Edited Digest of FundClass Topic #18, July 1999
Facilitated by Tony Poderis
Tony returns to FundClass for a second time as facilitator to teach us the critical components of starting and managing a major gift program for annual, endowment, capital and sponsorship/underwriting campaigns. Tony currently is a fund-raising consultant for non-profit organizations and brings to FundClass over 28 years of fund development experience; including 20 years as Director of Development for The Cleveland Orchestra. This experience has won him a wide audience at the hundreds of seminars and workshops he has conducted in the United States, Canada and Mexico over the course of his career. He is also a fund-raising Speaker-Specialist consultant to the United States Information Agency and the Mexican Government. He is the author of a 115 page book on fund-raising published by FundAmerica Press titled "It's a Great Day to Fund-Raise!", now in its second printing. You'll find Tony at his web site: http://www.raise-funds.com/
Introduction and Class Outline, by Tony Poderis
It Always Starts With The Board
Remember The Basics
The Development Process
Donors And Prospects: Who, What, How
Real People and Real Numbers
Dedicated And Resourceful Volunteer Leadership
Committed And Capable Volunteer Solicitors
What Comes Before A Plan
Major Gifts Calendar & Action Plan
The Case For Support
Resources For Volunteer Solicitors
Asking For The Money
Renewing Gifts From Lapsed Donors
End Of The Calendar and Plan
Ongoing Stewardship and Cultivation Without Pause
Evaluating Your Plan
One of the most commonly voiced questions I have been asked by volunteers and staff from scores of non-profit organizations in nearly three decades of fund-raising experience is, "When is the best time to ask for money?" My answer is always TODAY! Never mind waiting for the economy to improve, for the holidays to be over --- for summer to end --- or any of the other reasons we give for holding back. Every day is a great day to fund-raise, so let's begin today by:
Developing A Major Gifts Program For Your Organization
"Major Gifts" are to be found in annual, endowment, capital, and sponsorship & underwriting campaigns. And you raise Major Gifts from individuals, corporations and foundations.
A donor's contribution amount recorded as a Major Gift in a fund-raising effort can be regarded in a significantly different way from one non-profit organization to another.
Major Gift fund-raising workshops usually establish lofty annual operating budgets and sizable contribution amounts as minimum criteria for an organization to meet in order to participate.
However, more often than not, I have found a $100 contribution is in fact a Major Gift to many organizations, and in other situations, a current $100 donor could very well be a strong candidate for a future, much larger, Major Gift. I suppose to be a "purist" in the strictest sense, any organization of any size should regard and respect every gift they receive as "major" to some degree, but the realities of limited time, effort and expense must dictate where your Major Gift focus will be.
Thinking about how we could address Major Gifts from those perspectives, I suggest we should say, "Any gift currently making a significant and positive impact on our organization, or any gift with the potential to do so, is truly a Major Gift."
Our goal is to win major gifts from donors through the process of: Identification, Information, Interest, Involvement and Investment. To accomplish our objective, we will be working with the following suggested agenda.
"Hand-Outs" in html and PDF format
To support my Major Gifts presentation, from time-to-time I will provide supplemental information available on my website: http://www.raise-funds.com/
Along with articles addressing specific fund-raising topics, I have numerous workshop-style "hand-outs" for you in the form of single letter-size exhibits. Relative to sometimes-voiced concerns about accessing such pages in general over the Internet, the following is a quote from my excellent and very reliable webmaster.
"The files are Read Only which means that only CM&D (my web host) can upload the html or pdf file directly, eliminating possible virus contamination. There is no chance of contracting viruses from our files. The sizes of the html and pdf files are mostly small."
How does your board fit into your major gifts program? Here is what I suggest and why:
Boards Of Trustees And Their "Major" Giving To The Annual Fund
I have more on the Trustee "give and get" topics available on my web site in my article: Annual Fund Giving & Getting Guidelines For Your Organization's Board Of Trustees.
Fund-raising has more than its share of engaging and inspiring expressions to fit just about any situation and premise. "People Give To People" certainly ranks high as one of them. I heard a workshop presenter say that successful fund-raising can be summed up in just three words: "Relationships, Relationships, Relationships." (You get the idea.)
