What Major Gift Fundraisers Can Learn From Fairy Tales
In "Major Gift Fundraising’s Most Important Fairy Tales," Claire Axelrad, JD, CFRE, principal of Clairification, ties enduring moral tales to effective major gift fundraising strategies. There’s a lot of common sense here, and these stories provide important reminders. Generally:
- There’s a continuum along which major donor prospects move towards readiness to make a passionate gift.
- Fundraising is fundamentally about people relating joyfully to people with empathy, kindness and love.
Specifically, there are lessons laced throughout these tales that will help you navigate major gift fundraising effectively. If you don’t have time for the full article, here are the most important take-aways:
Wizard of Oz: A Tale of Prospect Identification
- There’s no place like home. Look in your own database and ask those closest to you for referrals.
- Don’t overlook anyone who shows heart, wisdom and courage. It’s not just the wealthy who are worthy of your attention. Look carefully at connections to your organization and demonstrated concerns.
- Many of the major players are women. Women give more frequently and make larger gifts, as per research cited in the article.
Sleeping Beauty: A Tale of Prospect Qualification
- Who is simply awaiting a kiss from their prince—YOU—to wake them up! Not every beauty is ready to wake up. Only one in every three donors wants to really have face-to-face contact. Which is why you engage in a series of qualifying "moves."
- Which beauties are demonstrating they want to be kissed? As a guideline, after you’ve personally reached out four to seven times and received no response, it’s time to drop these folks off your major donor cultivation portfolio.
Goldilocks: A Tale of Prospect Cultivation
- Your prospect can’t be too cold or too hot, but must be "just right." You want to engage in just the right amount of strategic cultivation.
- Think about how your actions may affect others. Goldilocks didn’t think about the bears at all when she sampled their porridge, sat in their chairs and slept in their beds. She thought only of her own needs. Do you do the same when you approach major gift fundraising?
The Big Bad Wolf and 3 Little Pigs: A Tale of Prospect Preparation
- This is a story about creative ways to get in the door. You don’t need to "huff and puff and blow the house down.” You do need to adequately prepare your donor prospect so they know they’ve nothing to fear from your visit.
- You never want a major donor visit to be about coming from a place of fear. Ask for an advice visit, which is not at all scary. Could the wolf have persuaded the pigs they had something useful to offer him? If so, rather than being afraid of what he might do tothem, this might have made them feel good enough to have let him into their houses—where they could have done something with
Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs: A Tale of the Case for Support
- Give each of your "dwarfs" (distinct program) a name and a personality (case for support)! Only then will donors be able to relate and choose their favorite.
- Work together—whistling or not—with others on your team to assure the donor’s needs get met. Don’t compete for their attention or try to hoard donors for your own department. Lead with what your donor most cares about, not what you care about.
Cinderella and Prince Charming: A Tale of Prospect Solicitation
- Let your donor know they’re your "perfect fit" and this is going to be a ‘happily ever after. Simply smashing a foot into a shoe won’t do the trick if it’s a poor fit. You need to help your donor find meaning and purpose through their philanthropy.
- Kindness matters. Cinderella, the kind one, won while her evil stepmother and sisters lost everything they wanted. If you want to succeed at major gift fundraising you definitely must come from a place of loving kindness. Think about your donor’s story, not your own.
- Cinderella is a rags to riches story. It wasn’t the money that propelled her to success, it was the impact she made through her goodness to all creatures.
Inside Out: A Tale of Donor Stewardship
- Happiness is not just about joy. Just like the little girl in this Pixar film, donors often feel mixed emotions. Did they do the right thing? Did they give too much/too little? Will their money be used as they intended? Could they have accomplished their goals better elsewhere? They need you to communicate regularly and reward them for their giving.
- Empathy is vital to wellbeing. It’s okay to admit the tough stuff.If everything is happy all the time, then why is your donor’s support needed? And how can they empathize with something, or someone, they’d like to help? Giving is an emotional, empathic act, so don’t suppress bad news or tough emotions.
If you like craft fairs, baseball games, art openings, vocal and guitar, and political conversation, you’ll like to hang out with Claire Axelrad. Claire, J.D., CFRE, will inspire you through her philosophy of philanthropy, not fundraising. After a 30-year development career that earned her the AFP “Outstanding Fundraising Professional of the Year” award, Claire left the trenches to begin her coaching/teaching practice, Clairification. Claire is also a featured expert and chief fundraising coach for Bloomerang, She’ll be your guide, so you can be your donor’s guide on their philanthropic journey. A member of the California State Bar and graduate of Princeton University, Claire currently resides in San Francisco.