Discovering Major Gifts: 5 Simple Steps to Qualify New Major Gift Prospects

Are you focusing on discovering major gifts?

If you are, then here’s a simple approach to the major gift Discovery Process.

These five steps can help you qualify new major gift prospects – and discover whether they have the capacity and interest to invest more in your nonprofit.

What I particularly like about this approach is that its completely donor-centered. AND it’s also very data-driven. So we are combining the interpersonal “art” of major gift fundraising with the  “science” of data analysis.

We love data-driven major gift fundraising!

Discovering and Qualifying Major Gift Donors is Easier Than You Think

We always say, the best prospect research is done face to face with your donors.

Try these steps:

1. Make Appointments With Yourself.

Sounds strange, doesn’t it?

But it’s vitally important that you block off time for major gift work. The very best major gift fundraisers are disciplined and focused!

So, whip out that calendar and block out time each week to execute the following steps.

Some master fundraisers who have been at it for years, still close their office door every other week and take an afternoon to make Discovery Phone Calls.

2. Vet Your Prospect List.

Where to start what all those donor names? You can use wealth screening, donor reports or many tools – but we bet that you are drowning in potential donor names. The trouble is, all those donors are not prioritized or qualified.

Here’s a great short cut: Check out giving frequency: Which donors are giving often? That’s a sign they are engaged and interested.

I am sure you have donors who give your organization $100, $500, $1,000 or more every year. You may have some who have given more than once in a single year. Those are pretty hot prospects in our book.

Set up a query in your database based on frequency of giving.

Once you have the raw data, review it carefully. Remove people you know well.

If you notice a donor who regularly gives to a particular program in your organization, ask the person responsible for the program if they know the donor. (I found a donor this way who ended up making a $9.5 million bequest!)

Organize the list in order of giving history ranked top to bottom.

HINT: Always work your list top down.

Now you have a list of who have indicated they love what you do and may have potential to do more!  Your next job is to find out more about them.

3. Get the Meeting with Your Donor Prospects.

So you have your list in front of you.  What next??

Pick up the phone and call them.

Thank the donor for their loyal support and let them know you would like to meet them to learn more about why they support you.

Make it about them.

If making a call cold leaves you frozen (!!), try this.

Start with a note of introduction letting them know you plan to call. Nothing beats a nice handwritten note to get noticed.

IMPORTANT – If you send a note, you MUST follow-up quickly with the call!

4. Have a Discovery Meeting with Your Donor.

No need to be nervous if you are prepared! Plan your meeting. Every meeting you have with a donor must have a goal.

The goal for these types of discovery meetings is to determine the interest and ability of each donor to make a major gift.

Listening to the donor is key – this call is not about selling!

Here are some questions you can use to get the conversation rolling and what you may learn from the answers.

What are your impressions of our organization?

Answers to this question will tell you why the donor supports your mission.

Which aspect of our work is of most interest to you?

These answers will indicate how much the donor knows about your organization and what they may want to know more about.

What excites you most about the giving experience?

Donors will share what they like about giving – some will talk about recognition; others about how they feel. This will help you understand more about their motivation.

What other organizations do you support?

Usually what you learn from this question is something about ability.

They may mention serving on a board or participating in a campaign of another organization.

5. Follow Up, Follow Up and Follow Up Some More.

The best follow-up is planned in advance.

And, follow-up must be done quickly.

Prior to the meetings consider what your follow-up options may be.

These include tour of your campus or site, visit with the CEO, and additional written information.

You also might want to followup on something within your donor’s area of interest.

Suggest a follow-up step to the donor prior to leaving the meeting.

And, always send a personal thank you note to the donor.

BOTTOM LINE – Discovering Major Gifts:

It’s not as hard as you think to discover NEW major gift prospects – right in your own donor files.

This post is by Dr. Kathryn Gamble and Gail Perry 

What do you think? Leave a comment below!