Five Simple Year-End Major Gift Steps

The end of the year is the Giving Season, when more than half of all individual donor philanthropy happens in America. This is the time of year when clients and colleagues tell me: We don’t have any major donor prospects, so how can we raise major gifts? Here’s my answer, in five simple steps:

  1. Identify your top 3 – 5 stakeholders or donors. You’ll notice that I said stakeholders OR donors. That’s because some organizations don’t have individual donors yet, and yours may be one of them. So it’s your job to identify individuals in your inner circle who may not currently be making an individual gift to your organization but should be. Whether board members or other volunteers, every organization has 3 – 5 people in their orbit who could be giving…or giving more.

  2. Do you know what drives these individuals to give? (check out this great article from Veritus Group) Let’s assume they’ve already made at least one philanthropic gift to your organization. Do you know why? As the most important part of your conversation, you need to pinpoint what motivates them about your mission. If they’ve yet to make a gift, the conversation needs to focus on determining what program would inspire them to do so.

  3. Ask for a 50%-100% upgrade. OK, so now you know why they give (or are ready to make a gift). At what level are they giving today? Are you aware of any reason why they couldn’t give 50% – 100% more than last year? If they are currently supporting you at the $500 level, why not ask for $1,000? If they give $25,000, what is stopping you from asking for $50,000?

  4. Ask for a multi-year commitment. Better yet, talk with each donor/prospect about a multi-year pledge, making the first year of their pledge payment in 2015. Many organizations only do that when they’re in capital or comprehensive campaign mode. But why? For the donor, multi-year pledges are long-term philanthropic investments in organizational sustainability, plus they give you more time to focus on stewardship vs. solicitation. Note: be prepared for the fact that your CFO likely won’t love this concept, as booking pledges takes a bit more work for the Finance Department. That’s OK, as this approach offers an excellent opportunity to provide internal education and work as a team to raise more revenue for your important mission.

  5. Get that bigger gift now AND the biggest gift later. If someone in your group of 5 is a current donor who has financial capacity that hasn’t been aligning with their current giving level, don’t despair. Start by asking them for a small upgrade now, e.g. from $5,000 to $10,000, and focus on enhanced stewardship so that you can secure that $100,000 or $1M gift later. And remember: if you don’t ask for the bigger gift now, you’ll have to wait even longer to ask for the biggest gift later.

Teaching the most feared group in America

Week before last, Amy and I taught AFP's Fundamentals of Fundraising to 15 members of the Development, Marketing and Operations staff at an Islamic emergency response organization.

Globally there are approximately 1.6B Muslims (this figure is based on the Pew Research Center’s most recent estimate), and roughly forty-four Islamic countries. Although Muslims vary in their particular religious practices and cultural beliefs from region to region, most follow the same basic tenets of Islam.

So when two Anglo teachers hailing from Maryland and Michigan showed up, guess what happened? Every single person, student and teacher alike, had stories to share about challenging donors and kind colleagues. Each student asked thoughtful and thought provoking questions about everything from measuring successful fundraising performance to addressing the growing number of major donors who want to restrict their gifts to appropriate responses when a philanthropist says “No” to your solicitation.

Our students joked with, debated, discussed, challenged and supported each other – and us. And on breaks, we talked about everything from family to pop culture to great restaurants to Mipsters (look it up!)…you know, the kinds of conversations people have with one another every day the world over.

Whether dressed in a suit, jeans, headscarves, or a Salwar Kameez, as the prolific and profound Maya Angelou declared in Our Human Family, “We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.” Indeed.

P.S. Recently, an innovative #actualmuslims anti-Isis billboard campaign was launched, which contains a powerful quote from the Quran: “Life is Sacred”. I encourage you to check it out on Upworthy. In the meantime, let us remember to celebrate our differences while embracing our many commonalities – sharing life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness together.