Tag Archives: Major Donors

Before You Approach a Major Donor

By David A. Mersky

Before You Approach a Major Donor

I had coffee yesterday with a long-time client. His nonprofit organization is beginning to plan for the construction of a substantial new facility, and they have begun engaging with architects, contractors, and such.

Naturally, thoughts of fundraising for this endeavor are already on the table. With that in mind, he shared with me his plans to fly to Los Angeles next week and talk to a major donor about providing a very substantial naming gift for the project.

I implored him not to take this step. After asking several questions, it was clear to me that this action at this time would be premature.

Why? Several reasons, which I explain in more depth below. But in short, effective fundraising is about much more than just “ask and they will give.”

Well Begun is Half Done

Nonprofit fundraisers are often in a rush to gain commitments for anticipated projects. That’s understandable. After all, without those funds, the projects will not get underway.

However, to achieve maximum effectiveness, a great deal of preparation is required. Critical questions must be answered prior to arriving at the door of a major donor. Some of these include…

What will be the outcome to the organization if a major gift is secured?

Sophisticated, thoughtful donors want to know what the vision is for the project at hand. What will the organization be able to do that it cannot do without their philanthropic support?

Are you trying to reinvigorate a youth development center replacing an old building in disrepair with a modern facility, providing children who deserve more with a safe, comfortable, and welcoming structure?

Are you planning to build an inner-city charter schoolto address the dearth of quality educational facilities in communities that don’t have the wherewithal to invest on their own?

Whatever the specifics, you need to help the prospective donor envision how the world will be a better place once you have completed the project for which this gift is the foundation.

How much money do you need?

In the eyes of many donors, this is an investment. It’s a business deal, not a blank check. Regardless of the degree to which they are in support of your organization, or the size of their bank account, they want to know that you have got your ducks in a row.

This means that you need to be much further down the planning road than just, “We want to build X.” How much will the project cost? How much money can you raise in the aggregate? What portion of the overall cost are you asking them to contribute?

You wouldn’t approach a bank for a loan without knowing how much you need and how the funds will be used. The same preparation is required when approaching a donor.

How will you leverage this gift to raise more money?

With rare exception, no single donor wants to fund a multimillion-dollar project on their own. Typically, they are attracted to the idea of collaborating with others of similar philanthropic interests and financial capacity. They want partnership and alliance.

Often, donors want to offer their money as a challenge: “I will contribute X if you can secure an equal amount from others.” They want you to succeed and this can help you to leverage their offer as a way to bring others on board.

Keep in mind as well that it can be risky to be overly dependent on one donor for a given project, should the donor have a change of heart or circumstance. That’s why we recommend a “pyramid approach,” with a few major donors atop a foundation of many other contributors at varying levels beneath.

Relationship First, Money Second

Above all, always remember that fundraising is about people.

Our first responsibility is to serve the donor well – to make sure the request is within the realm of possibility given their wealth, that it reflects their personal vision and the impact they wish to have in the world, and that it strengthens the bond between organization and individual.

Only through preparation and due diligence will you be equipped to take that cross-country flight, knock on that door, and come away with a commitment that improves the lives of all involved.

Would You Rather Solicit A Major Gift Over Zoom or With a Live Chicken

Would You Rather Solicit A Major Gift Over Zoom or With a Live Chicken

What has changed for you during the pandemic? Your employment? Or at least the way you work? Your family life? Or the time you spend with your family? Your eating? Or where you eat most of your meals? The essentials of life, food, family, work, and so much more look very different than they did months ago. For most of us, we didn’t have a choice, we adapted to the curve in the road.

Fundraising and solicitations also need to adapt. And I am here to tell you that it can work.

You can solicit a major gift over Zoom

I would take a sizable bet that if, even six months ago, I had suggested you solicit a major gift over Zoom you would have had a very strong reaction. Probably you would have laughed, then deleted my email, then unsubscribed from my blog. It would have been like suggesting you bring a live chicken to your donor meetings. I guess it could be done, but it would only reduce your chances of success and eliminate donor confidence.    

Back to July 2020 and I am here to say Zoom solicitations can be done successfully.

Our clients who have continued to work on their capital campaigns during the pandemic are finding that process looks different than expected, but the outcome can be the same. Or even better than anticipated.

Organizations who have taken time over the past few months to organize and plan their campaign in the current climate will find that things have normalized to a point where donors are ready to talk. These organizations have checked in and connected with donors, members and volunteers. They probably utilized their volunteers to keep them engaged and deepen the relationships. And, similar to other types of stewardship, these “touches” have kept prospects engaged, primed, and ready to be asked for a donation.

