Monday, May 11, 2015

How should you court a major donor?

Most solvent nonprofits today have long since gotten over the idea that they can exist solely on income from grants. They have developed a diverse funding strategy that accesses funding from various sources, and that often includes major donors.

So what is a major donor?

There is no hard monetary definition of a major donation.  For one organization it might be $1,000, while another may define a major donor as anyone donating over $10K or even $50K.

Of far more importance is the connection, the relationship if you will, of the donor to your organization.

Developing a major donor is not about a predator-prey relationship. It is about developing long-term friendships that can result in contributions to your income stream.

All nonprofits struggle with maintaining a minimum constant income stream. Whether that's $5,000 or $500 million, the income has to at least equal the outgo. Grants are nice, but they don't last. Even fee-for-service or fee-for-performance government contracts or grants have a fairly short life cycle.

Major donors on the other hand can remain interested and involved in your organization for a lifetime.

When I review a new client's revenue sources,  I look for evidence that they have major donors, or at least someone who could become a major donor.  That's why I strongly recommend that you record every donor's contact information, even if their donation is well under the threshold that requires you to give them a receipt.

Let's say you receive a new donation from someone prominent in your community. It's only $50, but hey, it's nice to know they've noticed you.

If you stop there, you could be throwing away a chance to make a long-term friend for your nonprofit.

That person could be a candidate for your major donor database. So, what now?

Of course you want to acknowledge the gift, but you should be doing that for every donor. How do you move beyond the pro forma receipt?

One way is to add a little something extra.  Write a nice letter of thanks, and include some additional information on your program or organization. Invite them to a meeting or a tour of your facility.

Take some time to research the person. If you have any people in common, you might mention that connection. Perhaps they have a personal connection to your mission, such as a family member who once needed the type of help you offer. Or you might invite them to your next event.

Don't get too pushy.  People with money have heard every pitch there is from people and organizations that want to relieve them of some of it. Concentrate on developing a relationship.

One strategy is to develop a list of major donor prospects and send them a special newsletter or invitation to an event. It's not that they won't understand the motivation behind the invite, but if it's done tastefully and the event (or the other attendees) piques some interest for them, they may show up.

Look for areas of common interest.  Maybe someone on your board also serves on a board with the prospect. Perhaps you belong to the same gym or country club. Look for ways to connect where you can share more information on your mission and goals.

In some cases, it might be wise to wait and see if they donate again, which can show some genuine interest in your mission.

In short, you have to do the same things you would do to cultivate any other relationship.  Building rapport and mutual respect will benefit everyone. 

No comments:

Post a Comment