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I wish you could have been there. 

It was a hot Friday evening in July, and a group of friends had gathered together for supper at my house. 

My new daughter was a year old, and I was just starting to think about going back to work, after taking a year off to enjoy being with her. 

As we enjoyed the cooling air on the back deck, one of my friends spoke to me directly. 

It was my good friend Michael Rierson, who was the head corporate fundraiser at Duke University.

And he said some magic words: 

“Gail, are you ready to go back to work? 

There’s a fundraising job at Duke that you’d be great for.” 

Hmmm, I thought to myself. Fundraising. I had several years of professional sales experience but had never thought about getting started in fundraising. 

Yes, at 35 years old, I had already served on several nonprofit boards, and even chaired a board. Yes, nonprofit causes and making the world a better place definitely interested me. 

To me, it seemed like the perfect match: Professional sales plus nonprofit mission. And I heard a little tiny voice in my head: 

“Fundraising. That feels like fun. Yes.”

Now and then in people’s lives, a small voice speaks clearly inside their heads. Some people ignore that voice. The lucky ones hear the message, listen to it – and take action. That voice is how I started in fundraising.

I jumped at the opportunity to interview for the position of Major Gifts Officer at Duke. Six weeks later, I started my new job. Hurray!

Now, raising money at Duke University was a lesson in advanced fundraising. These people knew the art of cultivating donors. As a result, the gifts were flowing into Duke. Here are some of the lessons I learned at my very first fundraising job at Duke:

Lessons learned at Duke University. 

1.     Make the first gift such a nice experience for your donors that they will quickly give again.       

Make it an occasion of joy and celebration on the part of the receiving institution AND the donor. So – the first gift from a donor is (hopefully) never the largest! 

2.     Set objectives for each donor meeting.

Once you get started in fundraising, if you don’t have a plan for each visit with a donor, you may end up wasting your time. It’s easy to be social, and avoid having a direct conversation. But if you don’t engage the donor in a conversation about their interests, you lose a valuable opportunity. 

3.     Find seven ways to thank your donor, and they’ll give again.

Donors who are thanked properly are highly likely to give again. There are all sorts of ways you can acknowledge and appreciate your donors – videos, impact reports, personal notes, events, invitations, etc. It takes a lot of work but it’s totally worth it when your donor gives more and more and more. 

4.     95% of the money comes from 3% of your donors. 

A whopping majority of your gifts and contributions comes from very few people. If they are wildly passionate about your work, then they deserve your focused attention. You must focus on the very few people who can give the most.

5.    Stay in front of your prospects.

There is a direct correlation between the number of contacts a donor has from the organization – before the ask – and the amount of the gift. This also means that the longer you wait to ask, then the bigger the gift will be. 

6.    Ask for a specific amount always – based on the donor’s values and explicit motivation. 

Say: Would you consider a gift in the range of _X dollars_ for _X years_ if we can show you how it could be done?  In the life cycle of a donor there are perfect moments for asking for money. You are just nudging the inevitable.

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you. Let us know what you think of our new branding in the comments below!

Over and over, we all fight the same battle: how to control our talking when we are meeting with a donor.  After all, talking too much is the kiss of death.

It’s a challenge for everyone – newbies, experienced fundraisers, executive directors, board members, academic leaders alike. 

So, let’s review why it’s so important to listen to the donor, rather than to make a presentation. Why do we want the donor to do most of the talking? Why is talking too much the kiss of death in fundraising? 

You will turn your donor off.

Guess what – in a meeting, your donor is probably expecting to do most of the talking. She has opinions, she’s been thinking a lot about your organization, and she wants to express her point of view. She’s expecting to be heard, and she is not expecting to be presented to by you. 

Above all, you want your donor to stay interested and involved in the conversation. If you are talking and talking, she may start taking mental side trips. Her eyes may start to glaze over. And then, the worst thing can happen – she may feel bored. 

If that happens, she just might not want to see you again. Who wants to visit with someone who talks and talks all the time?

Put yourself in your donor’s shoes.

How long has it been since you felt stuck in a meeting with someone you could not escape from? And you were longing for a way out?

You certainly don’t want your donor to feel like she’s desperate to get away from you. Not at all; you want her to enjoy the visit and want to see you again.

You may think you’re being interesting, but your donor may think that you are droning on and on. 

Are you guilty of the kiss of death – the “talking problem?”

Too many nonprofit leaders – CEO’s, development directors and board volunteers alike – are guilty of the “talking problem.”

Everyone thinks they need a presentation that can sell the donor on their cause. Even more, too many people think they need a sales pitch.

Here’s the truth.

You don’t need a pitch. You need to listen to your donor instead.

Why are listening skills more important than presentation skills?

Because in fundraising, we have to follow our donor’s lead. When meeting with a donor, we cater to them. Always, we try to bring the donor out and make them feel comfortable. It’s far more important to listen than it is to talk.

As major gift fundraisers, we pay very close attention to what is on our donor’s mind, so that we can find out where she stands. If we want to develop her interest, then we have to know where her strongest interests are. 

If we truly want a warm relationship, then we need to know what is important to her. What her values are, and WHY she is so interested in our cause.

If we have this information, we can probably engage her deeply, get her involved, create a happy long term relationship and develop some wonderfully generous gifts.

Without this information about your donor, you are pretty much at a dead end. There is no cultivation pathway, and no way to plan an appropriate ask. 

Our recommendation is that you and your team should never do more than 50% of the talking. You’ll find that you can become quite comfortable, simply sitting there, holding the space for your donor to share her thoughts. You can relax, watch, gauge and listen.

We think that self-awareness, self-control and a light touch should be very highly prized skills for major gift fundraisers.

Bottom line. Make this your fundraising motto: “Listen Your Way to the Gift.”

The donor will show you the way.

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you. 

If your organization is planning a capital campaign or launching a major gifts program – we can help. Send an email to coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a free strategy call with us.

How Board Members Can Help Increase Donations by 39%

If you are serving as a nonprofit board member, I’m sure you are often asked to help in fundraising.

Here’s how you and your fellow board members can help increase donations to your organization by 39% – without having to do any “asking.”

To Increase Donations, All You Have to Do is Say “Thank You.”

Are you and your fellow board members nervous about having to solicit or ask for gifts? We understand.

So we’d like to suggest a different role in fundraising for you. How about taking on a thanking role with donors?

When you, as a board member, offer your personal thanks to your organization’s donors, you can make a huge difference.  In fact, you can directly impact your institution’s bottom line, while avoiding gift solicitations that could be awkward.

Special Thank You Treatment for Donors.

Try this test and track your results. Then you can evaluate how this strategy works for you and your fellow board members.

The next time your organization sends out a fundraising appeal, work with your staff to select out a random group of donors to receive a special thank you treatment.

Organize a team of  board members to make thank you phone calls to these donors within 24 hours of the gift being received. It’s important to make the call immediately after your organization receives the gift.

If the donor does not answer, the board member can leave a message that simply thanks the donor.

The phone calls are not about asking for another gift. They are for stewardship only.

If any of the board members are adventurous, they can take another step and ask the donor why they chose to make this gift. That would create a rich conversation that the donor will enjoy.

