Major Gifts – Time to Make Your New Year’s Resolutions!
You made it! 2018 is officially in the books. Whether you met all your fundraising goals or came up short, hopefully you’ve had a moment to catch your breath and are ready to take on the opportunities that lie ahead in 2019, especially in growing major gifts for your organization. The challenging yet exciting thing about major gifts is that there’s always more to do and always room for improvement.
As you look out over the next 12 months, here are some ideas to think about right now for your major gift program, before the new year gets too far out.
1. Say thank you!
January is the perfect time to share a personal thank you with your donors for all their support and generosity in 2018. Share the impact of their gifts – personal stories from program participants, numbers of new people served by your organization, statistics showing the impact of your organization’s work. This outreach can be done via email or a mailed letter, but would be even more impactful through a phone call or face-to-face meeting to deepen the relationship.
2. Do a pulse check with your donors.
While you’re having that gratitude conversation, use the opportunity to check in with your donors about any number of things that can help you further engage with them. Avoid being so focused on the organization that you don’t “see” the donor, or so concerned about “getting the money” that you lose sight of the fact that major gift fundraising is about relationship. Some topics to think about:
- What are their current thoughts about the organization?
- Are they feeling connected and that their giving is making a difference?
- Are they feeling like they only hear from you when it’s time for the next gift?
- Have their motivations for giving changed?
- Are there new things the organization is doing that might be of interest to them?
- Are there any life events they’re currently experiencing that may impact their availability to be as involved?
Always learning and practicing curiosity about your donors will help you assess the best way to engage with them and assist with the next idea described below.
3. Design your donor plans for the year.
Before the end of this month, lock yourself into your office for an entire day (or two) to plan out a cultivation timeline for each of your donors. Think about where you would like to see each donor end the year, and work backwards from there. What are the monthly interactions you need to have with that donor to deepen the relationship and move towards a gift? How will you engage them beyond giving money, such as volunteer opportunities, asking them for advice, meeting other staff, etc.?
You’ll still need to make judgment calls as the year progresses to decide on the right next step. But by going through this exercise at the beginning of the year you’ll have the confidence of knowing that you’ve thought critically about your cultivation. And it will help you keep things moving forward, particularly if you commit to regular review and calendaring.
4. Always be qualifying.
Continually qualifying potential major donors to add to gift officer portfolios is critical to the health of a major gift program. Take some time now to pull together a list of donors not currently in a portfolio, based on their recent giving, size of recent gifts, capacity, and current relationship with your organization. Using these data points, prioritize the list and begin to reach out to test the waters for a closer relationship. Thank donors for their support, then ask some leading questions to probe about a more meaningful connection (without coming right out and asking!). Are they eager to get off the phone or do they display an interest in getting more involved? If the latter, add them to a portfolio.
Like all New Year’s resolutions, you may not achieve everything you set out for, but by taking some or all of these steps now, you’ll set a solid foundation for your major gifts effort in 2019.