At MJA, the pandemic has changed our business too

We do not visit facilities or attend meetings in person. We do continue to teach volunteers and professionals how to make a game plan for each prospect, how to get the appointment, and, of course, how to solicit. We make sure the solicitor has the appropriate documents, that the staff and volunteers understand each step of the follow up and acknowledgement process, and we have sat in as a box, and participant, on Zoom solicitations. And while we were all a bit nervous to start, it works.

Donors still feel passionately about organizations, particularly those they have previously supported. Some donors have had to change their financial plans due to COVID-19-related issues, but many don’t. There is significant philanthropic capacity looking for meaningful opportunities.  And if you have been stewarding those who have it, they will still be ready to give if you make the compelling case you have always needed to make:

  • Why give?
  • Why to this organization?
  • Why to this organization right now?

So, it may feel strange, like holding a bird, to solicit a major gift over Zoom but it’s time to adapt and try new things. Unless you are one of the many people who decided to adopt chickens during the pandemic. And then, you might be able to hold your chicken while on a zoom call and still be successful. Life certainly has changed.  

If you would like to learn from our experience so you can plan and execute your capital campaign or annual fund major gifts program, please click here to schedule a free consultation.

5 Types of Pandemic Volunteers

5 Types of Pandemic Volunteers

Furloughs and layoffs are everywhere, and nonprofits are no exception. But, since you still have a mission to fulfill and services to offer, volunteers offer an interesting opportunity. There are, potentially, more people available, but less time to train, track, and collect volunteers. Sometimes it feels like you need to babysit volunteers. But what if you could look at these prospective free workers like you would consider childcare.

Before we get into the details of the 5 types of Pandemic Volunteers, you need to do a bit of work.

Start by considering what you are not getting done. Then, think about what you are doing that could be done by somebody else (if that person were reliable.) And lastly, how much internal knowledge is required for each task.

Now, consider the 5 types of Pandemic Volunteers:

  1. Mother’s helper is someone who needs specific tasks but may need to ask a lot of questions, at least at first, to learn the ropes. The good news is if the task continues, they will get better and better. This could be a teenager looking for something to do when camp is cancelled or a volunteer who isn’t always super reliable, but you want to keep interested and connected.

    Since you don’t know how much this person will achieve, consider small tasks with short deadlines. A mother’s helper could clean out closets that got left mid-semester or prep materials for your re-opening. Printing, photocopying, and collating are also possibilities.
  2. Babysitter is someone with some experience, needs guidance for expectations on a regular basis but is mostly independent. Each “babysitter” will come with some expertise that you may be able to use.

    For instance, someone who knows Excel can create a list of all current and lapsed $250 donors and provide the lists to “Night Sitters,” “Camp Counselors,” and “Camp Directors.”
  3. Night sitter is someone who can keep things going and is independent after an initial explanation. This person is used to jumping into new situations and can give you the confidence to sleep through the night because the job is getting done.

    A night sitter has been a volunteer for you and/or other organizations and can do things like make calls on your behalf. Provide a script and a list of contacts and that person can help you steward mid-level and entry-level donors while you focus on major donors.
  4. Camp counselor is someone who can rally the troops and is ready for leadership responsibilities, meaningful tasks, and whom you know is reliable. They may have volunteered or worked with you in the past or can demonstrate their expertise.

    Camp counselors can replace you to offer trainings to “night sitters,” “babysitters,” and “mother’s helpers.” And they can be the resource for most questions that would stop other volunteers from moving forward. They can help you steward higher-level donors.
  5. Camp Director is someone who can act as an employee or colleague. They have the skills that you would hire, if you had the money and time. They can supervise for you, explain tasks to others, organize volunteers and staff alike, have specific skills that you are missing, and are 100% reliable.

    Camp directors can help you make sure the trains are running on time. They are volunteers who can help with marketing your services, provide human resource advice, and financial and/or fundraising expertise. You may even rely on these people already. The one problem is that this skill set is hard to find in a volunteer and may have to be a hired as an Interim (aka Fractional) Placement. It would be less expensive than a full-time employee because they could be an independent contractor, but will still add to your costs.

If you would like help thinking through your volunteer strategy, click here to schedule a free 30 minute consultation.

Can You Ask For A Donation Right Now For Your Nonprofit?

This past week my daughter asked if it was inappropriate to put a birthday post up on Instagram. She wants to support the Black Lives Matter protests and activism, but she is a teenager with a best friend who was turning 17. In a lot of ways, it is the same question we hear from nonprofits. “With the world on fire, how can I ask for a donation right now for my nonprofit?”

It all boils down to, how can we do what we want/need to do without distracting from the important funds directly supporting critical social justice issues like Black Lives Matter or essential services for COVID-19-related relief.

