Successful Capital Campaigns Improve Major Gifts Management

David A. Mersky imageSuccessful capital campaigns not only raise money…but also help with major gifts management

Every Friday morning, I sit in the conference room of a client where we hold a weekly meeting of the Capital Campaign Cabinet. This hour-long meeting focuses on the major donor prospect pool for a $15 million campaign. In addition to staying up to date on progress of a complex capital project and multi-level communications and engagement program, we concentrate upon three things:

  • accomplishments of the prior week in terms of contacts and solicitations;
  • war stories that encourage cabinet members to problem solve with and learn from each other’s experiences as well as plan for new encounters; and
  • plans and promises that each committee member undertakes for the coming week.

The key word is accountability with the enterprise and with each other. Together we keep our eyes on the prize and support and strengthen one another. And we ensure that we are working to improve major gifts management beyond the campaign.

But, you don’t need to be running a capital campaign to apply this regular discipline to your development efforts. In fact, the same regular meeting of those involved in the Annual Fund program for your organization can be part of a major gifts moves management discipline.

The concept of “moves management” begins with the notion that a well-run nonprofit has a plan for every donor—at every giving level and every stage of their life cycle. The plan needs to have an appropriate treatment for every donor group, especially major donors. Here are some questions to consider:

  • When and how will they be contacted?
  • How much resource—time and money—can you spend on them?
  • What are the messages for each segment?
  • What offers can you make—such as recognition, premiums, etc.?
  • What do you do with donors who upgrade or downgrade?
  • How will you define and handle lapsed donors?
  • How to welcome and “on-board” new donors?

Your donor plan should be in writing, so when someone with institutional memory leaves, the knowledge stays intact, and no group is lost in the transition. And it must be followed religiously. It can’t be changed on a whim—only by new information that shows you a better way to treat a specific group.

And, when it comes to your pool of major gift prospects, then it is not so much about the group, but more about the individual. Here are some basics for applying the moves management discipline—normally reserved for capital campaigns—to your annual fundraising.

What is Moves Management?

Fundraisers manage a series of steps (moves) for each identified prospect which will “move” prospects from

  • Attention to
  • Interest to
  • Desire to
  • Action

Continually moving to the next gift.

Each “move” represents a discrete contact for the purpose of cultivation where solicitation does not occur. You should plan at least one move per month.

Planning Each Move

Review the key points to cover during the move—whether in an email, a phone call or a face-to-face meeting. List the benefits that will appeal to the prospect. Be clear about what action are you asking the prospect to take, i.e., what should be the next step in the process.

Moves management is about time management

There are four types of major gifts prospects

  1. Those ready to make a major gift
  2. Those needing some cultivation but who would consider a major gift in the near future
  3. Those needing extensive cultivation
  4. Those with capability, but little or no reason to give

Focus on those closest to the major gift decision—the 10% who will give 90% of your goal.

If you want to know more about Major Gifts Moves Management, you can click here to access and download a webinar that I did that will help you understand this vital process in far greater detail.

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