Track Your Results.

A few months after this first gift, your organization should send another fundraising appeal to all donors – both those who received the extra thank you phone call and those who just received a standard acknowledgment letter.

And when repeat gifts come in, compare the results of both groups.

You’ll find, when all other things are equal, some interesting results.

The donors who received a prompt, personal thank you from a board member within 24 hours of the gift being received, will usually give up to 39% more than the other group.

This is how board members help increase donations without having to ask.

3. The Original Research Findings.

Fundraising pioneer Penelope Burk performed the original research that found these amazing results. Her team originated the  “Donor Centered Fundraising” philosophy, a paradigm shift that changes the emphasis away from the organization’s needs and instead focuses on helping the donor create an impact.

Penelope Burk shared this data on board member thank you calls at an AFP International Conference from her research:

  • Donors received a thank you phone call from a board member within 24 hours of receiving the gift.
  • The next time they were solicited, they gave 39% more than the other donors who did not receive a call.
  • After 14 months, those called were giving 42% more.

4. How to Implement Board Member Thank You Calls.

Some board members may offer to make calls, but not follow through. So you will want only those who are enthusiastic and committed to sign up for this project.

  1. First, share the data with board members about the financial results from making prompt, personal thank you calls to donors. Be sure everyone understands the “why” of the project and the upside positive potential from making these calls promptly.
  2. Have one or two board members take charge of the project. Enlist a small committee. Be sure to coordinate closely with your staff.
  3. Make sure the committee members all understand that prompt timing is essential.
  4. Give each committee member specific phone calls to make. Don’t send out a whole list to the entire committee and hope that someone will make the calls.
  5. Have each board member report back weekly on the results of their calls.

One organization we know asked the board members to post their thank you call results on a shared Google document. That way each board member could see who was making their calls. Word had it that a competition took hold and each board member tried to outdo the others.

The busiest person on the board – a busy lawyer – made sure his calls were as up to date – or more up to date – as all the others. Now that is productive and friendly competition!

A Success Story of How Board Members Can Help Increase Donations:

Here’s an example from our own history:

One of our consulting clients, a local Rape Crisis Center, was staging their annual auction. One of our friends attended with us, and apparently purchased a lot of items at the auction.

The next day I was sitting in my office, when our friend called.

Excitedly, he said, “You won’t believe what just happened!”

“I’m speechless,” he continued. “I just got a phone call from a board member of the Rape Crisis Center thanking me for . . . for   . . .  for being the largest donor at the auction last night!”

“I just can’t believe it,” he gushed. “I’ve given money all over the country and I’ve NEVER gotten a call from a board member.”

We could just feel him beaming all the way over the phone. He was absolutely thrilled.

The next year, he asked us “Is the Rape Crisis Center having their auction this fall? I haven’t gotten an invitation yet?”

That year, he bought an entire table and hosted the president of the largest foundation in North Carolina at his table. I think the Rape Crisis Center has him for life now, because they gave him such special treatment.

Bottom Line: Board Members Can Increase Donations to Their Organizations – Simply by Saying Thank You.

A little effort goes a long way – remember that and remind your board. A simple acknowledgement phone call could be just the thing your donor needs to become a loyal lifelong major donor.

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you. 

If your organization is planning a capital campaign or launching a major gifts program – we can help. Send an email to coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a free strategy call with us.

Planning a Campaign? Add Power and Influence

We were helping one of our clients work through a challenge yesterday.

Our client, a national organization, is planning a $300 million capital campaign. The problem is, the organization’s board is not composed of “heavy hitters” so to speak, who hold power and influence.

The organization has a lot going for it. Its mission is solid and its impact is proven. But its leadership doesn’t have the connections they need to raise hundreds of millions.

Our recommended solution: we are guiding them through a deliberate networking process to bring in individuals who have power, connections and influence with funders.

Do You Have Enough People of Power and Influence Standing Behind Your Institution?

Every successful capital campaign needs powerful individuals who add credibility to the campaign. Their most important function is to help open doors to important donors – which can significantly shorten the time it takes to close a major gift.

For example, some key individuals can make a phone call, and quickly give you an open door to an important funding source. Or you have may a specific need: with one email, a key leader can suddenly access the resources to make it happen.

What You Get: Instant Leverage

Early in the game, we advise our clients to identify significant leaders of influence in their sphere and pull them in closer. As we all know, one key, well-connected individual can often draw three powerful leaders in.

When they lend their authority and back your work, their own credibility increases the standing of your organization. It builds confidence in your mission.

It’s like they are giving their seal of approval to your initiative.  Again, they can help you dramatically shorten the time it takes to forge significant relationships with funding sources. You can raise serious money much faster.

What You Get: Shortened Timelines

When you have the benefit of the right door-opener, then you don’t have to painstakingly build a trusting relationship from scratch with a donor. Instead, your “key influencer” can help you move right into a Gift Conversation with the donor. This saves you and your team so very much time and effort.

They add a backdrop of visibility and prominence so that doors to donors will fling open early in the game. Key funders will say, sure, I’ve heard about this and I’m happy to discuss your project with you.

In two of our capital campaigns, we’ve helped our clients network their way to a former governor of their state. Imagine how helpful a former governor could be to a campaign – he or she can be a key influencer of many companies, foundations, families, and even government funding sources. It’s a win-win all around.

Planning a Capital Campaign? Stack the Deck with Power and Influence

This is one of our key campaign planning strategies that we incorporate in our campaign planning studies. Who are the leaders who can help your campaign the most?

We advise all our clients – early in the game – to set themselves up for success. Add the right well-connected, influential volunteer leaders as soon as possible. As we mentioned, they’ll  bolster the prominence and visibility of the pending campaign, and make things so much easier by offering access to major and lead donors.

The Right Timing Can Build Momentum

How, and in what order, do you enlist your key influencers? It’s important to understand the whole landscape and lay out a careful sequence of priority steps.

Who is the first person you can enlist? If you can get a certain individual on board now, then who will they attract? What relationships can they leverage?

This is why the early campaign ramp up activities are absolutely critical. The right sequence of key people joining, one by one, to back your project can create that magic campaign ingredient we call momentum.

For example:

One wonderful individual joins on, and they say “have you talked to this person?”

You say, “I barely know them.”

Then your key influencer says, “I can fix that.”

You just moved from game space one to game space five.

Building Your Board Prior to a Major Campaign

If you are even thinking about a capital campaign in the next few years, you need to immediately start building connections with potential board members of influence and standing in your community.

Your board will play a key role in the campaign.  While you are working to recruit top volunteer leaders for the campaign, your board can help create the confidence and momentum needed to help attract those special individuals.

For example, achieving 100% giving participation by the board early can send a strong message to potential leaders that your board and organization are committed to the success of the campaign.

One of our campaign clients did just this. When they went to recruit their campaign chair, they were able to use the board’s early campaign commitment to successfully recruit their desired campaign chair.

It’s never too early to stack your board with people who can not only make major campaign gifts, but also bring other donors with them.

Bottom Line: Who Do You Need to Add to Your Team to Increase Power and Influence?

