Posts

Are you familiar with that feeling of endless cultivation with a donor? Let me tell you a story:

Over the past nine months, fundraiser Kim Washington has been diligently cultivating her #1 donor, Olive Robinson. 

Kim has zoom coffees with Olive. They have lunch. Even more, Kim makes sure Olive has regular email and phone contact and keeps her informed all the time. 

In the back of Kim’s mind, she keeps wondering. “Is Olive ready for a gift conversation? Have we warmed her up enough for an ask? It feels like I’m stuck in endless cultivation.” 

Bad News – The Donor Slips Away

One morning over coffee, Kim scrolls through her phone reading the local news. . . and mulling about her next contact with Olive. 

“Oh no!” Kim is aghast.

There, in the news, is a gift announcement from another nonprofit where Olive has just made a $2 million gift, in memory of her husband.

Alas. There goes Kim’s hoped-for major gift. Her donor slipped away. How could it be that Olive, who was so interested in Kim’s organization, would surprise everyone with a gift to that other organization?

Why Does Your #1 Prospect Suddenly Disappoint You? 

Here is why this happens fairly often in the world of philanthropy. It’s because the fundraiser gets stuck in “cultivation” and does not bring up the topic of a gift.  

In reality, most donors do not fit into a clear stage in the donor journey.  You can’t pigeonhole them.

We fundraisers limit ourselves by how we define these stages. 

Some donors may be willing and eager to make a major gift now, but fundraisers miss the signals, because they are defining the donor in a box.

Here’s how to move the donor from an endless round of feel-good conversations over into a discussion about their potential support. 

Escape Endless Cultivation – Move from Discovery to a Gift Conversation in 15 Minutes 

At Gail Perry Group, we are coaching our clients in a new approach with donors – one that helps to identify those who want to help with a gift right now. 

And let me just say that our clients are seeing remarkable results with this approach. Donors are coming forward early in the donor journey and wanting to make a gift right now. 

We have found that we can literally move a donor from a series of discovery questions – right into a gift conversation.

Here’s an example of a typical conversation flow:

Question One: “I’d love to know more about how you came to be a donor.

When you are able to get your donor to share their Donor Story, you can really open the floodgates. You’ll find your donor probably has a deeply personal reason for supporting your work – something that resonates with their personal values of what is important in life. 

This is a powerful question to ask. Your job as a fundraiser is to sit tight, and perhaps say, “Tell me more.” 

Question Two: “I know you’ve been supporting our work for a long time. May I ask, what kind of impact do you feel that you are making through your giving?” 

By asking the donor to describe their feelings, you are helping the donor literally talk themselves into the idea of giving more.

Even more, your donor will tell you what you need to know at this stage. 

Question Three: “I can see that you are deeply committed to this work. May I ask, have you ever thought about doing something even bigger?”

With this question, you politely move directly into a Gift Conversation.

Now, you are using permission to place the issue squarely on the table with the donor. And remember – they are engaged, active, excited, and sharing more and more! 

Your donor just may say, “Wow, I never thought about that. And yes, I might actually like to make a bigger impact. Let’s talk about it!” 

Bottom Line: Don’t Get Stuck in Endless Cultivation

Here is the hard truth – don’t let yourself get stuck in endless chit-chat with your donor.

Instead, ask them why they give. Ask them how much they care. Ask if they’d like to get more engaged and make an even bigger impact.

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly insights with you as we cover important fundraising strategies. 

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.

Is a major capital campaign on the horizon for your institution? Do you feel a little overwhelmed because, as you know, campaigns can be a heavy lift? Would three secrets to success help guide you in the right direction?

Our goal is for campaign clients is to get focused in three key areas that will set them up for a campaign that brings in extraordinary fundraising results. 

Three Secrets of Success

1. Begin your planning with a deep prospect analysis.

The major gifts in a campaign always come from a very few people. We are seeing as much as 95% of the money coming from only 5% of an organization’s donors. 

Even more, the success of capital campaigns is always built on a small number of large gifts.

So one of our key success secrets is to analyze prospect data early in the game. 

We recommend that all campaign planning begins with a wealth screening on your donor database. This enables us to identify our clients’ sleeper prospects. Those are the wonderful donors who are passionate about the cause – and who have significant wealth.

Most importantly, the screening allows us to organize the prospect pool using our Campaign by the Numbers approach.  This means you will work with the right prospects at the right time yielding optimal results. 

This deep analysis and organization of your campaign prospect pool is THE essential activity for the campaign planning stage.  

2. Use a conversational approach with donors.

Once the priority donor prospects are identified, we recommend that our clients start spending quality time with them. These are very special people who believe in the cause – they often are happy to learn more about the work and engage more deeply. 

But how do you really engage a donor? 

Many people think their goal is to “present” to a donor. They spend hours crafting laborious pitch decks about their institution’s work, so they can “wow“ their donors. 

That’s not it at all. The best way to engage a donor is to get them talking about WHY they care.

