Welcome back to the Major Gifts Challenge! If you’re unfamiliar with the Challenge, check out the introductory video here.
A first step to achieve success in raising major gifts is identifying who you will ask.
The last video discussed defining a major gift. Once defined, it’s clear you don’t need lots of major gift donors — you can be successful with just a handful. When it comes to major gifts, it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality.
A Shorter List of Major Gift Prospects is Better
It’s actually better to focus on a handful of well qualified donors, the best potential donors, than a longer list of “maybe’s.”
The goal is to narrow your donor list to a number you can manage. These lists are often called a portfolio, or pipeline, indicating the need to manage what passes through.
It makes no sense to have a list of 50 or 100 names, which may feel so overwhelming that it just sits on your desk.
If you’re at a busy development office, where you’re responsible for writing grants, planning events, marketing, and more, I recommend a portfolio of just twenty potential major gift donors.
There are several ways to identify the people who will go on your list.
How to Identify Prospective Major Gift Donors
The best way to identify prospects is to look at your database of existing donors.
If you don’t have existing donors, keep following the Major Gifts Challenge. In an upcoming video, I’ll talk about identifying new donors and raising friends for your organization.
Assuming you have a database with at least a few years of donor history, you’re going to start there.
When checking your database to determine your best potential major gift donors, you’re looking for two things…
1. Your Largest Donors
Run a report to identify those who gave the most, cumulatively, over the last 12 months (or in the last fiscal or calendar year). It’s important to use cumulative giving. If you simply look for anyone who has given over $1,000 as a one-time gift, you may miss donors who come to every event and donate smaller amounts throughout the year.
If you want to be extra thorough, run another list for the year before as well to catch anyone who should be on the list but didn’t give last year for some reason.
2. Your Most Loyal Donors
Run a report to identify anyone who has given at least four times during the last five years. This group is significantly different from your largest donors group, because there’s no minimum gift amount required to make it onto this list.
This list will identify donors who give $10 per year, but do so consistently, year-after-year. Loyal donors are important because they are devoted to your organization! Loyalty is rare these days in fundraising. It is more important to have a low-level committed donor, than one who gives once and never gives again.
The donors on both lists (the largest and your most loyal) are going to be your best major gift prospects, because they already have an affinity for your organization and are showing it by donating money.
Challenge Yourself Action Item
Step 1: Run lists of your largest and most loyal donors.
I explained how to do this earlier, so feel free to go back and re-watch or reread if you need a reminder of how this is done.
Step 2: Narrow down your lists.
Take a red pen and cross off corporations and foundations. Once you’ve eliminated corporations and foundations, if you have more than 200 names on your lists, then narrow the criteria and run the reports again looking for even larger donors and loyal donors at larger amounts and over longer periods of time.
Going Further with Major Gifts
Once you have your most loyal and largest donors identified, it’s time to narrow your list even more to a number of people you can work with — and ask for a gift this year.
In Mastering Major Gifts, I provide a system and worksheet for narrowing your list based on each person (or couple’s) giving potential and inclination toward your organization. In fact, Mastering Major Gifts is the perfect online program for anyone who’s truly ready to identify the best potential major gift donors for their organization.
Act, Comment and Participate
Now it’s your turn. Does the idea of generating lists of loyal and large donors have your stomach in a knot? What database are you using? Does it have pre-set reports or do you have to develop queries on your own?
Let us know in the comments and provide feedback for your fellow fundraisers.
Next week, we’ll discuss how to further narrow the lists so you can focus, focus, focus on your best major gift prospects.