That's what Major Gifts are all about--relationships. I'll let a few of the experts reinforce that fact.
H. Gerald Quigg said: "Fund-raising must still depend on the person-to-person contact of a good solicitor seeking a gift from a potential donor. Goals may grow larger and the campaigns more frequent, but it is still the individual who makes the difference between success and failure."
Jerold Panas said: "The most effective way to the THE gift, is to call on potential donors. You've got to get 'em into your "institutional hug" before they're going to give."
Mal Warwick said "If we maintain a flexible and efficient database management system, we can cram lots of information about each and every donor into that file. And that becomes the information on the basis of which we'll build genuine relationships with our donors, not just the habit of asking for money on a regular basis."
And in the for-profit business world, Mark MacCormack said: "Experience and judgment are the most valuable products we sell in our business. Our business is largely a one-on-one people business."
How do we go about establishing those relationships and ultimately obtain the major gift? Let's go on to our next agenda item.
The development process begins with a question every organization new or old must ask at the onset of every fund-raising campaign. It needs to be asked about the organization in general and the specific purpose the campaign is supporting; in this case major gifts.
The question we need to ask of our organizations is, "Who cares about us and why?" (Later on our agenda will deal with: "How much do they care?")
If your organization's mission is truly in sync with what your organization is doing, it provides a way to help identify who cares about it and why. Or put another way, it explains who benefits from the existence of your organization.
Your "homework assignment"
You might be interested in a document which recaps the development process to achieve major gifts. It details the objectives, processes and requirements. It starts with your broadest possible "universe" of prospects and proceeds to those individuals contributing the most money to your organization. It is on my web site and can be accessed either way:
Basically, we know that for nearly all community organizations there are two primary beneficiary groups: (1) people who directly avail themselves of its services, and (2) a larger grouping of people who, while they do not avail themselves of its services, nevertheless indirectly benefit because of what the organization does for their community.
Think of them as long-term, cumulative givers, not just for the short-term big gift.
We want to build relationships to have them remain donors and become larger donors.
Where Are They?
A donor file you can compile over time might have records of stock ownership, real estate holdings, salary data, business and career histories, family tree information, etc.
Research your constituencies to determine if they are directors of public corporations, which could be more likely to support you because of those connections. That information is readily available in libraries. corporate annual reports, etc.
Research your constituencies to determine if they are individuals holding decision-making positions for private foundations as their attorneys, trust officers, etc.
Your data base can be screened through the services of computer resource companies capable of providing, among other things, significant trading of stock by individuals.
Some computer resource companies can merge your data base to give you information which might identify individuals relative to the corporate executive positions they hold in companies of interest to you as potential contributors.
Look for any of your donors who are making gifts considerably larger to other non-profit organizations than they give to you and determine how you could be as well favored.
Getting To Know Them
Several individuals said they had identified--or reasonably identified-- constituencies, but did not know very much about them. As a way to better know those who support you, perhaps the following will be of use.
Major Donor & Prospect Profile
Find out everything you can about a major individual donor's interests, past philanthropic activities, and philosophy of life. The essence of a good solicitation is knowing as much as possible about the individual or family from whom you will be requesting a contribution. Those responsible for their organizations' fund-raising should be able to answer the following questions about every prospective donor they plan to contact:
When seeking money from prospective donors we must be able to see our organization from the prospect's point of view. We must anticipate how a prospect is likely to react to a request that he/she support a particular cause, program, or project.
For the most part we have been concentrating on major gifts from individuals, and well we should, as individuals are the main source of philanthropic contributions. Most successful fund-raising campaigns receive from 70 to 80 percent of their money from individuals. They are the most flexible and spontaneous givers. Unlike corporations, foundations, and governmental entities, individuals are able to make a decision on the spot, and if they want, they can choose to put all their eggs in one basket. Mr. and Mrs. Smith can reach for their check book a lot faster than the Metropolis Community Foundation with its rigid timetables and layers of committee meetings, and Mr. & Mrs. Smith are not required to spread their charitable contributions among a variety of worthwhile causes.