Is it time for you to reestablish key relationships? Who are your former board members, key funders or supporters who might have drifted away?

Can you seek out advice visits early while your campaign is still an idea? Can you engage them early in campaign planning?

Remember, stacking your deck with people of power and influence can shorten your capital campaign timeline, help you secure lead gifts faster, and give your campaign prominence in your community. It’s a smart strategy.

culture of philanthropy | GPG

As we all know, a culture of philanthropy lays the foundation for excellent fundraising results. So the true question to ask is: Does your institution have a true culture of philanthropy?

Diving deeper, the real question is:

Is there really full support for fundraising across your entire organization?

All the way from your board members to program staffers?

Often, we find many fundraising teams are not getting full support from their institutions. They are forced to operate in a silo – walled off from other departments. A sense of camaraderie between colleagues is missing.

When fundraising operates in a vacuum, results will be less successful. You’ll never reach your true financial potential in this type of environment.

If you want to reach your ultimate revenue goals you must have broad support for fundraising across your entire organization.

So how do we build broad-based organizational support for fundraising – a true culture of philanthropy?

1. Building a culture of philanthropy: it’s an Attitude Thing

We find that non-fundraisers tend to think of fundraising as only one activity: “asking for money.”

What’s more, it’s not understood that smart fundraising requires much, much more than just the act of asking.

If your colleagues and leaders get stuck on the issue of asking, they might default to thinking that fundraising is distasteful.  As a result, they certainly don’t want to get involved.

Your colleagues may think if you ask them to get involved in “fundraising,” then you’ll ask them to solicit, which they very likely will avoid.

So, you are dealing with an attitude thing – people’s thoughts and their feelings.

If you want to create change – remember meet people where they are. Your job is to slowly start to land different ideas in their heads. 

2. Redefine “Fundraising” into Something Broader and Bigger Called “Philanthropy”

The idea of “fundraising” carries with it ideas like sales, money, asking, soliciting and hitting people up.

The term “fundraising” can put people off.

Yet, on the other hand, the idea of “philanthropy” feels grand and lovely. It carries with it a sense of nobility and community.

The term “philanthropy” can attract people. It makes them want to get involved.

Don’t forget: When you redefine fundraising into the more lofty concept of philanthropy, you open people to new ideas and new possibilities.

Jeanne Tedrow, CEO of Passage Home , (now head of the NC Center for Nonprofits) told us, “Philanthropy just feels different when you are talking to your board and volunteers – they are not so scared to get involved.” 

3. To Build a Culture of Philanthropy, Start by Asking Everyone to Help Thank Donors

Thanking donors is an easy job. It’s enjoyable and satisfying, and it’s the right thing to do.

Why not ask colleagues across the organization about creative ways to thank your donors?  This can be interesting and fun, while introducing the idea that donors are important, wonderful people.

When you make it about honoring the awesome people who make your work possible – then it’s not about “fundraising.” Instead- it’s about philanthropy.

We find board members often really enjoy saying thank you. It’s the perfect place to get them started in fundraising. Try a thankathon to launch your next annual campaign.

Focus your board members on thanking and suddenly you just might have enthusiastic board members on the fundraising train.

Sue Acree of Literacy Connections summed this up during an Insiders webinar:“Focus on the donors and the money will follow.”

4. Find Ways for Everyone to Engage with Your Lovely Donors

Just think how much fun you could have if you got the entire organization actively engaging with, and celebrating your donors.

You may be asking: how can you engage donors with your mission? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Give them tours.
  2. Invite them to panel discussions.
  3. Introduce them to program staffers. Bring your key “subject matter expert” program heads to meet donors. Donors always love to meet your program colleagues who are carrying out your mission.
  4. Ask donors to volunteer. Ask them what they think of the work.
  5. Share stories and more stories about your organization’s work. Donors love to hear often about how they are making a difference through YOU.

As Meg Revelle from Arts Together shared after an INSIDERS webinar:

“At our board meeting, we brainstormed all the ways we could help engage donors. Each Board member left with at least one idea to implement. They chose what excited them and they wanted to do – and it was such fun!”

Bottom Line: Creating a Culture of Philanthropy

If you want to create a culture of philanthropy at your organization, make it easy and make it enjoyable for everyone. You’ll find broader support across your organization once more colleagues participate.

As Suzie Acree said, “This is changing my thinking….I am gaining a new perspective on donors that makes it more fun, for not only me, but my staff and board!”

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you. 

If your organization is planning a capital campaign or launching a major gifts program – we can help. We’re with our clients every step of the way, inspiring their teams and board, building confidence, driving action and measuring success. Send an email to coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a strategy or consulting call with us.

NO ASK fundraising strategies for board members? Is this possible?

Often, we find that board members are nervous about the idea of fundraising. They want to help, but shy away from the idea of “asking.”

We recently shared our favorite list of the Top 10 Fundraising Responsibilities of Board Members. Today we want to dive deeper and discuss how each board member can find a comfortable role where they can personally support fundraising, without having to solicit.

Here are just a few of the productive jobs they can do to raise friends, thank donors and help create a sustainable fundraising program.

1. Spread the word among their networks and social circles.

Your board members need to be roaring advocates for your organization; they need to talk it up wherever they go. Every organization needs their board members to be in action, spreading the word and making friends for the cause.

It’s important for all board members to enthusiastically share news about their favorite cause with their friends. Most are willing to share posts, videos or images with their social networks. For example, many board members jump in to support Giving Days by reaching out to friends via social or digital channels.

One thing board members need to remember: they have immense credibility within their communities.

One reason is because they are unpaid volunteers.  They are only supporting the organization out of the goodness of their hearts – because they care. This gives board members more stature within the community and their circles of friends than they realize.

So the job is clear: ask your board members to introduce your organization to everybody they know. Let’s start a groundswell of good news about your cause that will spread through your community.

2. Open doors by hosting Small Socials.

You can expand your community relationships and make new friends through gatherings such as Small Socials. This job is perfect for socially oriented board members who have a large network.

A Small Social can take several formats. For example, it can be a coffee, a tea, a dinner, a porch party, a cookout, or cocktails. The event can be a breakfast meeting or luncheon. It can include 3 people or 100.

Here’s our preferred format for a “door-opener” Small Social:

  1. Board members, volunteers or donors invite guests, underwrite it and serve as hosts.
  2. There is no charge, because this is a cultivation event designed to introduce new people to your organization’s work. The goal is to work the room, so to speak.
  3. There is a short presentation (max 15 minutes) in the midst of the socializing.
  4. The board volunteer host welcomes everyone, and the CEO gives a short high-impact message about the work and your results.
  5. You follow up with attendees after the event, by asking them about their impressions and if they’d like to get involved.

Small Socials are one of our favorite no ask fundraising strategies for board members. Opening doors and making connections is a most important role – one that can pay off in future major gifts. 

3. Host a tour to showcase your organization’s impact.

Board members can host tours to bring prospective friends closer to your organization. We find that a carefully scripted tour can be a powerful way to demonstrate your organization’s good work and to illustrate unmet needs in the community.

The tour lets your work speak for itself.

