Many nonprofit organizations define “Major Gifts” as those larger than the usual range of gifts they receive. Putting together a major gift program can be a source of stress for some people who work for nonprofits. They may be uncomfortable with the idea of asking for large donations, but having a proper system in place to run a major gifts program can help remove some of the anxiety.
Major gifts can be a different dollar amount for each organization depending on overall goals. For some nonprofits it could be gifts of over $1,000. For others it could be much higher, but before you even approach potential donors you should have a major gift program plan in place. Having a plan will give you a better chance at success and could transform your organization.
Obviously if you are considering major gifts, there is a good reason for it. If you have committed to the idea and want staff, volunteers, and board members to support the effort, you can start by presenting a well thought-out plan that takes the following points into consideration.
1. Team Development
Not everyone is up to the challenge of soliciting so you should put together a core group of people who can approach donors for major gifts. Some people may appear green when it comes to this task, such as volunteers; however, those who show potential should be trained. It makes sense to stipulate that these people must all be donors themselves. The most fitting candidates would be those who are major donors themselves.
2. Get to know prospects
Careful identification and research of potential prospects is a crucial step. You will want to determine if your organization has similar values, goals, and other synergies in order to determine if they are a good fit. During the research phase, focusing on what you might have in common that could lead to relationship building is really helpful.
3. Pinpointing donor benefits
Take time to develop a good donor benefits package. This could include what you will give to major donors. Keep this information on file as a reference only. It is good to have reference material as a starting point, but keep in mind that now many organizations find that they have more success in customizing what they offer to a major gift giver according to the givers specific needs.
4. Build slowly
It can backfire when you try to rush a relationship of any kind and this includes major gift giving relationships. Working with major gift donors one at a time can help you develop good connections to the point where the prospect becomes close friends of the organization. Create trust, listen carefully to the prospect, and do what you say you’ll do.
5. Develop individualized approaches
When it comes to approaching prospects you have to take an individual approach. One approach may work for a certain prospect, but not for another. The other point to keep in mind is that you have to ask when the donor seems ready, not when you are ready. As you are developing your relationship, be working quietly on a clear and compelling case that matches with your donor interest. Organize your thoughts and rehearse your approach so you are ready when the time is right to sell your case.
6. Ask the right way
Be prepared and know exactly what you are asking for. If you seem unsure, you will lose the donor. Don’t just explain the cause; tell the prospect why he or she should donate now. Be passionate and enthusiastic with your approach.
Whether you get a “yes” or a “no”, following up with the prospect is extremely important. It tells the “yes” prospect that you aren’t taking the gift and running, but are both thankful and interested in their input. If it is a “no” you have to consider that a “no” today could turn into a “yes” in the not-so-distant future. Keeping in touch with some prospects long-term can be beneficial. Remember some relationships just take a really long time to cultivate.
It’s important to invest time and energy in major gift giving prospects, especially when you consider the potential outcome. When it comes to following-up with those who have declined, you do have to be careful about being overbearing. You don’t want to be too forceful or reach out so frequently that they get permanently turned off.
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