The fundraiser’s job is to find out what makes the donor tick. What does the donor want to do that your organization can help them achieve?  We call this approach “listening your way to a major campaign commitment.” 

We teach our clients an approach that we call the Conversational Ask. And, you can move directly into a Conversational Ask with a donor at almost any time. That is, if you know the right questions to ask! 

Involving and engaging these top prospective donors early is literally the key to successful campaign fundraising.  You are creating true partners – donors who are invested in your institution’s success and want to help.

3. Go slow to go fast.

Often board members and/or executive team members don’t understand capital campaign strategy. They don’t understand why we go very slowly and silently in the beginning. 

Organizational leaders often ask: “Where is the money?” “Why aren’t we out in public yet?” “Where are the balloons and parades?” “We want events and hoopla!”

In fact, being out in public too early could hurt you.

We strongly recommend a careful strategy of going slowly in order to go faster later. 

Early in the game, you engage privately with those very few potential lead donors, laying the groundwork and involving them. This takes time, and it might be the most important activity in the entire campaign.

Organizing a campaign is like setting up dominos: take your time to enlist the right volunteers and to engage the right major donors. Take all the time you need to secure the support of key influential leaders

Then, when all your ducks are in a row – so to speak – or the dominoes are all lined up, you’ll be amazed at how quickly everything can move forward. Because you took the time to deeply involve key donors and leaders, doors that were once closed will fly open for you. It’s because the right person knocked on the door. 

Bottom Line: Use These Three Secrets for Capital Campaign Success

All smart major gift fundraisers understand this strategy. As consultants – one of our key goals is to help our clients’ leadership teams understand and embrace this approach. It’s the winning approach every time!

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly insights with you as we cover important fundraising strategies. 

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.

There is really nothing more painful than a capital campaign that loses its momentum. It’s a sad situation – the institution is out there in public with an important initiative, a very public goal, and major gifts designated toward the goal.

Yet the energy of the campaign has fizzled out. How will the organization go forward, when everyone is tired, no more donors are coming forward, and there’s little progress towards the goal?

It’s a very difficult situation to turn around because the energy and momentum are gone. The lead donors have been approached, but they made disappointing smaller gifts.

What now? Don’t let this happen to you and your campaign!

Here are three key reasons we see capital campaigns start to stall in mid-stream and lose momentum:

1. Rush to begin asking.

We all know that the heavy lifting in a capital campaign starts at the very, very beginning. There’s much work to do long before we even think about asking for gifts.

The very first thing we do is evaluate our fundraising capacity – do we have the donor prospects to reach our hoped-for goal? We begin with a deep evaluation of our donor files to identify the most likely donors for the upcoming campaign.

In addition to researching our donor prospects, we prepare by enlisting important volunteers to help lead the campaign and provide credibility, stature and influence to our initiative. Another important early step is to test out our campaign case and proposed projects with potential donors to find out where they stand.

Smart organizations develop trusting relationships with a consulting firm, and initiate a feasibility study to find out how donors feel about our upcoming campaign.

All of these vitally important steps go into setting a winning campaign strategy.

When there is a rush to imply “get going,” and get some initial money in the door, then you are forced to skip over the most important strategic steps of all.

Takeaway: Lay the proper groundwork for your campaign and don’t lose momentum. Don’t let an eager board or CEO rush the campaign planning process. Rushing now will make everything take longer in the end. 

2. Board is not in full agreement.

Occasionally, board members are not all aligned with the organization’s plan to expand, build or grow. Some board members who are not familiar with big ticket fundraising may stonewall because they do not understand the strategy, or may feel intimidated by the numbers.

In other cases, we’ve seen board members argue among themselves about the specific plan for expansion. It’s really impossible to gain momentum when part of your support team is dragging their feet.

When the board is not fully aligned, the division and discord is a huge distraction for already stressed staffers who are trying to move forward. This type of background chatter can make a campaign run aground, even before it starts.

Takeaway: Take the time to help your board come to agreement about the path forward.

3. Campaign prospects turn you down because they are not ready to discuss a gift.

Oh dear. You’re approaching major campaign prospects for 6 and 7 figure gifts – but they say they’re not ready to discuss a gift. Clearly this means that you are trying to move too quickly to the ask.

This is what happens when planning and preparation are rushed. Most donors have to be engaged and warmed up prior to a big ask. It’s so important to take the time to bring them into the campaign process and make them feel like insiders.

Even worse, if you are skipping the discovery and qualification process with your key donors, you could be shooting yourself in the foot. If you skip this basic donor research, you may even approach the wrong people – donors who simply are not that interested.

Moreover, when you ask for a gift too soon, you may even damage your relationship with your donor. You certainly don’t want them to feel this is an affront, which can happen if you try to rush them.

Take away: Take the time to cultivate your important lead donors – and don’t ask until they are ready.