Your guests will hear staff members, or even clients/students/stakeholders, express in their own words their personal first-hand experiences with your organization’s mission— and the good it does—in the community.

A well-planned tour is hosted by a board volunteer. Just like in Small Socials, the CEO will share a visionary message. Use the same follow-up plan as a Small Social.

By hosting a tour of your organization for donors or friends, board members play a powerful role showcasing your organization’s work. Even more, their presence adds credibility and stature to your organization.

4. Thank you calls to donors.

One of the most powerful actions a board member can take is to make thank you phone calls to donors. This should always happen soon after the gift is received by your organization.

When board members call to thank donors, the donors are usually quite impressed. Donors will  think:

“This organization appreciates me”

“I am a real person to this organization, not just a checkbook”

“This organization is well run”

Donors who receive phone calls from board members invariably tend to give larger gifts the next time and tend to stay on board as donors longer.

Some studies have shown that donors who received a thank you call from a board member within 24 hours of making a gift, later made subsequent gifts that were 39% higher than donors who did not receive a call.

This means that board members can directly improve your organization’s bottom line without having to solicit.

Bottom Line: NO ASK Fundraising Strategies for Board Members

Every board member can support your organization’s fundraising.

There is a fundraising role for each person on your board – whether they are in an asking role or not. Opening doors, making friends and thanking donors are valuable jobs that can pay off with increased gifts to support your cause.

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you. 

If your organization is planning a capital campaign or launching a major gifts program – we can help. We’re with our clients every step of the way, inspiring their teams and board, building confidence, driving action and measuring success. Send an email to coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a strategy or consulting call with us.

What is the outlook for post-COVID fundraising? There’s good news to share!

Giving is up – right now – across the board.

What’s more, the outlook for charitable giving in the next year or two is also looking very good. We predicted a number of positive trends for 2021, and are happy to see some come to fruition so soon.

Recent reports and studies are showing positive signs on the giving horizon.

First of all, here’s a look at recent trends from 2020.

Giving in 2020 was up significantly.

A report issued by the well-respected Fundraising Effectiveness Project (FEP) managed by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, showed that last year, overall charitable giving grew a whopping 10.6% in 2020 over 2019.  

This is really cause for celebration.

The Fundraising Effectiveness Project’s Growth in Giving database charts giving trends from 2,496 organizations that raise $100k – $10 million annually. Clearly this increase in giving was driven by donors reaching out to help those in economic hardship during the pandemic. But many charities of all types saw giving increases.

Small donors are back!

Some of the best news is that small donors, who provide much of the sustainable annual giving for many nonprofits, are returning. We’ve been very worried that small donor gifts had been declining over the past few years. Moreover, these smaller donors are the backbone of many nonprofit organizations’ financing.

Here’s the FEP data as reported by the Chronicle of Philanthropy:

Gifts of less than $250 grew by a total of 15.3% last year over 2019.

$250-$999 gifts increased by 8%.

Gifts of $1,000 or more grew by 10.4%.

But there’s worrisome news too: Donor retention plunged again to a low of 43.6%. (the lowest donor renewal rate since the FEP began tracking in 2004-05.) This means that less than half of the donors who gave in 2019 repeated their support by giving again in 2020.  

Donor loyalty continues to be one of the greatest challenges of many fundraising programs. Retention rates of new donors continue to decline.

Post-COVID fundraising outlook.

Looking ahead, there’s great news on the horizon. So, what can we expect from post-COVID fundraising?

Projections show an excellent outlook for fundraising in 2021 and 2022. The well-respected Lilly Family School of Philanthropy recently shared a report projecting total giving to rise 4.1% in 2021, and 5.7% in 2022.

When you look at individual giving, which supplies the majority of many organizations’ contributed revenue, the Lilly report forecasts a year-over-year rise of 6% in 2021.

This is great news for many nonprofits. 

Why the rosy forecasts for 2021 and 2022?

For decades we have seen giving levels follow the U.S. stock market. When the stock market rises, charitable giving also goes up. We find that when donors’ portfolios are growing robustly, then donors feel more wealthy. When your major donors are feeling wealthy, then their charitable gifts often increase. 

To quote the Lilly report:

“Individual and household giving is influenced by growth in the S&P 500, especially giving by those with median and higher levels of income. A large body of work demonstrates, with few exceptions, that as income and wealth increase, so do the amounts that households give to charity.”

Estate gifts are also projected to rise over the next couple of years.

This is, again, because of the robust stock market. It’s because the amount of an estate gift ultimately depends on the value of the estate’s assets. Many estates include substantial stock investments, which have appreciated nicely in the past few years. So any bequests your nonprofit is targeted to receive will be more highly valued than before.

The Lilly report bases its rosy outlook on several assumptions – namely that the economy will continue to stabilize and grow as people receive vaccinations and life begins to return to “normal.”

Ultra-high-net-worth gifts are also seeing an uptick right now, reports the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Billionaire William Ackman recently donated shares worth one billion, and other mega donors like Elon Musk recently made 9-figure gifts.

Bottom Line: Post-COVID fundraising outlook.

What does this robust forecast mean? It means take heart. Things are looking up. Keep a sense of optimism and possibility about your fundraising. You’ll likely see that your own donors are also primed to give. 

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you. 

If your organization is planning a capital campaign – we can help. We’re with our clients every step of the way, inspiring their teams and board, building confidence, driving action and measuring success. Send an email to coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a strategy or consulting call with us.

how to create a capital campaign plan planning preparation

pen marking check box

Many organizations are either planning a capital campaign, or thinking about one in the future.

It’s what happens early on in the capital campaign planning process that really lays the groundwork for success. This Checklist Tool will help you and your team evaluate how prepared you are for a capital campaign in the future.

In our work with clients to set up winning campaigns, we begin by evaluating their readiness based on these seven strategic areas.

It’s what you do ahead of time that makes all the difference in capital campaign planning.

Laying the groundwork for a successful capital campaign is like stacking the dominoes.  You take the time to carefully and strategically get organized, and line everything up.

Then, once the campaign begins, everything comes together quickly. Like the dominos, they all drop one after the other in perfect sequence.

Please know that very few organizations can say 100% YES to all these questions below. It’s the questions that you answer “maybe” that will point out your focus for the next few months.

This is a handy tool for the board and CEO to understand just how much additional preparation they need to do before moving forward with a capital campaign.

YOUR BOARD

In laying the groundwork, you want to prepare your board carefully for the campaign. You’ll want everyone to be in full agreement on the proposed plan and strategy to move ahead.

Can your board set the financial pace for a campaign?

Are your board members considered to be leaders in the community?

Is your board in full agreement on the proposed plan for a campaign?

Does your board have good fundraising connections?

Do your board members operate with business minded board practices?

Does your board have a good relationship with staff?

VOLUNTEER LEADERSHIP

Influential campaign volunteers can help your campaign gain credibility and momentum. If the right people are standing behind your initiative, then you can move forward quickly.

Do you have a history of influential people involved with your cause?

Can you enlist top leaders in your community who are well-known to help lead the capital campaign?

Do you have volunteer campaign leaders or campaign chairs already enlisted?

