Although there’s no denying that engaged donors tend to stick around longer, nonprofits overlook the importance of a donor’s gift amount in retention rates. In fact, the Association of Fundraising Professional’s annual Fundraising Effectiveness Project, suggests that increased donation amounts mean increased donor retention, which is great news for nonprofits with large numbers of major donors. However, nonprofits often find the biggest hurdle with major donors isn’t retention, but recruitment. Identifying and soliciting major gift donors is a large undertaking. Here are some tips to help boost your efforts:
Begin your major gift donor recruitment efforts with research. Chances are, your nonprofit’s prospects are well-known philanthropists in your community and they are fairly easy to identify. For starters, ask your current board members and major donors to recommend their colleagues, friends, and family to your fundraising staff. Then, do some research on these major gift prospects online. Ask your contact if they’d be a good match for your major gift program (if you have one). Next, browse the newspaper and your local Chamber of Commerce business listings, paying special attention to new businesses and large real estate transactions. Many nonprofits have recruited major donors through online donor search tools, but you can find similar information on other local nonprofit’s donor and annual reports. Remember, a donor’s propensity to give a major gift isn’t just based on their income or philanthropic presence in your community. Although it’s important to focus your attention on those who best fit major donor criteria, it doesn’t hurt to keep your eyes peeled for community members who simply have a fondness for your work.
Cultivate Through Inspiration
Once you know the donors you’re targeting, you must get them excited about your nonprofit’s work. Accomplish this through inspiration, the first step of the donor engagement cycle. Show your prospective major gift donors the impact you’re making by sharing the following:
- Client and other success stories
- A donor’s return on investment
- A detailed annual report, including a list of all donors and the total impact made throughout the past year
In addition to nonprofit-led inspiration, ask your board members and current donors to recommend your cause. Word-of-mouth marketing goes a long way in helping to legitimize the work of your organization and further emphasizes your outreach.
The approach in asking for a major gift differs from a traditional fundraising ask. Because major donors are the source of major, impact-rich gifts, they both need and deserve a special approach. Here are some tactics to use when asking prospective major gift donors for a donation:
- If possible, schedule an in-person meeting
- Ask for a specific amount and avoid an open ask
- Offer a monthly/recurring payment plan
- Ask someone the prospect knows to come along (if all parties are comfortable with this arrangement)
Remember, as in all nonprofit fundraising, the most important thing about the ask isn’t necessarily the donation, but the relationship you form. Relationships are what creates a bond between a prospective donor and your nonprofit into the future.
Stay in Contact
Whether the prospective major donor decides to give or not doesn’t mean contact should end. In fact, it’s important to continue inspiring that prospective/current donor indefinitely. After the meeting in which you make an ask, don’t forget to send a written thank you note or email thanking the prospect or donor for their time. Then, follow-up with a copy of your nonprofit’s annual report or another document that details donor impact and any other data that will prove the value of your nonprofit’s work. Identifying and soliciting major donors requires significant time and energy, but all that effort pays off in dividends. Major donor gifts are not only larger than average gift sizes, they are also more easily retained year over year, meaning more money toward all the good your nonprofit is doing in the world.