Bottom Line: A smart consulting firm can help you lay the proper groundwork and set up your campaign to sail smoothly toward your goal.

We can help. Let us know if you’d like a free campaign strategy call – just send an email to coaching@gailperry.com with the subject line “Strategy Call.”

Some days the work of a fundraiser is not easy. But stories like this one can remind you why a fundraising career is the right choice.

Have you ever had one of those affirming moments where your inner voice says you have made the right choice – you are on the right path?

Let me share a story with you. 

A story about a young woman and her father, and the gentleman who changed their lives. 

The story.

When I was Director of Development at an independent school there was a young woman who had received a full scholarship for four years.  She was a great student, active in student life and well respected by her peers.  She was even graduating with honors.

On graduation day her family came to celebrate her achievements, proud as can be. Her father was literally bursting with pride. He beamed with joy.

The scholarship fund that had funded the young woman’s education had been created by a gentleman and his wife. They also came to witness her graduation.   

I had the special honor of introducing the young woman’s father to the donors.  Full of joy, pride and gratitude the father took the donor’s hand in both of his and just held them.  The two stood with their hands clasped – tears in both their eyes. 

To this day, it is a moment I treasure.  For in that one moment, I saw the true meaning of what fundraising is all about. That was my affirming moment and I knew I had made the right choice to pursue a career in fundraising.

So how did i get to that moment?

An affirming moment. How I got started in fundraising.

Many years ago, when I was nearing the completion of my MBA,  I didn’t have a clear idea of what my next step would be.  I was selling real estate to fund graduate school and I knew that was a means, not an end.  This question kept coming up -what was I going to do with my career and my life? 

A friend and I talked this over. She suggested I might like, and be good at, fundraising. 

She said I had the right personality and the “smarts.”

Before I knew it, my friend set up a meeting with her father, who was a fundraising consultant. Fast forward and within two months I had a job with the consulting firm as an assistant campaign director.

A fundraising career was born.

As I look back on those early experiences, I am filled with gratitude.  A young thirty-something woman embarking on a new journey – suddenly I was working with smart and passionate professionals. And I was working with donors looking to make a difference in the lives of others. 

Whether through education, healthcare, child welfare, animal welfare, the arts and many more, I found that the desire to generate goodwill in the world is the key motivation for giving.

This is my inspiration every day.

Some days the work of a fundraiser is not easy.  My career has certainly had its ups and downs.  But on days when things are not going as well as I hoped – I remember the story of that young woman, her father and the gentleman.  This story always reminds me why I do what I do. And I smile and know I made the right choice.

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

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.

Over the years, many fundraisers have asked about our journey from practitioners to consultants. How Gail Perry Group got started. And how did we come to be consultants – offering advice and strategies to all sorts of organizations and institutions?

Well, we can tell you – it’s a journey filled with adventure, mistakes and lots of learning.

Here’s our story – with the lessons we learned along the way. 

Years ago, Kathryn and I were advancing in the fundraising field, doing well at our universities – seemingly happy.

But something kept bothering me. Something was missing. 

I enjoyed my work, but all along I had this idea that I needed a broader scope than only one organization. I wanted to reach out – and inspire – more and more nonprofit leaders and fundraisers.

That’s why, for me, when the time came to leave my position at the University of North Carolina, the move to consulting happened organically. Organizations were reaching out to me quickly – asking if I could help them grow their revenue so they could expand. And before I knew it, I was in deep with many consulting clients. 

But the transition wasn’t easy. Becoming a consultant required some learning. As Kathryn and I embarked as consultants, we learned that to achieve true mastery with our clients and their campaigns, we had to get a few things right.

Lessons Learned: Becoming Master Consultants

1. Always Keep Learning and Learning 

As a consultant, you must keep up with the latest knowledge and trends in the field – especially the various reports tracking shifts in donor behavior, along with everything else.

In addition to major gifts and capital campaigns (our forte) we also needed to know as much as possible about all types of fundraising: integrated direct mail and digital campaigns, planned giving, Donor Advised Funds, corporate and foundation grants, government and public sector funding, event sponsorships, auctions, and social media. 

And yes, finance and accounting, too.  Don’t forget digital and video marketing. Add Big Data, CRM’s and wealth screening to the mix as well. Acquiring the scope of knowledge we needed was – and is – a lifelong commitment. 

We found that to be expert consultants, we consistently need a solid working knowledge of all these areas, and more. 

2. The Art of Client Management

One thing we learned quickly is that, as a consultant, you can’t just pontificate and tell people what to do. It doesn’t work.

People don’t want to be told what to do – they need to be coached in opening to a new idea. 

What does it really take to get someone to accept a change or a challenging concept? We learned to go slowly, and respectfully meet people where they are. We learned to serve as mirrors – reflecting back to our clients and guiding them to come to their own realizations.

Only when you do that can you really create an impact or foster deep change. 