Can your volunteer leaders make major gifts to the campaign?

PROSPECTS

For a campaign to be successful, you’ll need donor prospects with leadership giving capacity. Run the numbers and evaluate your campaign prospect pool Your first step will be to renew and refresh your relationships with key funders and leadership donors.

Do you currently have a vigorous major gift program in place?

Do you think you have the donor prospects to reach your campaign goal? 

Are your donors well cultivated and involved?

Can you identify your leadership gifts up front?

Can you identify 15-20 potential sources of major campaign gifts right now?

DEVELOPMENT OFFICE and INFRASTRUCTURE

Often the factor that can make or break a campaign is the staff itself. You’ll want a strong, bold and experienced fundraising team that is highly motivated and raring to go.

Do you have experienced, capable staff?

Is the development office fully staffed now?

Is your administrative back office functioning smoothly?

Do you have a system for tracking pledges and policies for accepting gifts of stock and real estate?

Have you allocated funds to staff up and pay for campaign expenses? (the campaign will cost 8-10% of your overall dollar goal.)

Have you determined if you need outside expert guidance as Campaign Counsel?

YOUR PLAN/CASE

Make sure you lay out the need and justification for your campaign in plain, simple, and emotional language. Follow it up with supportive data.

Is the need well established, urgent and understood?

Do you have an updated strategic plan?

Do you have an updated master facilities plan with completed capital projections and budgets?

Can you convey the impact of your project in vivid emotional terms?

Do you have data to back up the need you are addressing in your case for support? 

IMAGE

It’s important that your organization is well-respected in the community. For donors to make significant gifts, they need to have confidence in your leadership.

Is your organization well respected in the community, with a track record of success? 

Is there confidence in your organization and its leadership?

Are you communicating your results and your good work to the rest of your community?

Are you visible in the community?

TIMING

Clearly, you would like a positive economic environment to bolster your campaign. But don’t forget, you can still be successful even in uncertain times.

Is the fundraising environment good right now?

Are the economic conditions in your community good right now?

Bottom Line on Capital Campaign Planning.

If you have these conditions all set, then you are ready to embark on a capital campaign. 

If not, it’s time to get to work enlisting volunteers, identifying prospects, cultivating your prospective donors and sharpening up your case for support.

Let us know if we can help. We’re happy to provide a free strategy call to guide your capital campaign preparation and planning, anytime. 

fundraising boards members fundraising | Gail Perry Group

What are the fundraising responsibilities of board members of a nonprofit organization?

Above all, board members carry the legal responsibility for the fiduciary care of their nonprofit. In that vein, it’s their responsibility to ensure that the organization has the funding it needs to carry out its mission.

Given that it is each board member’s job to support fundraising, here’s our list of fundraising activities that everyone on the board can help with. What’s more, these activities are easy, productive and fun.

1. Make a proud, personal annual gift.

Above all all else, board members have a moral duty to support the organization financially. It just shows that they are putting their money where their mouth is.

If board members (who hold the legal responsibility) don’t support the nonprofit financially, then why should anyone else?

The gift each person makes can be large or small. But it always needs to be a gift that each board member is personally proud of making.

Everyone needs to understand that, of all the fundraising responsibilities of board members, this is the most important.

2. Understand your organization’s fundraising program and strategies.

Many board members don’t understand how fundraising really works today.

Every organization has a different fundraising strategy. Some rely on events, others on grants or major donors to fund their mission.

As a board member, you need to understand your own organization’s specific fundraising program.

What’s more, you need to understand the profitability of various fundraising approaches. For example, why events are the least profitable way to raise money, and how seeking major gifts is the most effective and efficient way to fund your mission.

3. Help thank donors.

This is the easiest and most joyful fundraising job of all.  And, it’s one of the most important jobs a board member can do.

Why? Because when board members call or write donors to thank them, those donors will become more loyal. They are typically honored to receive a thank you from a board member.

Studies show that when board members thank donors promptly and personally, then future gifts from the donors who receive the call will rise as much as 39%. 

This is one of the most enjoyable, and easiest of all the fundraising responsibilities of board members.

4. Communicate with donors and tell them about your organization’s great work.

Clearly every board member needs to serve as a personal advocate for the cause.  You can share why you care about your organization’s work – with friends, on social media and everywhere you go.

As a board member, you need some interesting stories about your organization’s great impact in the community. Have a statistic or two that will get someone’s attention.

Ask for more training in messaging. It will help you spread the word in your community, gain more recognition for your nonprofit, and perhaps draw new donors to your work.

5. Help identify prospective donors and open the door with introductions.

When we ask nonprofit CEOs what they need most from their board members in fundraising, we usually hear only this:

“I just need my board members to open doors.”

And most board members would be happy to help. Often they just need a bit more training and support.

As a board member, it is your job to be on the lookout for possible new supporters. Look for opportunities to bring your friends in to volunteer, or attend an event or a tour.

You may be surprised: someone in your circle of friends may turn out to be passionately interested in your cause.

6. Help cultivate donors.

Many donors really do want to learn more about your organization’s work.

Remember, they often want to be involved and in the know. Donors would not be supporting the mission unless they were passionate and committed to your cause.

Board members can play a huge role in helping to bring donors closer. As a board member, you can host behind-the-scenes tours or small socials. You can also ask donors to share their personal stories about why they care about your work.

That’s the first step to a much larger donation.

7. Only when appropriate, ask for contributions.

Board members are great at some forms of asking.  They can:

  • Sell tickets and sponsorships for events.
  • Encourage their friends and colleagues to get involved and consider giving.
  • Ask current donors to renew or upgrade their gifts.

When it comes to major donors, however, the best role for board members is simply opening the door.

Master fundraisers take a slow, delicate approach to major donors. It’s important for board members to coordinate with staffers who are directing the overall strategy with key donors.

8. Support and encourage the fundraising team.

An acknowledged staff becomes a more productive staff.  Remember, nonprofit staffers are often working long hours for lower pay. They need the full support of board members for their work.

Board members can encourage not only the staff, but also their peer board members. Celebrate the fundraising team, and cheer them on.

When board members make fundraising important, everyone is more successful. And more dollars come in the door.

9. Ensure that fundraising has adequate resources and support.

When an organization invests in and fully staffs its fundraising operation, it raises much more funding  than organizations with poorly staffed and underfunded programs.

When fundraising is consistently staffed and funded – your organization enjoys long-term financial stability and success.

Above all, it’s important for board members to support the overall fundraising operation. Otherwise your mission will suffer from lack of funding.

10. Attend public events and bring prospects and friends.

Board members need to show up at important events. You have an important role – you are official hosts and hostesses – welcoming donors and attendees to your event.

Ask staffers what they need from board members at events – what’s essential and what’s optional? That way you can show up and help them be successful.

BOTTOM LINE: 10 Fundraising Responsibilities of Nonprofit Board Members

All board members can, and should, vigorously support the fundraising program. There are many ways to be involved, even if you are not directly asking for funds.

Everyone needs to join in and help make fundraising successful!

We all know that major gift fundraising comes down to the moment of truth – when you actually talk with a donor about a gift.

