Are your major donors ready? by Elizabeth Hopkins

Oct 27, 2016 | All Posts, Campaign Counsel, Fundraising Counsel, Team Expertise

Fundraising is all about relationships.  Whether a donor makes a $25 gift to your cause or a philanthropist makes a $1 million gift, the relationship you established helped motivate the gift. As you prepare for a campaign, nothing is more important than to build and solidify your relationship with each major gift prospect.

Consistent, intentional stewardship and engagement between your organization and the donor are core components of a solid relationship. Personal stewardship ensures that the donor has a positive giving experience and feeds back into the cultivation phase of the new fundraising cycle. A major gift donor who receives good stewardship is likely to become even more involved with your organization and give again when asked.

Major gift donors must receive regular, targeted communication and be aware of your social media channels so they are informed about your work. Of course, you will invite them to special donor events, but also look for hands-on opportunities for them to meet the people impacted by their donations. Phone calls and personal emails are easy and often overlooked ways to update them on projects they have supported and share the impact of their gifts.

As an example, moss+ross client SECU Family House at UNC Hospitals routinely invites donors to tour the facility and learn more about how the House functions and the people it serves. These donors then develop a closer relationship to Family House and gain a better understanding of how their gifts impact the House’s mission.

A campaign should encourage you to deepen the engagement of your most dedicated major donors in the planning process, thus setting the stage for their campaign solicitation later. Discuss their leadership roles early in the campaign, as these donors are often eager to be advocates and ambassadors for your organization. Here are some ways to engage your major donors in campaign readiness:

  • Ask them not just for their financial support, but also for their advice and expertise.
  • Spend time discussing the impact of their last major gift. Did it accomplish what they expected? Explore ways in which your organization can create more impactful and creative stewardship.
  • Share timeline details of the campaign’s quiet and public launch phases with donors and ask for their thoughts.
  • Seek their feedback on preliminary campaign priorities, goals and case for support.   Determine which priorities and what sections or themes resonate.
  • Ask for suggestions of others to involve in the campaign to expand the circle of influence for your organization by identifying and introducing new volunteers and prospects.
  • Ask them to be a member of a campaign leadership team or a campaign committee.
  • Invite major donors to assist with the engagement, cultivation and solicitation of other major gift prospects.
  • Emphasize the importance of their role as lead donors to give the campaign early momentum.

With a campaign on the horizon, take a fresh look at different strategies for engaging major gift donors. This will not only help develop them into prospects for your campaign, but will also result in their life-long support of your organization.