Major donors play a key role in every campaign, regardless of scope or multi-channel dimensions. Even with new digital tools to reach more donors, we still need key friends to sustain and build momentum in our fundraising. And, even if we’ve diversified our nonprofit’s revenue streams, this group continues to have tremendous impact on development success.
Making friends doesn’t happen overnight. The same can be said of cultivating major donors. It takes genuine and deliberate effort to forge these relationships.
What is the relationship elixir that will keep us forever connected, you ask?
When you move to a new town, it’s up to the “newcomer’ to reach out and make friends on their home turf. Similarly, it’s up to the nonprofit to understand what connected this committed donor in the first place and how to keep them engaged for years to come.
So how do we engage the donor in our work and grow the relationship?
Cultivation of major donors takes specific actions, special thought, and a deep understanding of the relationship.
1. From a campaign perspective it’s important to establish true deadlines and meaningful goals that clearly demonstrate how a donor’s gift will make an impact. Make sure there are multiple gift levels to match an individual’s motivation for giving.
2. Use your Social CRM to uncover as much as you can about each loyal donor and prospect. Consider the more predicative metrics such as demographics, donor history, and year-over-year gift amounts. Find out if anyone in your organization might be able to offer a referral, including past donors and board members.
3. Consider activities that grow the relationship as much as the actual success in procuring a larger gift: “Money is critical but our donors provide so much more additional value,” says Eric Scroggins, Executive Director of Growth Strategy and Development for Teach For America. How might you tap into that “additional value”?
4. Create a top 25 list (and reiterations in groups of 25, if you’re responsible for a large number of major donors): How did the donor first come to the organization? Who referred them? What was the specific “hook?” Learn about your donor’s passion and why they’re involved in your cause. Uncover as many intangibles as possible. Then, create a specific cultivation plan for each prospect.
5. Nothing replaces face-to-face interactions to get to know someone. What’s the right venue? Are there cultivation events at your nonprofit? Knowing that they might be solicited, prospects might be wary of attending. Use referrals from board members for making introductions and deciding on the best approach for each prospect.
6. Listen well. Always drive actions from the donor’s perspective versus your nonprofit’s agenda. “If you aren’t open to receiving verbal or written clues from a donor, you will find it impossible to accurately tailor your message when you speak your case for support,” says Marty Zimmerman, President of Zim Consulting, a Denver-based consulting and contracting firm for nonprofits. Also, explore interactions on social media sites that indicate interest in your nonprofit. Is there a “Key Influencer” who might become a Major Donor?
Just as you must decide upon the appropriate channels and digital tools for a multi-channel campaign, determine through your CRM data and internal conversations, the specific signposts of a major donor. Design outreach personalized for this loyal supporter. If you’ve done your homework well, the rest of the conversation, including the Ask, will come with ease.