One Simple Trick to Help You Raise Big Gifts

Have you ever struggled to meet your annual fundraising goals – or any goal for that matter? If so, you are not alone. Many people struggle with reaching goals because of one common mistake: we set a deadline, but not a schedule. 

We say things like, “We’re going to raise $100,000 from major gift donors by December 31” or “We’re going to raise $20,000 from our annual event.” But we don’t define HOW we’ll do these things and we don’t set up incremental steps to get there.

Set a Schedule, Not a Deadline

My simple trick is this: instead of focusing on a deadline, set a schedule that supports your goal.

Say your organization wants to raise $20,000 from major gifts in a year. Start by thinking about what activities will help you to raise money from major gifts. Your list should include these three steps:
1. Find major gift donor prospects
2. Build relationships with your prospects
3. Ask your prospects for a gift

I know from experience that consistently doing these 3 things will help you raise big gifts. But how many of these activities will you need to do in order to meet your goal? 

If a major gift for your organization is $1,000, then you will need 20 gifts of $1,000 to meet your sample goal of $20,000.

Prospects, Relationships and Asking

Consider how much of each activity (finding prospects, building relationships and asking for gifts) is needed each year to raise $20,000. If, for every $1,000 gift you receive, you’ll need to ask 3 prospects for a gift, this means you’ll need 60 prospects and 60 asks to get 20 gifts. 

And if you need to connect with a donor on average 3 times before you ask for a gift of $1,000, then you will need 180 connections (or touch points) with your prospects (3 connections x 60 prospects). 

To break down this annual activity into a weekly schedule, figure that you have maybe 48 weeks to get these activities done (due to events, vacation time, etc.). Then, look at each activity:

Major gift donor prospects 

In our example, you need 60 major donor prospects. Let’s assume you already have 20 prospects on your list, so you need 40 more. 

Do the math: 40 donors divided by 48 weeks = 0.833 new prospects per week, rounding up to 1 new prospect per week. Your goal is to add 1 new prospect per week.

Building relationships with your prospects

Do the math: 180 touch points divided by 48 weeks = 3.75 touch points per week, rounding up to 4 touch points per week. Does this mean you’ll be doing 4 prospect meetings per week? You know that face-to-face connections are generally the most meaningful and impactful. But they also take a lot of time. 

Volunteers can help with in-person meetings. You can also consider augmenting meetings with personal notes, phone calls, emails, social media connections, or invitations. See more ideas here

Asking your prospects for a gift

You need 60 asks to yield 20 gifts, so the math is the same as for prospecting. Aim to make 1 ask per week.

Bottom line: Your schedule of consistent activity is the trick to meet your goal. Productive and successful people practice the things that are important to them on a consistent basis. The best athletes practice at the same times every week. The best writers are sitting down at the keyboard every day. 

This same principle applies to the best leaders, parents, managers, musicians, and fundraisers. You can apply this principle of consistent scheduled activity to any goal-oriented area of your life.

(Side note: You should also be doing a 4th activity of thanking and stewarding your donors to help set you up for success with major gifts next year!)

What are your thoughts on schedule- supported deadlines? Please share your thoughts, tips and advice in the Comments box below!

Special gift for you: Conquer Your Fear of Asking for Money, a step-by-step guide, is available here (click).