Who Else Is On Board?
Any major gift officer who has been working for a few years has heard this phrase uttered by one of their donors, “Well, who else is going to fund this project? I don’t want to be the only one to invest in it.”
I was just reading one of Seth Godin’s blog posts titled “Making Change (In Multiples).” He says this in his post:
“When people [a major donor] can see how parts of your message [offer] resonate with their peers [other major donors], they’re more likely to reconsider them in a positive light.”
The most obvious way you see this happening with major donors is in a capital campaign. Most capital campaign consultants will tell you that before a donor commits a long-term pledge, they want to know who the other donors are that are also committing a pledge.
But beyond campaigns, Richard and I feel there is an opportunity for you to understand a very human behavior and serve your donor outrageously by helping your donor make a difference by connecting them to other donors who have a similar passion and interest.
It’s a strategy that we feel is way underused in major gifts.
Now, a warning here before I go to far with this. You have to be very careful that you are not diminishing an individual donor’s impact (their overall giving to a project) by having others join the donor in their giving. I want to be clear: You are not getting a group of donors to fund a project or program. That actually could have the opposite effect on what you are intending to do.
This kind of thing happens when you bring together a random bunch of major donors at a gathering or event and you introduce a new project or program for them to all invest in. The problem with this is that you can’t treat a major donor as part of a group. That can have a negative effect on giving amounts.
What you want to do is take an individual donor (knowing their personal passion and interests) and introduce them to other individual donors who have a similar passion and interest to connect them to a specific project or program that inspires the donors to do more than they would do individually.
The difference here is that you are relating to these donors as individuals, working your strategic plan and part of that plan is to bring together some donors who you feel would give more if they knew others viewed the project or program with equal importance.
As a major gift officer, you are doing two things: 1) treating each donor as an individual, and yet, 2) reinforcing a human behavior that someone is more likely to make more of an impact if they know there are others who are just as passionate will join them to make a difference.
What this practically means is this:
- Review your entire caseload, along with your fellow colleagues. If you have them, look for donors who have similar passion and interests.
- Review all programs and projects of your organization. Do you have projects or programs that match the individual interests that will make a significant impact on your organization? Create a matrix of donors and offers.
- Discuss the project or program with each individual separately to gauge interest and potential investment amounts. If there is interest, tell them you want to introduce to a few other donors who are also interested in making an impact.
- Bring together no more than three to four donors to discuss the project, and make sure each donor discusses why they are passionate about it. Allow for further opportunities to engage as a “team” and ask questions.
- Follow up. Follow up should be done with each donor individually where the official solicitation would take place.
Obviously, you have to know your donor well enough if this would work for him or her. Some donors want to be the sole investor in a project. That type of donor does not do well with this strategy. It’s the donor that is more likely to do more when others are also investing.
This is just another level of strategic planning and thinking you can be doing with your caseload that could have an enormous impact on a donor’s investment in your organization. The added benefit is that you bring together like-minded donors who will make a positive impact now and perhaps well into the future.
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.