Nevertheless, many organizations place an inordinate amount of effort pursuing corporate gifts while ignoring individuals close to them having the capability to give major gifts. Why do they do this? Because most of us find it easier to ask a corporation for money than a private individual, and because as a society we have come to view corporations as the holders of vast wealth. When a corporate contributions officer says "no", it seems less personal. However, a fund-raising campaign strategy should not be based on anticipating the least painful turndown. Nor should fund-raising strategy be based on an erroneous understanding of wealth. It is the owners of a corporation --individuals--who hold a corporation's stock, who have the most money to give to worthy causes.
Corporations and Foundations
When corporate and foundation prospective donors are available to you, they are solicited in many of the same ways you seek gifts from individuals. But there are important differences between individual donors and foundations and corporations that affect the fund-raising process. To begin with, the individual can make an immediate decision. That doesn't hold true for corporate contributions managers and foundation program officers whom organizations have to rely on to present their case to one or more committees. With corporations and foundations you are usually dealing with the "stewards" of other people's money, and you must "court" them in a different way since it is not their own money you are seeking.
Major individual donors derive personal pleasure and reward from the giving experience itself that isn't the same for those who hold stewardship over other people's money. Individual major donors are enriched by the process of giving and by the relationship they develop with the organizations to which they give. Their giving experience is personal; they often develop a sense of "ownership" toward the organizations they support.
On the other hand, program officers and contributions managers, while they may believe in an organization, are not being asked to invest their own money in it. Your job is to place before them a logical case for support that convinces them to recommend a donation. Stewards of other people's money need to justify the gifts they recommend on rational grounds. Here, any emotional appeal is likely secondary. Contributions managers and program officers will tell you they are continually trying to gain greater knowledge of non-profit organizations. They say that their grants committees are always turning to them for more information. You should do your best to educate them.
Some of the tactics you could employ when courting stewards of other people's money when you are seeking major gifts include:
If your organization serves a clientele unlikely to be able to make major gifts, those client-users may lead to sources of funding. They might be residents of a municipality or neighborhood that is a focus of funding for a community foundation. Or they might be employees or relatives of a corporation that has a charitable giving program.
Every organization should assemble a database of persons acting as stewards of other people's money at foundations, corporations and governmental agencies that give to non-profits in their community. Professional program officers of foundations and governmental funders (this includes directors and other senior paid management involved in recommending and approving grants); trustees of foundations; and corporate contributions managers, CEOs, and other highly placed managers, all need to be made aware of an organization's value especially when soliciting major gifts.
What are some of the things you do to "court" the stewards of other people's money?
We sincerely treasure the gifts we receive from our thoughtful and generous donors. They are real people and not just "dollar-signs in our eyes." They give us their personal resources and they do it because they care for the well-being of others. Nevertheless, along with the heart and soul of fund-raising (real people), there is the reality of the actual dollars required to carry out our mission (real numbers.) It does and must come down to the fact that only you are in the best position to identify those individuals who care about you (and those individuals who could care about you) to give you the money you need. For example, if your major gifts campaign requires donations in the levels and numbers as depicted in the example below, you must see to it the blanks are filled if you are to develop a campaign to ask for money.
Our Major Gift Campaign Table Of Needed Contributions
$5,000 Prospective Donors
$2,500 Prospective Donors
$1,000 Prospective Donors
$500 Prospective Donors
You get the idea. Real People And Real Numbers. But you've got to "fill in the blanks."
To assist you in the development of major gift tables to project your funding potential, the following documents can be accessed from my website via the .html and/or .pdf methods.
Memberships Campaign Gift Range Chart
Annual Fund Gift Range Chart
Sometimes, recruitment of the chair of the Major Gifts Campaign occurs simultaneously with the development of the campaign plan, and in some instances the chair is involved in the planning process. However, I think it's best to contact a prospective chair with a job description and a campaign plan in hand. There are two distinct advantages to proceeding in the order. First, control of the planning process is left in the hands of the person who has the overall responsibility for seeing to it the organization raises the contributed income it needs.