We also learned that all organizations are different. What works for one may not be right for another. Flexibility is the name of the game. We learned that you can’t only see things one way, and that a cookie cutter approach just doesn’t work. 

Mostly, we learned to ditch the standard cookie cutter approaches, and instead customize each campaign and fundraising initiative to each client. 

3. Mastering Board Dynamics  

The field of board governance is complex and vast. And as a consultant, it is a critical arena to better understand and know how to maneuver in order to help clients.

Learning to understand the subtle arts of organizational politics and the psychology of group process (management by committee, anyone?) was a journey in itself. We needed to develop a working knowledge of organizational behavior, and hone our leadership and facilitation skills.

Not only that, but our clients needed us to be a grounding force with their boards. Corralling board members into one direction, while at the same, inspiring and motivating them. Needless to say, this is an art that not everyone masters. 

We learned how to build a strong board, how to best introduce fundraising and friendmaking to boards in a way that makes it fun, and how to get board members to engage in and support the fundraising process. 

Bottom Line.

Sometimes to get where you want to go, you need to ask for help.

As a blossoming consultant, I hired a business consultant myself. They taught me powerful new facilitation skills and the secrets of creating change within an organization. Those ideas are ultimately what inspired my bookFired Up Fundraising: Turn Board Passion into Action, and my popular board workshop, Easy Fundraising and Friendmaking for Board Members. 

Looking back, I can confidently say that when we started we did not know what this journey would entail. But now, after helping hundreds of nonprofit organizations and boards, and learning through experience, we know this journey was our calling and we wouldn’t have it any other 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.

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 campaign timeline, help you secure lead gifts faster, and give your campaign prominence in your community. It’s a smart strategy.

One of the biggest challenges for major gift fundraisers is prioritizing their assigned prospects, and understanding the role of a Backburner List.

It’s a matter of organizing your portfolio.

How do you sift through many names to find the right people to build relationships with?

With over 100-150 donors to manage, how do you make sure to focus on the right prospects at the right time?

Are you operating with maximum productivity, spending your time at its highest and best use?

And yet, you don’t want to overlook a prospect simply due to lack of time and/or the prospect isn’t responding or available.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of only seeing your “favorite” people – the easy prospects who are always game for a call or visit. But this may not be the best strategy.

What Can Go Wrong?

A lot. While you are chatting up your most available prospects, you might overlook that more elusive donor. You know them – the ones who are hard to get a meeting with, the ones who take weeks to call you back, the ones with whom no one at your organization has a relationship.

But that prospect may just be worth your time. They have capacity and a solid giving history to your organization. They do have potential, and you don’t want to forget about them. What is a major gift fundraiser to do?

Your Top Secret Strategy.

Every day, you need to evaluate your list of prospects and set priorities. Who will you be focusing on? Which donors need to be on your Priority Prospect List?

First, your goal is to identify them, which is more work than you might think.

Then you need an organizing scheme that allows you to segment your portfolio. Create your top ten and then your next group, etc.

What Should You Do with Elusive Prospects?  Create a Backburner List.

Your Backburner List includes prospects who are not a priority right now. For example, they may not be ready to discuss a gift – yet. These donors are simply “simmering” on the back burner while you focus on the prospects who are warm or hot.

Who Goes on the Backburner List?

  • People you don’t want to forget about – they are promising, but their timing is off. They’ll need attention later, but not now.
  • People who may merit a closer look. One day you will be able to have more discovery conversations with them, so you can find out how interested they really are.
  • People who may have given recently and who (of course) need continued touches and attention.

Why Have a Backburner List:

1. Lowers Stress.

Trying to pay concentrated attention to a large number of donors is simply impossible. You are spread too thin. You will end up feeling stressed because you’re not “covering” your portfolio of donors well enough.

2. Organizes Your Prospects.

The Backburner List allows you to organize your prospects. Everyone needs a workable prospect management system that guides you to set your priorities.

3. Bless and Release.

How wonderful! You can even bless and release prospects who are not responsive, who are rude or unpleasant, or are simply not interested in a closer relationship. You can put some of them on the Backburner so you don’t forget them later.

4. Makes You More Productive.

Yes! Let’s make everyone on the team more productive. You have a system that helps you focus on the right prospects. You’re not spreading yourself too thin. Instead you’re concentrating where you see the highest gift potential for right now.

Remember, it’s all a judgement game. We are not saying “ignore half of your portfolio.” Instead, we recommend a system that lets you sift through everyone on your list so you can set priorities efficiently.

Bottom Line: Create a Backburner List and you’ll lower your stress level, sleep better at night, and raise more money!

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.

People often ask us: “What do I talk about when I meet with donors?  How will I start a conversation? What questions should I ask?

We have a very simple approach to starting conversations with donors.

We like to probe, so we know immediately where the donor stands and what is on their mind. Our favorite “Golden Question” is:

“What are your impressions of . . . ?”

This open-ended question often brings forth interesting results.  Not only that, we’ve raised lots of money by asking this question.

