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3 Steps to a More Engaged Major Gifts List

We recently went to visit a client of ours to check in on their newly- started major gift program. We worked together to create the “ask”, form the prospect list from current donors, and create a moves management system to keep staff and volunteers on track.

They are doing great. The took their prospect list, made calls, mailed mini proposals, invited prospects to events, and went well beyond their goal.

What they did really well was to provide a lot of different avenues for major donors and prospects to engage with them. Some came to the event. Some accepted a phone call and personal visit. Some gave to a mini-proposal.

Even then, not everyone responded, and some never will. The fact is that while you might think that a major donor should meet with you, some just don’t want to. They are happy responding to your mail or cutting a big check at your event.

Not all major donors want to have a personal relationship with your organization.

As a major gift officer, I knew that I had people on my major gift list that were never going to respond to my personal invites to engage, but I’ve never thought about what percentage that might be. Veritus Group has put a percentage out there in a recent blog post:

“Only about 1/3 of donors who give you a major gift want to relate to you in a personal and meaningful way. 33.3333%! That’s it.”

This means that a good two-thirds of your major gifts portfolio isn’t going to respond to your personal invites, calls, or e-mails. That’s a lot of hours and effort!

How can you work more efficiently and find that 33.3%? Sure, you could just start plowing through the list and sort one-by-one, but is there a way to sift through the list to identify the donors most likely to want to be more personally engaged?

We say yes! Here are 3 ways to prioritize your major gifts list so you can start working more effectively and more efficiently:

#1 Do some research.

Veritus talks about qualifying donors in your li. To us at Front Range Source, that means determining three things:

  • Interest in your cause: Do they give to other organizations like yours?
  • Connection to your specific organization: Have they shown an interest in being involved? Have they called with a question or attended any events?
  • Capacity to give: Have they made large gifts to other organizations?

Some of this research lives within your database and some you can find online by looking at organizations that are like yours.

#2 See who knows who.

We all know the axiom that “people give to people” and if someone in your organization’s orbit knows a donor or prospect, they are much more likely to respond with that personal connection.

Put a list of major donors and prospects in front of your board, staff, and volunteers and see if they know anyone on the list. Determine the willingness to make a connection between you and the donor. Not an ask, just a introduction.

#3 Ask the donor!

One thing I’ve seen really work is to send a short survey with an acknowledgement or other communication, asking how the donor wants to be communicated with and how they want to be involved. You could do this online or through the mail (with a return envelope) and you’ll be surprised at what you might learn.

Be careful about what you offer as options. You need to be able to keep track of the requests and honor them!

At the heart of these ideas is a donor-centric approach, listening to what the individual donor is looking for, rather than what you are looking for in them.

 

p.s. Check out our classic blog Ring or Fling: Not All Donors Want the Same Relationship for a different slant on this same topic

 

 

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