Earlier this month, Lori Jacobwith at Ignited Fundraising hosted me on a webinar. At the end, there were dozens of questions and we answered as many as time allowed.
Unfortunately, we were unable to get to a number of your questions about major gift fundraising, especially those that required more detailed answers. There were four questions in particular that stood out.
Donor-Restricted Major Gifts
Is the trend that major individual donors want something specific, and therefore the dollars would be restricted to a particular project or program? Because our need is really in general operating support. What’s the best way to make that case?
— Emily Cole-Jones
It depends on the donor. Many major donors are sympathetic and understanding of the needs of nonprofits and will consider an unrestricted gift if you explain it well. It’s your job to make the case that giving to operations helps support all of your programs and services.
During the cultivation (relationship building) process, it’s up to you to start this discussion with the donor.
Let the donor know that while you’re not asking for a donation today (or during this conversation), you would like to start that conversation so you know what to ask them for in the future. Assuming they are agreeable, let them know that your greatest need is “keeping the lights on,” and find out if that’s something they would consider supporting.
However, when donors do opt to restrict their support to programs or services, it can sometimes free up other monies for operations. When donors do want to support specific items or services, be sure they are already line items in your budget, and not something new whenever possible.
Dollars Raised as a Key Metric
How do you feel about adding gift attainment as a metric to overall performance metrics with gift officers? In other words, a dollar amount assigned annually to gift offers?
— Julie Chacona
Dollars raised (or gift attainment) is naturally going to be one of several metrics used to evaluate the overall performance of gift officers. However, it should be one of several metrics.
When it comes to major gifts, some years are better than others, and one gift can swing the amount raised significantly in either direction. For example, let’s say your goal is $500,000 and you’ve already raised $400,000. One gift of $200,000 can make the gift officer look like a hero or failure — they might hit $600,000 or only $400,000 if they’re unable to close that last gift.
Download my free Metrics Dashboard Worksheet at Mastering Major Gifts to learn more about how dollars raised can be a false indicator of future success.
Time Until Contacting a Major Donor
How much time should go by before you contact a donor after they have given?
— Debbie Roumell
Contact them immediately to thank them for the gift — send a letter, a handwritten note, have a board member make a thank you call… all within the same week of receiving a gift.
People who give major gifts want to be engaged. If appropriate, invite them to take a tour or meet some clients.
A few weeks or months later, follow up with a visit to let them know how their donation was used.
Major Donors and Appeal Mailings
Should you remove major donors from other appeal mailings?
— Mary Talen
No! Many major donors give through appeal mailings. Do not take them off your list.
When I was at one organization, we took the major donors off the appeal mailing list. And then when we couldn’t secure meetings with those individuals for one reason or another, they were off the appeal list, and ended up never being asked that year.
The only exception might be if you’re meeting with major donors during the same week as the appeal is scheduled to go out. But make a note to yourself — if the meeting gets canceled for any reason, be sure to drop them an appeal in the mail with a personal note.
Now I’d like to hear from you. Do you have other answers to any of the above questions? Or do you have another question about raising major gifts? Let me know in the comments.
Also, be sure to check Lori Jacobwith’s free resources — she’s got some great stuff.