio! Why is this happening? Because the major gift officer is not making personal asks and challenging the donor with higher levels of giving. Instead, they are relying on a mail or email solicitation for the donor to give.
If you have a healthy major gift program, your donors are not only giving from a personal solicitation, but they are also receiving your regular donor communication stream and giving through that means as well.
Do not make the fatal mistake of making a decision for your donor based on YOUR bias about your direct response program communication. Remember, most of your major donors have been cultivated and stewarded for years by this communication. And they have responded to 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.