Back-To-School Major Gifts Fundraising reveals the right to time to raise major gifts. Here’s what fundraising veteran Jim Eskin has to share:
During most of my career as a fundraising practitioner in higher education advancement, the beginning of Fall was always a time of heightened activity. Summer vacations are over and donors — especially major gift donors — have returned home and are positioned for cultivation.
Even for those non-profits in other sectors, Fall is a time to get back to business and double down on efforts to enter the giving season that starts in November with vigor.
Back-To-School Major Gifts Fundraising w Jim Eskin
Time to Step on the Gas Pedal
If year-end goals are to be met, non-profits need to shift into high gear and build and sustain momentum beginning in September. This applies to non-profits of all different sizes and representing different sectors. It genuinely is “game on.”
Here are some principles, strategies and best practices for professional and volunteer non-profit leaders to lean on.
Prioritize Major Gifts
- Renew and re-energize touches and cultivation efforts focused on major gift donor prospects.The definition of major gifts varies from non-profit to non-profit, and even varies within the same non-profit depending on its history. The level might be $10,000, $100,000 or $1 million or more. But the gifts will be absolutely crucial to the nonprofit’s success in fueling its noble mission to touch, improve and save more lives. So, it’s high time to scrutinize where you stand with your major gift donor prospects. How ready are they for a successful solicitation? How many cultivation moves have they received to become more personally and emotionally connected to your mission? If your non-profit has difficulty scheduling face-to-face meetings, now is the time to find and activate the right connectors and gain this precious meeting time that will set the stage for a fruitful solicitation.
- Create a major gifts scoreboard and give it plenty of visibility. This can take a variety of forms — a whiteboard, Excel spread sheets, or a format that pops up on everyone’s computer screen. It should highlight the gift target amount and progress being made in moving the prospect through the gift continuum — discovery, cultivation, solicitation and stewardship. Roles, responsibilities and deadlines must be indelibly delineated. Keep in mind, the larger the gift target the more difficult it will likely be to secure meetings, creating a longer period for cultivation.
- As part of the major gifts initiative, highlight the possibilities for legacy gifts.The most popular options are bequests, retirement plans and life insurance policies. These empower the donor prospect to support your non-profit significantly beyond cash gifts while potentially postponing any out-of-pocket expenditure.
DAFs are Exploding
- Donor advised funds or DAFs have become the most dynamic component of American philanthropy. Be sure to probe if your prospects have such accounts, which is money waiting to be given away. Donations to DAFs rose from$9 billionin 2010 to almost $48 billion in 2020 — amazing growth of 412% over just 10 years. Make sure DAFs are visible on your website, in your marketing material, and come up during solicitation conversations.
- Make monthly giving easy and visible.Erica Waasdorp, President, A Direct Solution, who I like to call The First Lady of Monthly Giving, highlights enormous returns on minimal investment — more giving, higher retention, and doors opening to major and planned gifts, to name just a few.
- Don’t be shy about requesting unrestricted gifts.Such monies, which can be used when and where needed most, are essential to any non-profit. They also allow non-profits to take advantage of new and unanticipated opportunities.
- Be creative in your outreach programs.I love organizations that celebrate “donor-versaries” — sending donors simple print or digital messages recognizing markers in the life of their association with the non-profit — at milestones of one, five or 10 years.
- Scrub your database and make sure it’s up to date. Here’s a tip I learned from a colleague: anyone who informs you of a change in address, e-mail or telephone should receive special attention because they’ve gone out of their way to make sure they remain connected to you.
In Closing …
- It not too early to start formulating plans for a robust year-end push.Nearly one-third (31%) of annual giving occurs in December and 12% of all giving happens in the last three days of the year.Your non-profit can’t afford to fail to cash in on this incredibly generous window.
- Be sure that your staff, board and key volunteers benefit from fundraising training opportunities.There has never been such a treasure chest of webinars available on a variety of timely advancement issues, many of which are offered free of charge. I like having development teams participate jointly in such webinars so that they can debrief immediately on the take-aways for their own operations.
I’ve always welcomed the Fall. Growing up in Boston, there was cooler and crisper weather, beautiful autumn colors, the start of football season, and school buses on the streets. This can and should be a productive and enjoyable time for non-profits, too. No doubt you have your own ideas and programs to increase donor engagement and gift income results.
Jim Eskin’s consulting practice, Eskin Fundraising Training builds on the success of his more than 150 fundraising workshops and webinars and provides the training, coaching and support services that non-profits need to compete for and secure major gifts. He has authored 100 guest columns that have appeared in daily newspapers, business journals and blogs across the country, and publishes Stratagems, a monthly e-newsletter exploring timely issues and trends in philanthropy. Sign up here for a free subscription. He is author of 10 Simple Fundraising Lessons, which can be purchased here.
Back-To-School Major Gifts Fundraising was first posted at Major Gifts Ramp-Up
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