This phrase creates an easy, gentle opening to find out what’s going on with your donor.  It’s completely donor-centered, and focused on them.

Moreover, this question helps you find out pretty immediately what your donor is thinking; about your presentation, your cause, your event, your plans, or even your  organization’s vision.

This question is a golden formula to help open your donor’s heart to your cause.

Why?

Because it generates the donor’s own thinking about your issue. For example, it encourages them to ponder your presentation and react to it.

Asking for their feedback and thinking helps them digest your material, and think more deeply about it. They are no longer passive in the conversation – instead, they are active participants.

Above all we want to know what is on THEIR mind, what they think and how they feel about it.

Your job is to ask, and then listen carefully.

Your donor is not going to get excited about your cause just by listening to you doing all the talking. Don’t forget the fundraiser’s Kiss of Death – talking too much!

Your wonderful, generous, well-meaning donor needs time to mull over what you’ve said.  They need to “stew” in the urgent need or bold vision you’ve just presented.

It’s certainly a much deeper conversation than if you had just presented, thanked them and left.

Get the donor talking to YOU – not the other way around.

Remember, it’s always all about the donor. When we are in a face-to-face meeting, we often forget this.  Too many nonprofit CEOs, fundraisers and even board members think they have to be great salespeople and make a great pitch.

That’s not true.

What you need to do is simply focus on the donor – and listen to them. Your goal is to draw out the donor and get them engaged with you about your cause.

It’s really amazing what you can find out – but you have to ask. And you won’t do that if you’re doing all the talking.

Examples – Put the Golden Question to use:

1.  At the close of a visit with a donor: “What are your impressions?”

Once, we had an Advice Visit regarding a big capital campaign with a potential donor. At the end of our visit, we asked “What are your impressions of our ideas?”

He shared some deep reservations about our project.

Thankfully, we were able to quickly address the issues that were holding him back. He then moved forward to become a substantial donor, and it was a huge win for our campaign.

2. Cultivating a major prospect: “What are your impressions?”

Gail was once walking out of a facility tour with a major donor, who was a candidate for the leadership gift for our capital campaign.  She asked him: What were your impressions of the tour?”

Well, after 5 minutes of conversation – he became so enthusiastic and engaged that he literally invited her to bring forward a $5ook proposal.

Now, that’s cultivation.

3. After a pitch: “What are your impressions?”

We often make presentations to potential clients in order to help them stage successful capital campaigns or build profitable major gift programs.

We always ask, as we wrap up, about their impressions of our presentation. And we get terrific feedback regarding what they are thinking.

4. When we are training or presenting: “What are your impressions?”

In our Fired-Up Fundraising workshops with board members, we want to help them ponder and digest the material we are discussing.

So we model the Golden Question, frequently asking them “what are your impressions of these ideas?” It gets them to mull over and reflect on the discussion, and ultimately walk away with much more than if we had simply presented and left.

5.  After a formal presentation: “What are your impressions?”

One of our clients, a Vice Chancellor at a major university, recently made a big presentation to the Board of Visitors. When she was finished she asked her boss, the Chancellor, about his reaction to her ideas.

She asked him, “What were your impressions of my presentation?” As a result, she received positive feedback from her boss.

Bottom Line: Ask “What Are Your Impressions?”

The Golden Question can give you wonderful information about your donors, colleagues, board members, even family. It really works in all settings to set you up for success in your relationships.

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 are your organization’s thank you letters to donors? Are they warm and gracious? Or do they sound grand and lofty, like someone giving a speech?

We expect your thank you’s can use some brushing up. Invariably, we find that our consulting clients are struggling with lame, tired sounding thank you notes. And they always ask us for help to create a killer thank you letter.

Why are thank you letters so important?

Because this note is your first communication to a donor after she gives, that’s why. It has the potential to make her happy that she gave to your cause.

In addition, your letter can accomplish a lot. It can:

  • Assure your nervous donor that she made a wise investment.
  • Make your donor feel like she did the right thing.
  • Help her feel joyful she made the gift.

Today, here’s our checklist of 14 steps to a warm, wonderful, killer thank you letter – one that makes your donor feel so happy that she gave.

1. Make your letter prompt.

A really prompt thank you note impresses your donor. It indicates to her that your organization is well run.

What’s more, it builds credibility and trust with your donor, and inclines her to think well of you.

2. Make your letter feel personal.

This makes the letter feel like it came from a real person.

  • Use the first person: “I” and “we.”
  • Use the second person: “you,” “you” and “you” again. Count how many times you use the word “you.”
  • A warm tone toward the donor (vs. a lofty formal, distant tone.)
  • Casual writing – use contractions such as “We’ll” rather than “We will.”
  • Use an exclamation mark if appropriate.

3. Start out in a personal way.

Never begin with “on behalf of . . . “

Much better to simply say: “We are so grateful for . . . “

4. Use a warm tone.

Does your letter really sound sincere? Or is it full of “nonprofit-speak” with formal words and phrases?