The second advantage to having a plan and job description prepared before recruiting a campaign chair is that it speeds up the process of recruitment. A well-prepared plan and chair job description shows a level of commitment and professionalism on the part of the organization that should be attractive and compelling to the person being recruited. It prevents a prospective chair from putting you off by saying, "That Major Gifts Campaign sounds good, but why don't you get back to me with a game plan and a better idea of what it is you want me to do, and then I'll take a hard look at doing it." Your chances for a "yes" reply on the spot would have been much better if the chair prospect had a job description of this type:
Major Duties For The Major Gifts Chairperson
In Consultation With And The Support Of The Development Chair And The Development Department, The Major Gifts Chairperson Will Serve As The Leader Of The Campaign By:
Major Gift solicitations require you make the "best" possible prospect-to-volunteer solicitor assignments, especially to take advantage of the volunteers' peer contacts, friendships and leverage. We'll work to define the "best" solicitor. And what role does staff play in the asking?
Solicitor To Major Prospect Matches
Not just anyone should ask just any major donor prospect for money. Ideally, prospective donors should be asked to give by someone likely to have a high degree of influence over them. The key here is to choose a solicitor whom the prospect respects. Qualities to look for are:
Respected and influential solicitors must do more than simply ask for donations; they must present a compelling case for support.
Prospective major donors will give when they have been convinced of the value and need for their gift, when they are personally asked, and when the solicitation comes from the "right" person---someone they respect and who can make a strong, credible case for support.
And just who does the principal asking for money for your organization? Is it done by volunteers or staff?
While developing this particular FundClass lesson, I found myself reflecting on a change I have witnessed in how we development professionals describe and perhaps even think about ourselves. There is a tendency these days to describe our work as fundraising and to call ourselves fundraisers. I have always thought of the volunteers as being the true fundraisers and we development professionals as the people who develop the atmosphere for that fundraising. To some this may seem like an exercise in semantics, but I think it is a great deal more.
Many development professionals today enter into consulting agreements or are hired as staff to "raise funds." Sometimes they even seek to be THE fund-raiser for the organization they serve. The result is that these development professionals and their organizations have blurred the once clear difference between the fundraising role of development officers and that of trustees and other volunteer leaders.
The Major Risks: When Staff Asks For The Money
The board can be less likely to contribute its time to the fundraising effort. That can leave the development professional out on a limb and the organization with a wasted board.
When the development professional leaves the organization, relationships established by him/her will leave also, or at the very least, the history of those relationships will disappear.
Besides, how many "doors" can a staff person open in the first place relative to time constraints and the volume of prospective major donors to be solicited? And many "doors" will not open at all to admit staff for gifts of this sort?
Following is an overview of how I would see the effectiveness of staff solicitations vs. solicitations made by volunteers. Over simplified, to be sure, but wouldn't you want the best possible five out of five positive characteristics working for you when seeking major gifts?
(1) When a volunteer solicitor's relationship to a prospect, relative to the solicitor's level of giving, is the same or more than the prospect, the following qualities are shared:
* Career Status
* Economic Status
* Social Position
* Interest In The Organization
* Mutual Respect
(2) When another volunteer solicitor's relationship to a prospect, relative to the solicitor's level of giving, is less than the prospect, the following qualities are shared and not shared:
* Career Status
x Economic Status
x Social Position
* Interest In The Organization
* Mutual Respect
(3) When a staff member-solicitor is compared to a prospective donor, the following qualities are shared and not shared:
x Career Status
x Economic Status
x Social Position
* Interest In The Organization
* Mutual Respect
What do you say? Wouldn't you rather have five out of five of the best chances for major gifts working for your organization?
I am keenly aware that a Major Gifts program discussion offers severe challenges to many organizations which are not in position to readily identify their base of support--let alone major gifts. Encourage those organizations to look deep into themselves and ask the critically important question, "Who cares about your organization and why?" If your organization's mission is truly in sync with what your organization is doing, it provides a way to help identify who cares about it and why. Or put another way, it explains who benefits from the existence of your organization.
Basically, we know that for nearly all community organizations there are two primary beneficiary groups:
1. People who directly avail themselves of its services;
2. A larger grouping of people who, while they do not avail themselves of its services, nevertheless indirectly benefit because of what the organization does for their community.
