5 Ways to Get Stuck Donors to Raise Their Giving Levels
At Veritus Group, before we start working with any client, we look at their data. Mainly, we’re looking at donor retention (donors who continue to give year over year) and value retention (the amount of revenue retained from the same donors year over year).
But, there is another factor we keep our eye on—we look for the number of donors who give the same gift amount year over year. For example, we might see a major donor file that has a few six-figure gifts, a couple of high five-figure gifts and a large number of $5,000 gifts from donors who seem to renew at that level every year.
We especially see this if the nonprofit has some kind of membership or renewal rate as part of its offer to donors. Or, we see many low dollar ($1,000 to $4,999) major gifts from nonprofits that have built their donor files using direct-response fundraising.
So, you may be asking, “What’s going on with these major donor files? Why do these donors keep giving the same amount year over year? Are they somehow stuck?"
What’s happened is that the nonprofit has essentially trained these donors to give that amount year after year. And, because the nonprofit is grateful to get that gift each year, it gets stuck on the idea that these donors don’t want to give any more than that.
Usually, these gifts come from either a regular direct-response solicitation or a more traditional annual-fund appeal the donor gets in the mail.
Any of this sound familiar?
When we see this in our data assessment of the major gift file, we immediately see great opportunity. We know that, for some reason, the nonprofit has created some kind of story regarding these donors, and our job is create a new story.
Typically, when we ask major gift officers (MGO) who these donors are, they don't really know, or they think they know, but have never really sat down with the donors to find out what their passions and interests are.
Here’s the thing: When we help MGOs start to develop goals and strategic plans for those donors—and they start to meet face-to-face, and understand what those passions and interests really are—amazing things start to happen.
Donors who once gave $5,000 every year start giving $25,000 gifts. Other donors, who may have given $1,000 a year, give $100,000 gifts—it’s actually quite a remarkable thing to witness.
Why does this happen? Because, for the first time, someone is actually listening to the donors, and matching what they're most passionate about with specific projects and programs the nonprofit has to offer. It’s amazing when this happens.
So, if you have a caseload full of lower-end major gifts from donors who give these gifts year after year, I want you to consider the following:
1. Ask the question. “Why does this donor give this amount every year?” Asking forces you to investigate and request a meeting with this donor.
2. Sit down with the donor. You’ve got a great reason to meet these donors. You want to thank them for their incredible faithfulness over the year, and you want to find out what they are passionate about. There is no pressure on you or the donors—you're only talking with them.
3. Match passion and program. Once you find out what donors are passionate about, challenge them to fund that passion. You’ll be amazed by their willingness to do so.
4. Run a wealth-indicator screen over your donor base. If you need an added push, I suggest you run a wealth-screen on your portfolio so you can see the capacity of donors who have been giving lower-end major gifts. You’ll be blown away by how many of your donors have much greater capacity than their current giving indicates.
5. Ask, ask, ask. Create a revenue goal for each of these donors, make a plan, build a relationship and then ask. The No. 1 reason many of these donors don’t give more is that no one ever asked them for more. Start asking!
Today, you have a major-donor file that has plenty of donors who give the same amount year after year. That’s a good thing. But you can turn a good thing into a great thing by knowing these donors and finally asking them to fund one of your projects and programs they're passionate about.
Go ahead—your donors are waiting for you to ask.
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.