There are a few factors to consider before you ask for a donation right now for an annual fund, capital fund or special project:

  1. Check in with everyone. If your major donors have been affected by the Coronavirus, riots/looting, or job loss/furlough, they will appreciate the fact that you want to stay in touch – even when they can’t give. This shows you care about them, and not just their money.
  2. Your major donors might not have been directly affected. While there are many people who have been sick, lost their jobs, and/or shifted all of their philanthropy towards worthwhile Black Lives Matter related causes, many of your major donors still can give. It has been proven that wealthy people are more likely to have been able to
    1.  ride out the stock market losses and gains (read: they still have wealth)
    1. been able to transfer their work to their homes (read: they are less likely to lose their jobs in layoffs and less likely to get sick from having to go into their jobs)
    1. and in better health (meaning they are more likely to survive COVID-19 if they were to get sick)
  3. People still want to give. Most people I know who have been able to retain their jobs and are healthy are acutely aware of how lucky they are. I include myself in this category. They/we want to help support nonprofits now more than ever. They/we want to donate to organizations that address current issues, but also the organizations we love. They/we know how important it is to step up right now because we can afford to do so.
  4. Supporters of your organization probably know that your fiscal year is ending. If they have been with you for years, this shouldn’t be a surprise. What they don’t know is how you ended this year, and what you expect for next year.
    • Are you planning for reduced income in some or all areas?
    • Are you considering how to keep your staff working at close to full capacity?
    • Will other costs like cleaning or transportation increase as things open?
    • How is all of this effecting your budget?
    • And what can your donors do to help?
  5. Be aware of the timing but don’t use that as an excuse to stop asking at all. When quarantine first began, people were hesitant to ask for non-COVID-19-related donations and that was wise. It was a time to check in with people. But weeks went by and we found new routines for working from home, home schooling, and asking for donations. In fact, many organizations have been extremely successful in fundraising this spring. Fundraisers not involved in the Black Lives Matter movement have paused again. You can even use your social media to encourage people to support the movement. And then consider how you ask your supporters to donate your nonprofit. *Remember that in times like these, you are not asking for the piece of the giving “pie” that would have gone to shift policing policies. History has shown us that the total “pie” (or total annual giving) actually grows in challenging times.
  6. Many fundraising rules remain the same. People still want transparency, a reason to give to your organization, and a reason to give right now.
  7. If you are not asking them, someone else is. This is something I always tell people. You may feel uncomfortable or shy about asking, but the nonprofit next door may not and that is why they are still raising money. While an article in a newspaper or social media burst may increase new donations from people you don’t know, the general rule is still you don’t get donations if you don’t ask for them.

This is not an easy time. The asks will not be in person over coffee or lunch. You will hear a lot of stories that will make you laugh, cry, and scream. You will hear about the people that can’t give. But you will also hear how resilient your donors are and how they still love your organization. All that stewardship – and showing them the love – will be returned. But you have to ask for a donation right now, to get a donation.

Is it Worth Investing in Electronic Prospect Research Screening for Your Nonprofit?

Prospect ResearchWhen researching a prospective donor for an initial gift, or possibly an upgraded gift, many nonprofits stop and question, “Is it worth investing in electronic prospect research screening? Is it the path to the pot of gold? Or, is it too general to be helpful to your nonprofit (i.e. does it matter if they gave their medical school or a local women’s shelter if you are a religious organization?)”

Here are the Pros and Cons of Electronic Prospect Research Screening

The Pros:

  • Research is super fun for data geeks and sociologists alike. That’s because good donor research output will give you a snapshot of publicly available data that includes:
    • Previous giving history- how much have they given to others
    • Political giving –a strong indicator of their philanthropic mindset
    • Real estate estimates (they own how many houses????)
    • Business data (they are the CEO of what public company?)
    • SEC information including shares and market values of public transactions
    • Boards they may sit on
  • Previous giving history can help you adjust your expectations. Rarely, do donors jump from $1,000 to $100,000.
  • It can help you understand where passions lie. If they have donated to a local Food Insecurity Initiative, a local hospital and a local private K-12 school, they are probably like to give locally to organizations that build relationships or where they already have connections.
  • Understanding their political giving will help you deepen the picture of who they are and what they value. Do they donate to more Republican or Democrat causes? Town-focused, State-wide or National? Small amounts to individuals or large amounts to PACs?