As we move on with our Major Gifts presentation, knowing of those prospect identification limits for some organizations, I wanted to encourage that you continue with us so you could be more familiar with the process. But, only you can take the steps, even backward, to identify your support base. Many dedicated and caring individuals think about starting non-profits and many are formed without asking themselves the questions cited above.
Stan Hutton's "About.com" article says it best. Here is a quote from his article, "Starting a New Nonprofit? Answer These Questions":
Do You Have Core Supporters?
"It's difficult to travel this bumpy road alone. Talk to people about your ideas. Enlist their support as both volunteers and contributors. You can't just depend on family and friends to provide all the support you'll need. If you find this an uphill battle, it may be that your idea is ill-formed or just not appealing to those who you will need to turn to for help."
See the full About.com article at:
Tough questions, but questions which must be asked--sooner, not later.
Set a target, a preliminary Major Gifts goal; what it is you want and need to raise.
It makes sense to have your organization's leadership cite your fund-raising goal at the beginning of any campaign as a "target - preliminary" goal. After all, you still need to identify, rate and evaluate prospects and gauge the strength of the solicitation committee. These are the principal factors which determine realistic goals --- goals which can be met. But it usually does not work that way.
Actually, just about all fund-raising campaigns begin with a realization that the organization needs money, usually voiced by the leadership to the person charged with fund-raising as, "We need to raise $ _____." With annual fund campaigns, there usually is little or no choice that the target preliminary goal is in fact "The" goal which the organization must raise to avoid a deficit.
Goal-choosing is necessary when it comes to endowment and capital campaigns. Endowment campaign goals should be set based upon the feasibility to raise the stated amount. With capital campaigns, you have to make the decision to commit to a capital expense based on your ability to raise the money to pay for it, not decide how much money you need to raise based on the expense.
If your Major Gifts program is part of the annual fund campaign, the goal should be set after looking at the resources you plan to tap and see if they can meet the stated need. Goal-setting should never be arbitrary. But how do you tell your boss that something his boss had decided is imperative can't be done? You don't, unless you are absolutely, 100 percent sure and have the evidence to back your argument. Even then the risk is high. Development officers are paid to see it that the money is raised, not to explain why it can't be raised. So you look for ways to accomplish what you are asked to do, and then determine whether the target - preliminary goal needs to be modified to a more realistic and reachable goal.
Major Gifts Time-Line And Action Plan
"Rating and Evaluating Prospects: Whom Do You Ask For How Much"
Memberships Campaign Gift Range Chart
Annual Fund Gift Range Chart
"The Name Is The Game: Memberships And Named Gift Opportunities"
"Asking For The Money: If You Don't Ask, You Don't Get"
Memberships Campaign Letter
Perhaps the most important date in your Major Gifts Calendar & Action Plan is when you meet to rate and evaluate your prospective donors.
Rate and evaluate all previous donors and new prospects for potential giving in the various categories you develop as "memberships for annual giving or "named opportunities for capital and endowment campaigns.
Every fund-raising campaign needs a goal and everyone connected with the campaign, including prospective donors, needs to be aware of that number. It is highly unlikely the goal will be reached without the setting of a goal for each prospective donor and sharing that goal with the prospect.
Setting a personal goal for all prospective Major Gift donors, letting prospects know the amount we are seeking, and helping them see where and how it fits under the umbrella of the campaign goal, is probably the most important element of a campaign.
No matter what sources you are approaching, you need to be ready with a suggested giving amount in line with what each prospective Major Gifts donor is capable of giving.
If a fund-raising campaign is to have a realistic chance at succeeding, we must in the case of every prospective Major Gift donor:
This rating and evaluating process applied to as many of our key potential donors as possible will allow us to suggest what we would like them to give. It does not tell them what to give. Most prospects will welcome a suggestion of what would be appropriate. People nearly always want to know what the "price" of something is. It is rare that anyone decides to purchase an item without first looking at its price tag. The same is true when it comes to making a philanthropic donation. People want to know how much the soliciting organization needs, and fund-raisers should always have a ready answer. That answer should be a specific dollar amount determined by a rating and evaluating process, but far too often it is:
You should always suggest a specific number, and that number must be presented in a way that is neither annoying nor demanding. There is only one person who can and will decide the size of the gift; the individual making that gift.