Show yourself as a real person, and try to connect with the donor instead of staying so distant.

5. Be emotional.

Don’t bury it.  Giving is an emotional act by the donor. So it’s fine to wear your heart on your sleeve.

Try to convey excitement about what can happen with the donor’s gift.

Say things like:

  • “ I can’t begin to thank you enough for . . .”
  • “We are absolutely thrilled to have your support again this year.”
  • “Because of your gift, a family will . . .”
  • “You were wonderful to renew your support . . .”

6. Thank smaller gifts warmly.

Smaller gifts should also get warm, prompt, personal thank you’s.

Remember, there are plenty of major gift prospects in your donor files who are giving you smaller gifts.

Treat these donors well by sending them killer thank you letters that build confidence and trust.  Then they may reward you with repeat and larger gifts.

7. Refer to the donor’s past support if you possibly can.

Is your donor a monthly donor? Have they given for a long time?

It’s wonderful if you can acknowledge and celebrate a long term donor – and it would mean the world to them.

8. Sign the letter personally and write a note at the bottom.

You spent all that time writing notes on your appeal letters. By all means, also write a note on the thank you letter.

Remember, the PS is the most-read part of your killer thank you letter. Make it count.

9. Send more than one thank you letter.

The old fundraising motto is: “Find seven ways to thank your donor, and they’ll give again.”

For example, you can always ask different staffers to send an additional note.

This small step could help your organization stand out among a sea of other organizations.

10. Send an additional thank you letter from a board member.

I know organizations that bring stationery to the board meetings and have board members hand-write letters.

We highly recommend this strategy, because it helps connect trustees to the fundraising process.

11. Have a high-ranking person personally sign the letter.

The letter should be signed by the highest ranking person you can find – the chair of the board or a board member. It should not be signed by the wonderful, but lowly, development coordinator.

You could also have the artistic director or a performer sign the letter. Or a teacher if you are a school. Or a field officer if you are an environmental organization.

12. Send a thank you letter from a person helped by your organization.

We can’t think of anything more powerful. Your donor is really giving to create an impact, so help them feel this directly.

13. Reconfirm the purpose of the gift.

If the gift is for the library, for example, say something about what the library plans to achieve with the gift.

Most donors are worried that their gift will not be spent wisely.

Acknowledging how the money will be spent is essential – it helps build trust.

14. Include a contact name and number.

Including contact info is good manners, and it makes the donor feel a person connection to your organization.

For example, it would be the head of the library if that’s where the donor directed her gift.

Bottom Line: How to Craft a Killer Thank You Letter

Remember: your overall goal is to keep your donor giving and giving over many years. Your thank you letter is an essential first step in building a long and happy relationship of generous support from your donor.

This is how you create a sustainable fundraising program – developing consistent and repeated gifts from loyal donors who are passionate about your work.

Do’s and Don’ts

Thank you letter DO’s

  • Be really, really prompt.
  • Get the donor’s name right.
  • Have a high-ranking person personally sign the letter.
  • Show some emotion.
  • Convey gratitude.
  • Refer to how the gift will be used.
  • Send several thank you notes from different people.
  • Include additional thank you letters from board members.
  • Send a thank you letter from someone helped by your organization.
  • Sign it with a real signature.
  • Be positive and upbeat.
  • Include a contact name and number if the donor has questions.
  • Handwrite it if you know the donor well.
  • Begin with an innovative or creative sentence that charms the donor.

Thank You Letter DON’TS

  • Start out with “on behalf of.”
  • Ask for another gift.
  • Use thank you letter jargon: “we are deeply grateful for your continued support.”
  • Start out with Dear Friend.
  • Ask anything else from your donor right now.
  • Misspell their name.
  • Have errors in grammar, punctuation or misspellings.
  • Go on and on. Ditch the verbosity. Do be concise.
  • Keep selling.
  • Re-use copy that you used in the solicitation letter to talk about your programs.
  • Be formal. Or lofty.
  • Be vague about how the money will be used.
  • Sign it yourself if you can get a higher-ranking person to sign it.

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.

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 this is the #1 fundraising responsibility of every board member.

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%. 

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 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 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!

Major gift fundraising has changed dramatically in the past year. And the major gift landscape may never be the same.

Many of our “best practice” major gift strategies now seem out-of-date. An era where donors don’t want to meet in person or gather face-to-face has forced us to pivot our strategies.

And the key to your major gift success will be knowing what works, right now.

On the bright side – major donors are giving like never before. They’re feeling wealthy (look at their stock holdings), and are also concerned about the many, many needs of our world. 

Best of all, data shows that giving is up across the board – among both small and large donors. The time is right to focus on major donors!

We are sharing our best major gift ideas in a free webinar next week:

Free Webinar: 5 Rules to Accelerate Your Major Gift Success in 2021

Thursday, January 21 at 3pm ET

Find out more and register here

We will give you a guide for unlocking your major gift potential, and show you how to literally cut cultivation time in half, and close major gifts much faster. No kidding!

