5 Step Plan to Cultivate More Major Donors

Major gifts can provide major opportunities for nonprofit organizations. But the prospect of asking someone to make a substantial gift to your organization may seem daunting. However, inspiring an individual to become a major donor may not be as overwhelming as you think.

At the core of a major gift is a relationship with your donor built on trust and stewardship. An individual isn’t likely to give $10,000 out of the blue, and you wouldn’t ask someone for a gift of that size whom you’d never met. But when you invest the time to build and cultivate the relationship, amazing things can happen.

Major donors have significant benefits for your nonprofit beyond the financial gift. But how do you find a major donor? And how to you get to that big ask?

Step 1: Evaluate

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Before you build relationships with major donors, you need to find them. The best place to start is with your current donor list. Which individuals who regularly give could you ask to give more? Who on your list fits your profile of a major donor?

The most fruitful place to start is to leverage the relationships your team or board members already have. If a potential donor isn’t familiar with your organization, an introduction from a friend or colleague will go a long way towards them building trust in your nonprofit’s mission. Another tip, especially for smaller, community-based organizations, is to identify local events where you can speak about your organization to an audience who has an investment in your cause but may not know you yet. Revisit, and ask your board to revisit existing connections annually.

Part of your evaluation should involve identifying what a major donor means for your organization. Include factors such as giving history, involvement with your organization, and the donors interests and hobbies. Real estate ownership, career affiliation, and political giving history are other factors that indicate a prospect’s capacity to give.

Do extensive, deeper research on those you plan to cultivate as major donors. Making a large gift to an organization requires a level of personal connection. The more you know about these prospects, the deeper and more personal your relationship with them will be, and the more likely they’ll give at higher levels.

Look to identify prospective donors for planned giving. Some donors may be ideal candidates for a major gift, but don’t have the resources to make a sizable gift right now. Having a planned giving program you can discuss with those individuals helps to keep them actively involved in your organization and shows them the impact they can still have.

Step 2: Plan

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Now that you’ve identified a group of potential major donors, how will you cultivate those relationships? A well thought out plan will help you to make these relationships as rewarding as possible for all parties.

You may find it helpful to designate an experienced team member as a Major Gifts Officer. This individual would be the face of your major donor program, coordinating all major donor communications efforts. Their tasks could include:

  • Helping to prepare major gift marketing and promotional materials
  • Handling files and information pertaining to major donors
  • Staying in touch with major donors to steward those relationships
  • Making the ask of a potential major donor
  • Continuing to build a base of prospects

With someone in charge, now you can determine your plan for when, how, and what you will communicate with prospective major donors. Ensure that every member of your team knows their role moving forward.

Consider the following questions as you build your plan:

  • What will your initial contact with each prospect be?
  • How often will you communicate with each major donor?
  • What will your message be?
  • How will you track communications, outcomes, and progress?
  • How often will your team meet regarding the major donor program?
  • What can be done to keep this group engaged with your organization?

Remember: The focus with potential major donors should be the most personalized cultivation possible.

Step 3: Engage with Major Donors

An ideal place to begin when cultivating relationships with major donors is a brief introductory meeting. You may be meeting with current donors who already know much about your organization. Or, it may be a conversation with prospects who are brand new to you.

While the content may vary, first and foremost, position each donor as front and center in your mission work. Frame your conversation on how the person in front of you makes a difference. Other topics to discuss with the prospect include the mission of your organization and your upcoming fundraising plans and goals.

From there, continue to maintain regular, personal touches with your major donor prospects. Some ways to engage major donors include:

  • Regular check-in calls, personal notes, or meetings
  • Inviting them to volunteer
  • Providing a tour of your office/facilities
  • Giving them opportunities to meet the beneficiaries of your organization
  • Hosting a formal event or gala

Another idea is to consider developing a major donor society. Your major donors are a special group. Having a society to specifically recognize that select group can have many benefits. Not only will it make donors feel they are a part of something exclusive—it can also help you to raise more funds in the long run. If a donor plans to give a certain amount for an annual gift, and membership in your society is based on gift amounts that are a bit more, that donor may be inspired to give more to become a part of the society. You can host events exclusive to members of the society and provide perks or gifts for them as well.

Step 4: Reporting

You’re getting to know your donors, encouraging their involvement, and maybe you’re ready to make the ask. One thing that can help, both before making an ask and after a gift is made, is to be diligent in your reporting. Be very transparent about what each donor’s major gift allowed you to accomplish, both with specific details and regarding your big picture mission.

Talking about results may be a part of your discussion with a major donor leading up to a gift. If you can show them before the gift is made the clear steps that could be taken to achieve a goal, and what each piece would cost, it helps the donor to better understand their potential impact.

A piece of the reporting process is knowing how much and how often each major donor wants to hear from you. Some donors may be more interested in certain data than others; some may want all the details you can give, while others want less. Part of your cultivation process will be identifying where each major donor falls on this spectrum and providing personalized reporting accordingly.

Step 5: Track & Reevaluate

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Understanding the success of your major gift program will require you to track your progress and evaluate the success of your strategies. The only way to understand where you’re at and where you could improve is to consistently track your data. Keep detailed information on:

  • The results of any campaign specific to major donors
  • Each interaction you have with a major donor
  • When an ask is made
  • When gifts are received & the size of each gift
  • Your retention rates for major donors 

Remember: major giving is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time to build these relationships with prospective donors to reach a point where you can ask and receive a major gift. You’ll likely be trying a variety of strategies in your efforts to connect with each prospective donor on your list.