Projections & Actual Goals
The next steps in developing our Major Gifts Calendar & Action Plan:
We start with a projection of how many gifts in their respective amounts we need to meet our stated goal.
A campaign projection shows how much money needs to be raised and the sources from which it will come. By allocating expectations by numbers of donors at various contribution amounts, it becomes an available yardstick. The projection is the IDEAL against which the progress of the campaign is continuously plotted, allowing campaign leadership to see where they are meeting expectations and where they are falling behind. Using this information, it is possible to make mid-course corrections or restructure a campaign to create a greater opportunity for success.
A campaign projection cannot be prepared without making some basic assumptions. It is assumed that rating and evaluation will provide enough prospects in each size-of-gift category to yield the anticipated number of gifts.
You always start out with targets and then determine whether you have sufficient resources to turn those targets into achievable goals. If not, you must either lower the goal or increase your fund-raising resources.
The following endowment or capital campaign projection (always Major Gifts) would be developed initially in the project's planning stage as an "educated guess" ideal, recognizing such campaigns must be large-giver campaigns. Once the prospect identification, rating and evaluating process is complete, the projection would be revised according to real potential.
Sample Endowment or Capital Campaign Projection Campaign Goal: $4,000,000
Number of Gifts Required:
Major Gift Campaign Annual Fund Gift Range Chart
This annual fund major gifts membership table shows how an organization continuously reviews its previous donors to rate and evaluate them for increased giving potential. These are previous donors upgraded to new membership levels. Each level is compared to what those donors collectively gave in the prior campaign to what they have the potential to give for the upcoming campaign.
While you are applying my previously recommended procedures regarding the rating and evaluating of your prospects and you are ascribing potential dollar amounts of contributions next to their names, let me suggest a simple format which enables you to "fill-in-the-blanks" with those names to group them in suggested asking categories right for the Major Gifts campaign you are mounting. We must have viable prospects in the quantities we need and have them realistically rated at the dollar amounts required to meet our goal.
Check out a "fill-in-the-blanks" format idea from an exhibit you can access via:
Naturally, you can adjust the dollar headings with the amounts just right for the campaign you are mounting.
The premises stated and tables provided are to be considered as general projections meant to guide your own extrapolations of funding potential. When making your organization's projections, you take into account major influences, such as the degree of closeness prospects have to your organization, the methods of solicitation you will be implementing and how personal the asking process will be.
Remember, as "they" say, "Everything is relative." Quite often such example charts and tables can be adjusted to your particular situation by simply adding or subtracting zeros to the numbers.
Memberships & Named Opportunities
The next step in developing our Major Gifts Calendar & Action Plan:
Settle on the benefits, privileges, named opportunities, the "perks" for the donors and what specific things the respective gifts will "buy" for the good of the organization.
Recognition-based Major Gift "membership" programs are tools used to convert prospects into donors and to increase the size of gift. They are one of the most useful tools fund-raisers have. Donors giving at a certain level to the annual fund become Friends of the organization. If they give at increasingly higher levels they have the opportunity to be recognized as Contributing Friend, Supporting Friend, or Sustaining Friend. Then there are those who give more that one could ever expect from a friend and enter the rarefied air of Benefactor or even Founder. Perhaps they become members of the President's Circle.
What matters is the concept, not the name. The idea is to tastefully and properly recognize donors for their generosity. Their names should always be printed in the annual report under their respective membership categories. For the highest levels of donors, a wall in the lobby of an organization's facility can be reserved for all to see who is a Benefactor or Founder.
Recognition membership programs, such as the ones we have been describing in relationship to annual funds, have their counterpart in capital and endowment campaigns. Named gift opportunities are offered as symbolic or commemorative gestures of appreciation for gifts of a predetermined size. It requires a certain amount to acquire a certain naming right, but the contribution need not literally offset the expense associated with what is to be named. In a capital campaign, naming rights to a classroom would not necessarily be the exact construction's cost. Naming rights for endowing a chair in a university do not need to be exchanged for an endowment that would actually produce the exact income to cover the expense each year.