Here’s a sneak peek at our Top 5 Rules for Major Gift Success that we’ll be discussing more deeply in our webinar next week:

1. How to Use Data Analytics to Save Time

State-of-the-art data analytics can really be your best friend. 

Information is powerful. And knowing where to find it (some is closer than you think) – and how to interpret it – is key to your success. 

Everyone wants to know how to find the best prospects.  Knowing how to collect and use your own data can help you do this. It will take the guesswork out of these questions: 

Who is your best prospect?  

Who is most interested? 

And, who is most likely to respond to your call? 

Above all, we love data because it provides a structured, disciplined approach to the major gift fundraising process. Finally, you know where to spend your most valuable resource – your time. 

 (We’ll dive into data analytics in depth, in our webinar next week. Join us here.)

2. How to Keep Your Prospect Pipeline Lean and Mean

Does every name of a possible donor get added to your portfolio without any filter at all? But somehow you’re still not seeing an increase in major gifts closed?

Inflating your major donor portfolio only results in having more of the wrong prospects, or worse  – not really prospects at all.  

Don’t spend your time making discovery calls on people who are really just “suspects.” Instead, spend time on the most important prospects of all – the “hot” prospects. Not the cold ones. 

Keeping your prospect pipeline lean and mean is the best way to focus on your prime donors. You know these lovely people – they have both the wealth capacity, the interest AND they want to engage with you. 

(We’ll chat more about the benefits of a systematic and measurable discovery process in our webinar next week. Join us!)

3. How to Put Your Top Prospects on the Front Burner

When we work with clients, we encourage them to think in terms of the “front burner” and the “back burner.” 

“Who belongs on the back burner?” you may ask. 

It’s those prospects that just need a touch here and there. You don’t want to let them go, but their timing for a gift is later – not now. 

You need a tool to systematically identify your hot from your cool prospects – and we promise you there is a smart, analytical prospect management system for you.

This system will help you predict future fundraising streams, help you identify which donors need attention and when, and help you manage your overall prospect assignments for maximum giving and productivity. 

(If you’re interested in prospect management systems, you won’t want to miss our webinar next week!)

4. How to Know When, and How, to Ask Donors the Right Questions

The most successful major gift fundraisers know the art of the skillfully placed question.  

The question designed to open the donor’s mind to the possibility of a gift.  This kind of questioning is a beauty to behold. And it’s a skill you can learn.

Artfully using the right questions at the right time will take the guesswork out of asking. In fact, you may not have to ask at all – the donor will open the door to the gift conversation.  

If you are a beginning major gift fundraiser or have years of experience, building and honing your conversation skills can move you to the head of the class quickly.  You will be closing major gifts, sooner than later!

We teach our clients a series of questions that LITERALLY cut cultivation time in half, AND accelerate gift commitments. We’ll be sharing more about these strategies in our Thursday webinar – be sure to sign up.

 5. How to Build Great Major Gift Officers 

Yes, it is entirely possible to develop smart major gift fundraisers who know how to handle themselves with donors, how to manage conversations, and how to gently, politely lead a donor into a gift conversation.

 These fundraisers are the ones who close many major and principal gifts for their institutions. In addition, they create happy donors who are simply thrilled at the difference they are making.

 Great, well-trained major gift officers can deliver even greater results because they are confident and self-assured.  

BOTTOM LINE: 5 Rules for Major Gift Success in 2021

Again, the key to success is knowing what works right now. Focusing here will help you be more successful than ever – happily bringing many major gifts into your organization! 

 

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you and we hope you will join us next Thursday at our free webinar.

If you want to build and expand your major and principal gifts programs in 2021, keep an eye on your inbox. Applications will open soon for our 2021 Major Gifts Intensive.

Wishing you a prosperous and positive 2021!

With a new year comes a hopeful new outlook.  We’re all glad to see 2020 go.

What a year it has been: we suffered through a terrible pandemic, disruption of our lives, families, workplaces, a volatile political climate, and much more. What’s worse, these issues are not over. They will continue impacting our lives – and fundraising – well into 2021.

Yet there are some silver linings.

We saw immense dedication and dogged commitment on the part of nonprofit leaders and fundraisers. And, we saw creative fundraisers take advantage of new opportunities offered by the virtual environment.

Based on What’s Happened in 2020, Here’s our Forecast for Upcoming Fundraising Trends for 2021:

1. Giving is up.  And all signs are that it will remain up.

Many nonprofits experienced critical revenue shortfalls from reduced service fees, ticket sales, and admissions. As a result, donors responded with record amounts of charitable donations.

2020 saw a surge in the entire scale of giving – from small gifts to major donors to new estate commitments. More people than ever were giving and at greater amounts than usual.

The Fundraising Effectiveness Project of AFP found that the first 9 months of 2020 saw an impressive increase of 7.6% over 2019.