At Paw Print, we’re poised to assist with all your fundraising materials, including mailing services, brochure and booklet printing, graphic design, and copy writing. Contact us today to start a conversation about developing a major donor appeal campaign.

Direct Mail Tracking & ROI Success Indicators

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Personal. Reliable. Trustworthy. Useful. These are all words that have recently been used to describe direct mail. Direct mail is a powerful marketing and fundraising tool. A key to its success lies in tracking response and measuring results. If you have no way of knowing what a recipient does once they receive your mailer, you can’t know the true value that mailer holds for your target audience. So, what do we measure? And how do we make mail trackable and measurable? The following measurements and tracking strategies can apply to for profit businesses and nonprofit organizations alike.

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Direct Mail Works: Enhance Your Fundraising Appeal

woman reading mail at deskOne of the biggest reasons people don’t give is from a feeling of futility—how can my contribution really make a difference?

To turn this feeling around, you must show a donor how important they as an individual are to your cause. A personal way to do so that continues to get results is direct mail. A direct mail piece that sends the right message, to the right recipient, at the right time, is a compelling and effective way to connect with your target audience.

But what makes a powerful mail piece?

Let’s look at a recent appeal mailing from Giffords PAC, an organization working to end gun violence founded by former Congresswoman and shooting survivor Gabby Giffords.

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Effectively Reaching the Modern Donor

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Charitable giving has long been a part of the human experience. The first record of individuals giving back was in 2500 BCE, when the Hebrews instated a mandatory tax used to benefit the poor. In the U.S., philanthropy dates to 1643, when Harvard held the first American fundraising drive, raising 500 pounds.

In 2016, a total of $390.05 billion was gifted to charities around the world. The history of charitable giving is not only long, but full of change. And it’s not done changing yet.

The fundraising landscape is constantly shifting, as new technologies and demographic trends affect both the ways donors give and who is giving. A recent trend is the dominance of the “Modern Donor.”

The 2018 Modern Donor Contours Report describes this group as a combination of Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennial donors. Modern Donors have taken over the giving process from the Silent Generation, donors age 72 and over. This group has defined the giving process in the past. But younger generations are changing the methods the average donor uses to give and the ways that nonprofits need to fundraise.

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Nonprofit Promo Enhances Fundraising

Promotional products have been around for a long time. And they’re becoming ever more prevalent and desired. 80% of us have at least one promotional product, and over half will use that item at least once per week. Promo is a sure-fire way to enhance marketing strategy, helping nonprofits to achieve goals and generate more fundraising dollars.

4 Reasons Promo Benefits Nonprofits

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Envelope Creativity Boosts Response Rates

Entrepreneur opening a padded envelopeOne of the biggest hurdles of direct mail? Getting people to open the envelope.

Postcards and self-mailers have the advantage of standalone, eye catching content. The graphics are immediately visible, compelling the recipient to read on.

But for many mail pieces, an envelope is essential. Using an envelope doesn’t have to be limiting, however. In fact, today’s printing technology allows envelopes to be more personalized and attractive than ever before. Customization turns envelopes from basic commodities to effective direct marketing tools.

Why Direct Mail?

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In our digitally saturated world, direct mail stands out:

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Key Reasons Your Nonprofit Needs Branding

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When you consider the word “branding,” what comes to mind? You may think of well-known companies like Apple or Target, that advertise on a large scale and whose characteristics are immediately recognizable to most of us, who come into frequent contact with them.

But the concept of branding is just as important for small businesses as it is for large companies. And, it’s an essential piece of increasing awareness for nonprofits as well.

The obvious reason for nonprofit organizations to spread awareness of their brand is to increase donations and build a reliable donor base. However, according to the Stanford Social Innovation Review, many nonprofits are stepping up their brand management in order “to explore the wider, strategic roles that brands can play: driving broad long-term social goals, while strengthening internal identity, cohesion, and capacity.”

Why Should You Build a Brand?

Like any other entity, your nonprofit has a unique set of goals, characteristics, and stories. When you bring these together to form a recognizable and repeatable persona, you have a brand. The first thing most people think of when they hear the word brand or branding, is an entity’s logo. While this is one branding element, it’s only the beginning. The style, graphics, and words your organization uses to communicate all convey your brand.

But what can branding do for your nonprofit?

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5 Ways Direct Mail Enhances Digital Fundraising

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Are your fundraising campaigns multi-channel yet?

Digital developments are changing the way many non-profits fundraise. If you aren’t making use of digital channels to reach your donors, you risk falling behind.

While digital is vital to success, the most effective fundraising campaigns make use of direct mail and digital resources to create a cohesive donor experience, increase gifts, and be more impactful.

Here are 5 reasons to implement digital strategies into your next fundraising campaign:

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Make Your Appeal to Out of State Donors

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Donor acquisition is one of the most important functions of nonprofit fundraising. Your donors make the good work you do possible. Without a regular and tactical practice of enlisting new donors , both socially and financially, your organization would be challenged to stay afloat.

It goes without saying that stewarding your current donor base is essential—they’re the ones who’ve continued to champion your cause and are more likely to give consistently, and grow their gifts, over time.

Conversely, compelling new donors to give is more difficult than maintaining a relationship with a regular donor. However, it’s important to not leave donor acquisition efforts for hard times. Your donor base is constantly changing, and your approach to acquiring new donors should be constant as well.

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Understand Your Audience for Marketing Success

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How well do you know your audience?

It’s a question that marketers and fundraisers regularly ask themselves. You may have a general idea of the types of people who are purchasing your products or giving to your cause. But crafting compelling messages requires a deeper knowledge of what resonates with your constituents. The most effective campaigns are those that reach people on a relevant, personal level.

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