The Cons:

  • All that data can be a rabbit hole that sucks hours of your day. And that’s just for one interesting person. Sometimes too much data is just too much.
  • Anecdotal information is not included. Anyone being considered for a major gift would, ideally, already be associated with your nonprofit. That means someone should know their connection point, recent conversations, and how they feel about your organization.
  • It is just data and doesn’t let you know if it is a personal gift. If they gave to a children’s hospital because they helped a family member, or they donate to the women’s shelter because their sister is on the board, that is a very different type of gift than general support because they think it is a good cause.
  • Common names skew results. Someone must go through each prospect and realize if it is the right Larry Smith or David Weinstein. One can probably give $1,000,000 and the other $1,000. That is a very different ask.
  • Just because they have the capacity and have given to your nonprofit, that doesn’t mean they want to give more. Of course, your job is to convince them otherwise, but be patient. 10 years of $50 gifts are still valuable to your nonprofit. And consecutive years of giving demonstrate loyalty the might lead to a bequest or other planned gift.

Is it worth investing in Electronic Prospect Research Screening?

In my opinion, yes. It will save you hours on Google getting basic information and some services (like DonorSearch) provide you with an impressive amount of detail about your prospects. But, like so many things in life, paying someone else to do the screening is in actuality buying you time to other aspects of fundraising and development.  Prospect research is not the end-all, be-all solution we would like it to be. But, it is an important step towards knowing your donors.

A Guide to Powering Up your Board Member Recruitment

Board Member Recruitment Let me start by saying that before you focus on board member recruitment, you need a standing committee on governance and leadership development. If you don’t, read this or this first.

OK, now we are on the same page and everyone understands the importance of a standing committee on governance and leadership development.  Among the ten basic responsibilities of board members is one that states thatthe board should “replace itself.” But, board member recruitment means that you have to continually generate and explore prospects for leadership roles in the organization as well as for potential board members. Here are 8 ideas for your committee to test out:

  1. Consider your constituents/members. One of the life lessons we are learning from the upcoming mid-term elections is that people seem to want to be represented by people who look and act like themselves. Board member recruitment should include representatives of your work. Members, current/former beneficiaries, or program participants can all be considered.
  2. Think about who has reached out to you. People who are looking to get more involved but first want to peek behind the scenes at a nonprofit will often reach out to you. They will invite the Executive Director or another staff member for coffee or to meet up. It might be after an event, “I will be at pancake breakfast with my kids, can we talk for a few minutes about this idea I had for a wine tasting event.” Whether or not you want to add a wine tasting is irrelevant – that person is thinking about how to help your nonprofit. And that is a good indicator that they may want a deeper involvement.
  3. Look at your committee members. This is a tried and true method of identifying potential board members who are committed to the organization and do what they say they will do.
  4. Read your donor lists. Now focus in on the cumulative giving lists. If your nonprofit means enough to them to give year after year, they have already demonstrated their passion for your mission and vision.
  5. Perform a formal search. This will take time and energy, but if you think you have people who would get more involved, if only they were asked to do more than serve pancakes, offer them the opportunity to raise their hands. Put out calls on social media (LinkedIn could be incredibly valuable here), in newsletters or hand written notes to target specific people. List opportunities to join different committees that could use an infusion of new volunteers (read: all committees). Finance, development, events, governance, programs, marketing, and/or membership are all options.
  6. Ask your current board members who are not on the governance and leadership development committee for suggestions. This may seem obvious, but over time a strong committee might not be soliciting nominations from other board members.
  7. Look outside the box. Contact local organizations that train board members (e.g., United Ways) or look online to nonprofit board recruitment sites.
  8. Talk to your current volunteers. Some volunteers want to help a day here or there with no long-term commitment. But, if you ask your volunteer coordinator who the most reliable volunteers are, there will be obvious answers.

Of course, once you identify candidates, the next step is to research them. But I will save that for another article on board member recruitment.

Say Goodbye to a Board Member Without Saying Goodbye

Say Goodbye to a Board MemberA close friend, Alex, told me an all-too-common, disheartening story about a nonprofit board she left a few years ago.

She was a founding member of a small nonprofit’s board of directors. She was an active volunteer, and one of their major donors, for two terms before deciding it was time to step down.  She mentioned her intentions to the president of the board, and he asked her if she would stay on. She agreed to one more term, helping to plan dinners for 3 fellow board members who stepped off during that time.

When her term was up, with her last meeting on the horizon, there was no talk of a dinner. In fact, there was not even an acknowledgement at the meeting for her service to the organization.  She awkwardly walked out wondering if the door was going to hit her on the way out.

This was no way to say goodbye to a board member.

December rolled around, and she began to wonder whether she should continue to donate. She helped found, build and strengthen this nonprofit. She had been invested in the mission, vision and values. But she felt ignored and underappreciated.