Does your Major Gifts campaign feature "membership" or "named gift" programs? How have they worked for you?
The Case For Support is the "argument" for the fund-raising campaign or project. It grows out of your organization's mission statement in the sense that the money to be raised will be used by your organization to support its mission. It articulates your organization's reason for being, its integrity, the good you do, the good you want to do, and your specific fund-raising need---and the urgency for it.
Developing the case for support and settling on the goal of a campaign are preliminary, almost intuitive, steps in the process of creating a campaign plan, and they generally occur simultaneously. The goal is the overriding concern of the campaign, and the focus and strength of the case to be made for the campaign are dependent on the size and purpose of the goal. The case for support becomes the main tool used to recruit volunteer campaign leadership and solicitors and to convince prospective donors.
From what we have seen of compelling and relevant case statements, here is a suggested case development outline:
How short or how long should the case for support be? It depends upon the magnitude of the campaign or project. Good judgment will tell you not to make it too brief, as it could suggest to the prospect that you have not researched adequately or that perhaps the project is not so important. Then too, if it's overly long, you run the risk of losing the attention of your reader.
"Kickoff" meeting of the committee to select their prospects and commence their major gifts solicitations.
Kickoff meetings are held at the convenience of the volunteers, from very early morning breakfasts to early evening, when they are most likely to be free. You can serve a meal or snacks or simply offer cold drinks. The formality of the affair and the amenities offered depend on what the organization can afford and what is customary in the community. (But, no "potlucks," please!)
Kickoff meetings can be convened most anywhere. The person running the meeting should be the Chair of the Major Gifts Campaign, but the program for the meeting should be set by the organization's person responsible for development. A sample program follows:
Executive Director : Welcome, quick description and history of the organization and introduction of the Major Gifts Chairperson.
Major Gifts Chairperson: Thank you to volunteers; explanation of campaign objectives, goal, and structure; and introduction of person responsible for development.
Development Person: Coordinate the pick or assign prospects process for the volunteers, disseminate prospect profiles and solicitation kits.
Development Person, with assistance of Major Gifts Chairperson: Discussion of solicitation kits and advice about how to be a successful solicitor.
Major Gifts Chairperson: Review Campaign Calendar & Plan Of Action deadlines.
All leaders: Answer questions
Major Gifts Chairperson: "Pep talk" and adjournment
Major Gifts Memberships Campaign Letter
Annual Fund Tracking And Projection
Annual Fund Tracking And Results To Date
Capital And Endowment Campaign Tracking
Capital And Endowment Best-Least-Likely Tracking
Publicity And Promotion
Prospect Information And Solicitation Report
Cultivation of Prospects
Long-range cultivation programs will enable our organization to be in the best possible position when the time comes to ultimately ask prospects for their money. What tactics can we employ right now in the relatively short span of time our campaign is in operation as our solicitors are in position to make their asks?
It takes time to convince someone to part with thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars. The larger the sum of money involved, the less likely that a 30-minute appointment on a Wednesday morning will do the job. Solicitors must be prepared to put in whatever time and effort will be required to get a final answer, and they have to be careful not to prematurely allow a prospect into a "no." Soliciting is exactly like selling. Prospects have to be made comfortable, shown the value of a contribution, and encouraged to make positive decisions. They have to be flattered, cajoled, appealed to, convinced, involved, and ultimately "sold." Every organization has at its disposal numerous opportunities to bring prospective donors closer to the possibility of making major gifts. Let's explore some of those approaches.
Following the Kickoff and assignment of prospects to the volunteer solicitors, what solicitation aids do you provide to help in the asking and decision-making process for the prospective donors? Do you:
Are you making these solicitation "tools" available for your solicitors to maximize their chances for major gifts when they come to point of asking for the money?
What have you done? What are you doing?
Asking For The Money: If You Don't Ask, You Don't Get
As Major Gift solicitations are being made by your committee, sooner or later a solicitor will get a final answer from a prospect. It will take one of four forms:
Obviously the first response is best, and the second, depending on how much less, is not too bad either. For both answers, we say thank you and we acknowledge each in the same grateful manner. There is a very good chance that every donor will tell you why they chose to give the lesser amount. Such information will enable you to develop your strategy for the next time you solicit.
