3 Must-Haves for Raising Big Gifts (Even in Small Shops)

For many nonprofit organizations, particularly small ones, major gift fundraising sometimes feels out of reach. I talk with scores of fundraisers each year who share, “we don’t have any major gift prospects,” or “our nonprofit is too small to raise big gifts.” 

Maybe you’ve felt this way in the past, or maybe you believe you COULD raise big gifts if only you knew a few secrets. Either way, this post is for you! Read on for 3 very doable must-haves for raising big gifts.

1. You Must Have a Team

Fundraising can be a lonely job, especially in a small nonprofit. If you are the only person raising money in your organization, who can you bounce ideas off? Who can help you brainstorm and strategize approaches with prospects and donors? 

This is where a team of key volunteers is critical. The familiar saying, “Two heads are better than one” truly applies in major gift fundraising. Rather than you sitting alone in your office thinking hard about your major gift program and how to advance it, you’ll have a team of volunteers working on this together. 

I recently had the privilege of coaching a small nonprofit with limited fundraising experience. When we first began our work together they claimed, “we don’t know ANYONE who could make a significant gift.” 

Just four months after launching monthly meetings with their executive director, board chair and two community leaders, they have a list of 100+ names of prospective supporters with the capacity to make higher-level donations. 

By simply sitting in the same room and talking about who’s who in their town, they were able to build a list one name at a time. Now the work of this committee has advanced to visiting with these prospects and inviting them to learn about the organization’s work and mission.

To get started yourself, think about board members who may want to help serve on this committee. Ideally they will be the “connectors,” the folks who know a lot of people in your community and won’t be shy about making introductions. Also check out, How to Attract a Major Gifts Dream Team.

2. You Must Encourage Your Donor to Fall in Love

We’ve all heard of “love at first sight,” but it’s a rare phenomenon. Similarly, a donor who will make a significant gift at the very first introduction to your organization is rare. Rather, larger donations will come down the road, after your donor learns more about your organization’s work and its impact in your community. 

Your job is to build a relationship with your donor. Get to know your donor, their interests and passions, and what motivates and inspires them. If your donor’s interests and inspirations match the work of your organization, then your donor may fall in love.

A donor who loves your organization’s mission and impact is much more likely to make a significant gift to support it. Building relationships with your top prospects and donors is absolutely the most important thing you can do when raising big gifts. 

How do you build these all-important relationships? Much has been written about donor cultivation, or relationship building. Try these posts to get started: How to Build an Amazing Donor Cultivation Plan and Donor Cultivation: How to Ask Open-Ended Questions.

3. You Must Effectively Manage Donor Data

What do I mean when I say “manage donor data?” What donor data? Besides the obvious data points such as your donor’s name, contact information and the contributions they have made to date, there is plenty of other data to track.

You’ll want to note if this donor likes to attend events, if he or she is a member of one of your volunteer committees and/or if he or she has ever served on your board. You can also track all donor touch points. For example, if you had a lunch or coffee with them, what did you talk about? What are their interests? Do they gravitate towards any of your programs in particular?

If your organization has not invested in data management software—in other words a database—now is the time. A database allows you to segment your donors so that you can tailor communications to your top donors and spare them the mass communications you may send to a large general list. 

Another upside to a donor management system is that everyone in your organization—provided they have access to your database—has access to the same information, which improves staff efficiency, accuracy of information, and consistency of donor communications. 

You can find more here, including resources for choosing the right database for your organization: Why Your Fundraising Program Needs a Donor Management System.

Thoughts? Feedback? What are your must-haves for major gift fundraising? Please share your experiences, thoughts and ideas in the Comments box below! 

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