Big institutional funders and foundations also stepped up to increase giving in 2020. Through September, Fidelity Charitable grant volume increased 30% over the same time period in 2019.

In 2021, we expect that donors will continue to be interested, open to nonprofit messages, and willing to help.

2. Donor fatigue is a myth.

Asks were everywhere, and donors gave.

The successful organizations laid their cases for support out plainly. In addition, they explained their financial situations clearly. Even more, they pulled appropriate emotional triggers – and donors responded.

Again and again and again, donors responded.

Even with the vast amount of political fundraising going on all year, donors continued contributing to their favorite nonprofits – and new ones too.

Why do fundraisers complain about donor fatigue? It’s because of sloppy fundraising.

Fundraisers keep going to the same donors over and over, exhausting those donors. And fundraisers talk too much about the money, not about the impact.

We predict donors will continue to respond generously in 2021, if they are approached with finesse and skill. 

3. Organizations that continue to invest in fundraising will see solid returns.

Many institutions slashed budgets early in 2020, and furloughed their fundraising staff.

These organizations forgot an important point – their fundraising teams were nurturing generous revenue streams. So what happened when fundraising staff was furloughed? The revenue quickly dried up!

On the other hand, many forward-thinking nonprofits managed to keep their staff and continue operating their fundraising programs.

These groups were able to stay in front of their donors with solid asks. As a result, they were able to ride the surge in donations and keep essential revenue streams flowing in the door.

And, these nonprofits saw a very nice ROI on their fundraising expenses.

Organizations that invest in fundraising will see an even greater growth in fundraising revenue. This will be true for 2021, and will never change.

4. New respect for digital strategies in the major gift world.

The new virtual world threatened to upend major gift fundraising.

But our clients persevered. Surprisingly, we all learned that digital could be a highly effective major donor engagement tool.

What’s more, we discovered that donors were happy to engage with us on the phone or zoom. Even more, going digital meant we could save time while connecting with donors more deeply.

Now, fundraisers could no longer rely on donor parties, lunches and committees as engagement tools. In this new world, we had to personally connect with donors, and talk to them about what mattered.

We predict that major gift fundraising will never be the same. Donor engagement does not have to be face-to-face anymore.  

5. Capital campaigns can absolutely succeed in the digital environment.

We encouraged our capital campaign clients to keep moving forward and they did, with success.

Feasibility studies went smoothly in 2020. We found that donors were just as happy (some were happier!) to talk to us over zoom or the phone as they were in person.

We helped clients stage virtual campaign events. Even more, we delivered capital campaign training to board members. And we guided major asks  – all virtually, and all successfully.

In 2021 capital campaigns will now be organized and executed with a combination of virtual and in-person strategies. 

6. Fundraising continues to become more sophisticated.

New advances in knowledge are yielding helpful new advances in fundraising.

For example, artificial intelligence is just beginning to show us its benefits, especially in the area of identifying stronger donor prospects and saving us time.

And behavioral economics is revealing how to nudge donors toward a gift rather than turning them off.

We are all coming to understand donor psychology better: what really warms our donors’ hearts?  And what emotional triggers will encourage them to be generous.

We predict that these tools will help fundraising become even more successful in 2021 and the coming years. 

7. Giving Days just keep getting stronger and stronger.

2020 saw not one, but two Giving Tuesdays – and both were hugely successful.

In December, 2020’s annual Giving Tuesday yielded a whopping 25% more than the previous year, with 29% more donors participating.

In addition, many organizations and institutions are staging their own proprietary Giving Days with solid success.

Giving Days are successful because they:

  • Add a note of gamification and fun to the fundraising process
  • Reach new donors
  • Provide urgently needed unrestricted gifts

Since Giving Days are still somewhat new, they are gaining more and more visibility. They will continue to grow as important fundraising tools in 2021 and beyond.

8. Virtual events and galas can succeed nicely. 

We continued to be surprised by so many very successful virtual events and galas.

Several organizations in our Major Gift Intensive saw higher totals from virtual events than from previous in-person events.

Many unforeseen benefits occurred when pivoting virtual, including:

  • Event costs were slashed (no more flowers, food, venue, insurance or music)
  • Staff saved vast amounts of time
  • Loyal financial sponsors pulled through
  • Many more people could attend the event on a virtual platform

 

Thank goodness we may never see galas like before. Virtual events will become a reliable alternative moving into 2021.  

Bottom Line: Our Predictions on Fundraising Trends for 2021

There’s a lot of opportunity hidden within a disrupted environment. Smart institutions will be opportunistic, agile and creative  – and they’ll see tremendous success.

Follow these fundraising trends for 2021, and seize the opportunity!

 

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

If you want to build and expand your major and principal gifts programs in 2021, keep an eye on your inbox. Applications will open soon for our 2021 Major Gifts Intensive.

Wishing you a prosperous and positive start to 2021!