So how can you make asking much easier and more successful?

Often, it can be an exciting, scary moment. But an asking conversation does not have to be always nerve wracking.

Remember these insights and you’ll be far more calm and successful when you are discussing a gift with a donor. 

We’ll be teaching these approaches to successful major gift asks in our Major Gifts Intensive, which starts next week. Find out more and join us here.

1. Asking is a process, not a one-time transaction.

You’ve got to remember that this is NOT a “make or break” moment.

Asking is not a single point in time. Instead, it’s a process that happens over several conversations. That’s why we call it an Asking Conversation.

At Gail Perry Group, we teach a donor-centered approach to asking that is completely permission-based. Following this approach, you would simply ask your donor:

  • If they’d like to learn more?
  • What about your work most interests them?
  • Would they like to know how they could help?

And ultimately:

  • Would they be interested in discussing a possible gift?

When you take your time, these preliminary conversations help you develop a trusting relationship with your donor. And it builds up to a generous gift.

2. Giving is an emotional act by the donor.

Don’t forget: The act of making a gift is an emotional act.

When a donor gives, they are often feeling warm and fuzzy about the difference they can make. 

It’s an emotional energy. And it connects them deeply to some memory, belief, or deep commitment – one of their closely-held personal values.

In all our planning, analyzing and scripting, we forget that our donor is a living, breathing human with needs, desires, interests and passionately held beliefs.

While we are focusing on dollars that will help us toward a goal, your donor is focusing on what’s going on in their heart – how do they “feel” about your cause. How do they “feel” about the difference they might be able to make?

We miss the mark when we focus too much on the logic and the numbers. (You do need the numbers to provide credibility but don’t lead with them.)

3. It’s not about money.

Yes, fundraising is about much, much more than money.

If you think what you are asking for is “money,” then you won’t be very successful.

If you think it’s all about money, then you won’t be connecting with the higher, altruistic purpose that lives in your donor’s heart.

You’ll instead be engaging in a sales transaction, and one at a much, much smaller level.

One of my great fundraising mottos is:

“Fundraising is not about money, it’s about changing the world.”

If you focus your conversation and your energy about what’s at stake, and how this gift could make such a huge difference, then you’ll be able to raise mega gifts.

4.  It’s not about you.

Many people are self conscious and focusing on themselves when they are chatting with a donor about a gift. Maybe it’s nervousness or awkwardness, but they are self-focused rather than donor-focused.

BUT it’s really all about the donor.  You should be thinking of him or her all the time, not about yourself.

You need to take your cues from the donor, and not be thinking about what you will say or do next.

We fundraisers have learned (the hard way sometimes) that the only way to be a successful solicitor is to let the donor lead the way.

Your donor is not particularly interested in what’s going on with you. What they are interested in is how they can help.

5. People give to an exciting opportunity with the HIGHEST impact.

When you are preparing for an ask, you must always, always remember that people want to give to a project with high impact and exciting potential.

Too many fundraisers focus on money. Or they will focus on the project. We recommend that you focus on IMPACT.

So when you are presenting your “Big Idea” for your donor, you’ll need to talk in the largest possible terms.

Here are a few examples to keep in mind:

  • For a kids’ soccer team: “Help these young people develop skills and experience of teamwork in sports to help them prepare for life.”
  • For a literacy program: “Help people gain self-respect, tools for better employment and become productive citizens. And you are also helping an entire family get on their feet.”
  • For an independent school: “Help young people get the best possible education so they will be prepared for life – they are our future.”
  • For a health clinic: “Our health infrastructure is a basic foundation for economic development in our community.”

And on and on. You can take any project and blow it up to its highest potential.

Bottom Line: These ideas about asking will help you be calmer, more confident and much more successful. 

Our Major Gifts Intensive is starting next week with orientation. We’ve got such a terrific group of smart organizations who are joining us to launch or expand a major gift initiative. We have spaces for two more organizations if you want to join at the last minute! Email anne@gailperry.com if you are interested. 

We thought you might be interested in hearing about three skills everyone needs in order to close major gifts much faster. So today, in the final article of our Major Gifts 2021 content series, we’re sharing the secret skills that the best fundraisers use to close mega gifts.

Here’s the challenge we often face: donors are people. Which means they are human – they can be ambiguous and confusing. Smart fundraisers can read their donors, decipher the implications of a donor conversation and move forward to a gift conversation.

Use the Artful Questions to Find Out Where a Donor Stands.

Often, mega donors don’t come right out and say things unless directly asked. They’ll share conflicting information about their financial position, their family and their giving intentions.

One of the great tragedies of fundraising is when we assume too much about a donor.

We may decide they are a serious donor prospect, based solely on a wealth screening report. Or we may assume they will not be supporting our cause for one reason or another. Either way, donors can – and will – surprise you.

One of the skills we teach in the Major Gifts Intensive program (join us this year!) is how to ask the Artful Questions to find out where your donor truly stands. You can politely, but directly, ask donors specific questions about their intentions.

There is a way to do this that is organic and natural, never pushy. Everyone who aspires to close major gifts needs the Artful Questioning technique that moves a donor toward a gift.

The best fundraisers master Artful Questioning – the hard but delicate questions that uncover their donor’s intentions.

Learn to Read Your Donor’s Cues.

Donors give you signals – some weak and some strong. The best fundraisers can “read” their donors, because they are constantly vigilant, scanning the donor’s communication and behavior for signs of greater enthusiasm or change.

Your major or principal gift donor is constantly giving you cues about where they stand, but alas, you and your team are missing them.

The problem is, you are not paying close enough attention.

Practice watching the things your donors actually do – such as their willingness to chat with you or their facial expressions. (Do they smile when you call?)

Donors will also say surprising things that will perk up your ears. They may ask about naming opportunities or ask to meet your CEO and learn more about your work. They may mention a recent inheritance or a financial situation. These are all classic signals that your donor is interested in deeper support.

  • Kathryn closed the largest gift of her career ($9 million!) when she picked up a side comment from a donor couple – that they didn’t have kids and were planning their estate.
  • Gail likes to tell a story of when she realized the donor was blowing her off, by just the flicker of his eyelid and posture shift. “I got the message quickly,” she says, “and I changed the subject to a more productive direction!”

Use Deeper Listening to Find Your Next Gift.

There’s an absolutely critical attribute of every smart fundraiser – including staffers, CEOs, deans and chancellors, leaders of all types who engage with donor prospects. They must learn the Deeper Listening skills.

Here’s the problem: your team members are too focused on the excitement of the meeting, including what they are planning to say next. If they tend to be talkers, they have a problem. Typically a dean, CEO or your president is going to expect to talk.

Not so. Your donor expects to do the talking.

Deeper listening will help you interpret your donor’s cues, and move in the direction they want to go. You’ll be alert to signs of readiness to give.

The best fundraisers know how to listen their way to a gift.

Bottom Line: The Secret Skills that Help You Close Major Gifts Much Faster.

Don’t wallow around just guessing. Learn to read your donor, listen and ask for clarification. You’ll save so very much time!

Major Gifts Intensive registration will close out next week!