"No, not at this time", makes a thank you equally important for the fact they considered your request. You might be able to determine if a later time in the campaign or the year would be more favorable for a gift---and when. If there is still no chance, save the solicitation for the next campaign.
When the answer is "no, don't ever contact me again", you need to part company with the best possible understanding of the reasons why the response was so adamantly negative. Maybe you can fix a problem, or maybe the situation is far out of your control. If the latter case prevails, you move on----but be sure to permanently remove their names from your solicitation list.
When the answer is not final:
Following Up A Proposal
What To Say When You Have Lapsed Major Gift Donors
Consider using one or more of the following statements during your lapsed major gift renewal contacts, as you seek to convince those lapsed donors to reinstate their major gifts.
Your support continues to mean so much to us. May we count on your gift again this year?
We've missed your participation in our campaign last year. Please join us for another year.
We take great pride in having your name associated with our organization. I hope we can count on your participation again this year in our Major Gifts Campaign.
We are aware that you chose not to renew your gift to us last year. We welcome this opportunity to ask if that was because of something we did that we can now remedy, or if it is something of our control.
I was reviewing our list of major contributors to date and noticed your name was missing. That's why I wanted to contact you personally to respectfully ask that you consider making your gift for this year.
There's a good chance we will establish a new record in major gift support this year, but only if previous contributors such as you continue to invest in our effort. Can we count on you for your gift again this year?
Here are the remaining components of our Major Gifts Calendar & Action Plan:
• Final report meeting and follow-up all solicitations to completion, taking into account donors favoring year-end giving.
• End of the Major Gifts Campaign
• Donor and volunteer recognition event
• Ensure "delivery" of all the "perks" and benefits promised to the donors.
• Major Gifts Campaign final assessment and review of what worked and what didn't to prepare for the next campaign.
• Ongoing Cultivation and stewardship ongoing program for the next campaign.
• Issue a press release and a final newsletter thanking campaign leadership, volunteer solicitors, and the donors. Single out people who should be commended, and praise the campaign chair.
This has happened to me more times than I like to admit. Goals and resources do not always match, campaigns do develop insurmountable problems, and sometimes you just can't pull it off. Fund-raisers have to be prepared for the occasional failure. However, bear in mind that a campaign can come up short of its goal and still have demonstrated a lot of accomplishment. You may still be able to say congratulations to volunteers and donors. The money raised may be an all-time high for the organization's annual fund. More donors than ever before may have given. The campaign may have come within 10 percent of a goal we knew to be very ambitious. It is the rare campaign in which you cannot find a positive accomplishment to call to the attention of volunteers, donors, and the public.
So issue a press release and a final newsletter thanking campaign leadership, volunteer solicitors, and the donors. Single out people who should be commended, and praise the campaign Chairperson. Thank-you functions are still appropriate. Donors still need to be told how much they are valued and appreciated. With the people who worked on the campaign, you need to be practical and honest about the disappointment, but don't let words of regret, frustration, and unhappiness get to the ears of those who gave. If you become preoccupied with the shortfall and forget all the good things that happened, you do a disservice to those who worked a campaign and to those who gave to it. They should never be left to think their efforts were a waste.
Campaign Assessment And Review: What Was Accomplished And What Was Learned
Lorraine Urquhart's excellent FundClass gave us the tools to practice on-going cultivation of donors and prospective donors. From what Lorraine and FundClass participants said, we all agreed that the true cultivation and stewardship processes to secure and retain major gifts must be much more than the request, gift and acknowledgment.
Some fundraising advisors and marketing experts tell us that seven or so additional contacts should be made. Whether seven, more, or less, we want to do as much as we can to make those donors know we truly appreciate and treasure their gifts and that we want them to be part of our "family." And, in the case of major donors, we don't want them to believe we only think about them once a year---at the time we ask for their gift.
Here are some of the suggested ways to accomplish those objectives:
Assess your particular campaign's strengths and weaknesses and discuss them with your organization's leadership and staff.
Our Major Gifts Program
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