If you and your team want to learn the secrets to locate and close mega gifts, then plan to join us in this year’s Major Gifts Intensive coaching program. This program only happens once a year and we are filling up quickly. But we would love to chat with you and make room. Find out more here and schedule a call with us next week.

We often receive questions about the return on investment of this program. Remember this: the Major Gifts Intensive course will PAY FOR ITSELF through increased gifts.

In fact, most members receive a 10 to 1 return on their investment. So not only does the program pay for itself, but it often brings a 1000% return – much better than the earnings from your endowment. Just think about the long term payoff of building up a robust major gift program for your institution!

Have questions about the Major Gifts Intensive? Email anne@gailperry.com and we’ll follow up shortly!

how to secure a transformational gift

We all dream about securing transformational gifts. Those are the gifts that can change your organization’s trajectory into a new, expanded reach. These are the gifts that can blow your mind – with all they can accomplish and the impact they can make.

So how do you find the very special donor who has the capacity, interest and commitment to make a transformational gift?

What’s the Pathway to securing a Transformational Gift?

First of all, you have to start at the beginning. You’ll need to do deep discovery and qualification work. Your goal is to actually identify the donors who might be in a position to consider a truly transformational gift.

Usually, they have been giving to your institution for a while. They know and respect you, your team, and the CEO. They’ve seen your impact firsthand. They are treated like insiders because they already have a long-term commitment to your work.

You Need a Transformational Project.

Never forget! Small ideas trigger small gifts; transformational ideas bring transformational gifts.

Where’s your transformational project? Can it change the world? Do you have Big Ideas about who you can be and what your institution can do in the world?

Transformational gifts usually require a transformational project in order to inspire your donor. It has to be something that will trigger the donor to think bigger than they have ever thought before. Something inspiring and exciting.

You Need a Transformational Conversation.

Stand in the place of vision and possibility – that’s where the power is. This is the place that holds such energy – the power of potential, of goodness, of expansion and abundance.

Your donor may have a personal, visceral reaction to this vision and possibility. It’s exciting. It’s energizing. And it can mobilize their energy!

Speak to your donor’s heart – and their imagination. Transform the donor’s ideas about the impact they can truly have.

You Need a Transformational Mindset.

It’s time for you to shift your mindset and relationship with your donor. You are no longer across the table from them, pitching ideas. Instead, you shift from “soliciting” to standing right beside them.

In a way, you are transforming your position. It’s like you are standing with your donor in that place of possibility, walking along with them, helping them explore the future. That’s when you truly become a philanthropic advisor, facilitating a gift.

Join the Major Gifts Intensive coaching program for 2021

If you really want to learn how to set up and close transformational gifts, join our Major Gifts Intensive course. You’ll get deep training on the permission-based, conversational approach to a gift. We’ll teach you five different ways to set up and close a major, principal or capital campaign gift.

The Major Gifts Intensive is live training with Gail and Kathryn. We’ll help your organization instill major gifts as part of a true culture of philanthropy, so that you have the systems, skills and infrastructure to expand major gifts to your institution.

What’s more, if you do the work with us, you can typically receive a minimum ten to one return on your organization’s investment in the course. Most organizations have seen a much higher ROI. The program more than pays for itself, even the first year.

Applications close next week on Feb 24th. Orientation is on March 2. Let us know if you are interested by going to this page, and submitting your interest so we can schedule a call. We can help you and your team ramp up your skill sets and close more gifts.

Happy Weekend! We thought you’d be interested in this topic today. And if you are interested in closing more major and principal gifts, then we have a great guide today for you to save time. 

It’s about all the time we waste cultivating donors. To us, it’s so frustrating to nurture a donor who never comes through with a gift. 

We have all been there. This particular donor loves all the attention, attends all our events, and enjoys our nice dinners. But they never make the gift that we surely think they will. 

You’ve probably been here as well. Have you ever spent months and months, even years, before you manage to get the donor into an ask conversation? 

How about all that time you are spent cultivating your donor? Is it wasted? Could you have moved more quickly?  Would your donor have been willing to give sooner??

How can you know? 

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to move to an ask conversation more quickly? How nice would it feel to be able to find out early in the game if your donor wants to help NOW rather than later? 

It really is possible to find out where your donor stands.

 You just have to ask. But you have to ask skillfully. 

We’ve developed a cultivation process that we call the Skillful Conversation. It’s like a roadmap that guides you to find out what you need to know– and get the ask on the table as soon as possible so you can save time.

What’s more, it’s extremely polite and donor-centered.  This conversation process is never, ever pushy. (We’re southern, remember?) 

With the Skillful Conversation process, you’re never directly asking for a gift. You are oblique, inquiring, playing sleuth.

In our upcoming Major Gifts Intensive program, we’ll be training and coaching our members on how to implement the Skillful Conversation process. What’s more, we’ll be teaching them five different ways to get to an Ask Conversation. If you’d like to join us, check out the program here.  Applications close Feb 24th so schedule your call with us quickly!  

What you are really doing is simply finding out what’s on your donor’s mind. 

You can easily ask your donor:  

“How interested are you in our cause and our organization’s work?”

What resonates most with you about our work?”

“Would you like to  know how you can help?”

These are such important questions! But so few fundraisers get around to asking about the important stuff. We are all too busy wining, dining and cultivating our donors. 

The end result – we postpone important conversations to the back burner. We beat around the bush, because we just don’t know what to say.  

Sometimes we probably feel awkward, a little nervous, and don’t want to appear pushy. We don’t want to sacrifice our relationship by asking too soon or too quickly – because we know that strategy can certainly backfire! 

Never assume. 

This is one of the great rules of fundraising – don’t assume you know what your donor wants to do, or when they want to do it. 

You can easily find out if your donor is ready to give now vs later. Don’t assume. Just ask. 

Ask them if they’d like to talk about supporting your organization. Or ask them if this is a good time to chat about support. 

It’s all based in permission. Step-by-step, you are asking your donor if they are interested in finding out this or that, or if they want to explore this or that. 

You can relax – just keep asking questions, and your donor feels like she’s in charge. 

Bottom Line: She who asks the questions, controls the conversation.

These tips today can take you right down the pathway to a major, principal and/or transformational gift. Don’t forget to use the Skillful Conversation process. Be polite, donor-centered, and gracious. Ask your donor directly how they feel and what they want to do.

Your fundraising totals will certainly go up! And you’ll save time. Remember the climate is excellent for major gifts right now. Donors are giving. Don’t shy away! 

P.S. Major Gifts Intensive 2021 is open for applications!

Would you like: 

  • A systematic, proven major gifts training and coaching program to expand your team’s success? 
  • To learn permission-based asking techniques that can close transformational gifts? 

The Major Gifts Intensive will help you lay down the systems, mindset, vision, structure and processes for a long-term productive major gift program that will deliver measurable results for years.

We’ll share the core highly successful strategies that we’ve taught thousands of people since 2000, from community organizations to the largest universities.

Find out more here. 

Does it ever feel like some fundraisers have superpowers? You know, those ones who raise six, seven and even eight-figure gifts.

And you look at them and wonder, “what special qualities DO these talented major gift fundraisers have?”

“How are they so successful?”

“What is their secret?”

Well, today we will tell you a few of these “secret” traits. And, luckily, they are traits that you, too, can possess. If you want to learn how to build these traits, join us in our 2023 Major Gifts Intensive coaching program. You’ll come out of it a superhero – raising mega gifts in no time.

The Top Superpowers of Successful Major Gift Fundraisers:

Superpower #1: Successful Major Gift Fundraisers are Focused and Disciplined.

We have many distractions in our work. It’s very, very easy to to get sidetracked.

Master fundraisers need to always focus, focus, focus on their intention: which is to move toward a gift conversation.

It’s easy to get lost in all the socializing that comes with major gift fundraising – but that doesn’t bring in the gifts.

Social skills help you get your foot in the door, but as a successful fundraiser you always keep your eye on your goal. 

Donor conversations can wander all over the place. It’s important to bring the conversation back to your fundraising in indirect ways. Talk about your organization and its initiatives and goals.

Smart major gift fundraisers facilitate their donors down the path to a gift. They are always gently leading in a certain direction.

This way you won’t get lost forever in social talk. You’ll be able to move the donor toward a gift conversation.

In the Major Gifts Coaching Intensive we provide you with strategies to master this discipline and make sure we use role plays to practice so you don’t walk away unprepared. Join us!

Superpower #2: Successful Major Gift Fundraisers Actively Listen to Find Out Their  Donor’s Interests.

Too many fundraisers worry about what to say.

They worry that the donor will ask a question they can’t answer. They fret that they’ll run out of conversation topics.

Our advice is: turn around and head the other way. Stop talking!

Your job when visiting with donors is to do reconnaissance. You want to find out what your donor is most interested in. Most of all, how passionate are they about your cause? How motivated are they to give?

If you’re doing all the talking, then you’ll never find this out. It’s actually up to you to find out what makes your donor tick.

And once you know your donor’s interests, passions and hot buttons, you’re on your way to making your donor really happy – AND closing a major gift.

Conversation techniques are a critical skill for any major gift fundraiser. If you’d like to master these techniques – join our 2023 Major Gifts Coaching Intensive. We’ve just opened applications for our class. 

Superpower #3: Successful Major Gift Fundraisers are Confident.

Sometimes it may be easy to feel a bit like a supplicant when you are with a VIP donor. They may even intimidate you.

But confidence is a major superpower.

You have an important job to do, and the donor knows it. That’s why she’s talking to you.

So be open and direct. We never want to assume that we know what a donor is thinking. So you be bold and ask, “May I clarify what you just said?”

When you convey confidence in yourself and your work, then you show up as genuine and authentic.

Confident people have good manners, and they are gracious to everyone. They know their stuff. What’s more, they are calm and unruffled.

All of these qualities put your donor at ease. Then you build trust. Most importantly, you are creating an authentic human relationship with your donor.

Bottom Line: Having Superpowers Isn’t Out of Reach.

These superpowers are easier said than done, we know. We have been there. But we developed these traits and it has paid off in spades.

And we have helped hundreds of other major gift officers develop and hone these superpowers as well, through our Major Gifts Intensive Coaching program..

If you’d like to be a superhero fundraiser, be sure to consider joining! You can learn more about it here. Applications are open now and close February 24.

Portfolio management may seem like a technical term. But it’s an excellent format to help you focus your attention on your best, and most likely donor prospects.

Of course, one of the secrets to successful mega fundraising is identifying where to spend your time and attention.

Most major gift portfolios are packed with so many prospects, that you can’t possibly spend quality attention on all of them. So you simply have to focus.

Today, we’re sharing an easy portfolio management system that can help you – and everyone on your team, be more productive, and raise money much faster.

(If you want to learn more about portfolio management skills and how these can transform your fundraising fortunes, consider joining our advanced Major Gifts Intensive Course.)

Our 10-20-30 Portfolio Management Approach.

Back when I was a frontline fundraiser, I had the exciting job of chief development officer for the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina.

Needless to say, we had plenty of donor prospects who looked quite promising. However, we had a problem: too many of those promising prospects!

We were in the process of qualifying them. But we still needed a way to organize our time. Where should we start? Who should we try to see first, or second?

Here’s the portfolio management system we worked out – step-by-step. We highly recommend a system like this for you and your team and we’re sharing detailed insights into this system in our new Major Gifts Intensive program.

Step 1. The first step in our portfolio management approach: we rated the prospects.

Clearly this needed to be the first step. We spent considerable time analyzing them, and assigning ratings for their level of interest and giving capacity.

This is a step that major gift officers do every day.

In actuality, it took quite a bit of time to refine each individual’s rating – to get a pretty solid handle on where they stood and what their financial capacity might be.

Step 2. We separated all the prospects into 4 groups.

Top 10 Prospects – These were individuals who were very close to making a gift. Our team was “readying them for a solicitation,” so to speak. They were our top priorities. And they were getting tons of attention.

We were chatting with them often – about their interests, seeking their advice and input, and asking for their help with other donors.

Next 20 Prospects – Prospects who were very active and interested. They were enjoying their connection with us and were almost ready for an ask, but not quite.

Next 30 Prospects – People who were showing a lot of interest, had solid potential – but still needed more time to bring them closer to the cause.

Back-burner Prospects – These were donors whom I wanted to get to know. On the surface, they seemed to have great promise. But we would need to gently bring them along. They were not yet fully qualified.

Step 3. We set priorities and made a plan for how we’d spend our time.

We planned to “touch” these donors in priority order:

The Top 10 Prospects once a month. Since these donors were almost ready to be asked, they received a lot of attention and were our top priority.

The Next 20 Prospects every other month. These donors were almost ready for a campaign ask, so we were also very focused on them.

The Next 30 Prospects once a quarter. These donors were in the nurturing stage – or they could be in the post-gift stewardship stage. We never, ever wanted to let go of people who had already made a major gift.

For our lovely Back-burner Prospects, we tried to see them when we could. They were “fillers” when we were planning a trip or an event. Since we were in the discovery phase with these individuals, we tried to create “get to know you” opportunities with them.’

Step 4. Each month, we created cultivation moves.

For each of the Top 60 Prospects, we defined a cultivation move that was unique to each individual.

Step 5. We reviewed and reorganized the list monthly. 

What really made Prospect Management work for us was this last step: we evaluated and reorganized the list every month.

It was a big job to run through a detailed review of each prospect and where they stood each month. Sometimes it look as much as a half day/month. But it was worth it, because we created touches that were deliberate and customized for our key donors.

Our results?

We were organized with priorities and an easy-to-implement plan.

And we were successful! Our team raised $50 million from those terrific donors for a new business school building, the beautiful McColl Center at UNC-CH.

BOTTOM LINE on Portfolio Management.

You can raise this kind of money just like I did as a young fundraiser. And you can also feel your own work life transformed, just like this.

Just get organized with a prospect management or moves management system that works for you. We can help.

This system will save your life, keep you organized and most of all, help you allocate your time to the right people.

If you want to build and expand your major and principal gifts programs, join us for our annual Major Gifts Intensive Coaching program. Learn more here.