If you were in her shoes, what would you do?

Now flip that thinking, and consider, what you can do to prevent this situation with your board members.

  • Treat all current and past board members as loyal, valuable donors. Whether they have been giving $500 a year or $5,000, they are supporters that should be prime candidates for lifelong relationship.
  • Keep in touch. If they have been engaged as volunteers, encourage them to continue giving their time, perhaps, in smaller ways. Use stewardship “moves” to engage them around the calendar – not just write a little note on the bottom of the annual appeal when it is time to ask for a donation to pretend you are personalizing the ask. In other words, say farewell to a board member without saying goodbye to the person.
  • Honor their time and energy during the off-boarding process. Is a dinner necessary? If you have done it for previous board members than it seems like the right thing to do. If you are changing the way you do things, explain that and honor them in a different way. It can be as simple as toasting them at a small event, giving them a special gift at a board meeting and publicly thanking them in a newsletter article. People don’t expect the same treatment year in and year out, but they do expect the same respect.

What happened to Alex and her donations? The first year that she stopped giving to the organization she felt guilty. But, then, she reminded herself that she is not a priority to them. If she was, she would still be giving.  Now, she is just one more statistic contributing to that organization’s low donor retention rates. And she is happily involved in two other nonprofit organizations.

Want to read more about Board Members Relationships with your nonprofit?

Why the Next Note To Your Donor Does Not Have To Be A Highly-crafted, Over-thought, Well-designed Piece Of Perfection

the Next Note To Your Donor In the past couple of weeks, I have written notes to two different people who are going through some medical issues. While I am not particularly close with either, they are people I truly like. And, in both cases, I heard about the issues from a mutual friend who had called to let me know.

In both cases I considered whether I should send something, buy a card, or pick up the phone. With back to school, a conference and the Jewish High Holidays, I realized it was a bit of a crazy time. So, I wrote a few sentences to each in an email, letting them know I was thinking of them. Each one took about 2 minutes to do.

In both cases, I heard from the mutual friend how appreciative the person was that I took the time to write. Not bad for less than five minutes in a crazy, busy week.

I am not writing this to pat myself on the back. I am writing this to say your personal outreach to your friend, your colleague or your donor will make a difference.

The next note to your donor does not have to be a highly-crafted, over-thought, well-designed piece of perfection. It just needs to get out.  And come from the heart.

Today, take the few minutes necessary to write to some donors or prospective donors. Maybe you can send them a funny article that you shared on Facebook because it poked fun at your nonprofit sector or let them know about a great thank you note you just received from a high school student who benefited from your program which they support.

Keep it simple and get it out.  You will be amazed at the results. 

The Key to Successful Fundraising is Stop Thinking About Your Nonprofit

Key to Successful FundraisingI have talked about this topic a bit when opining on annual appeal letters and solicitor training but after a recent conversation, I thought it should be said again. And said in a straightforward, no nonsense way.

The key to successful fundraising is stop thinking about your nonprofit. And start thinking about donor.


Finding out what motivates the donor to give.

Some people like their names on buildings. Others like the warm fuzzy feeling they get when they watch a video that includes the children who attend the community center thanking them for their support. Still others like to dress up and help create an extravagant gala. Very different motivations but all valid and all should be considered when soliciting a gift.

Discovering why the donor likes your organization. 

Is it because they feel that their child is having a good experience at your school? Or, because they think you are the best advocates in the area for animal welfare. Maybe they think their association with you is good for their image.  The key is knowing, what do they think?

Asking for the right gift

Someone who likes galas might not want to give to your annual fund. But, they may be willing to join the gala committee, increase their personal gift, and encourage their friends to join them. Another donor who gives to your annual fund may like to give to the December appeal, or they may be ready to learn how they can fund a new program.  Knowing your donors giving history/patterns, their interests, and how much they give to other organizations can help you craft the right ask.

Knowing the right time to ask

Your fiscal year end will not affect a major donor’s donation timing as much as their year-end bonus or their annual fundraising check writing session in December.  Your calendar is not as important as the donors.  No matter how much you wish it were different.

Thinking about who should make the ask

Your most successful fundraiser is not the best fundraiser for every donor. Consider who the donor knows, or might like to get to know. Create pairs of solicitors so that there is twice as much listening going on.  It is about the donor, and deepening their connection to your nonprofit.


If you want to retain donors and move then from entry level to mid-level, or mid-level to major gifts, stewardship is the key.  A planned approach that incorporates calls, emails, updates, invitations, thank yous, coffees, etc. takes time. But it is the path to a stronger relationship with the donor. Which, in turn, will help with donor retention and raising more money.

Refining your fundraising processes takes time. But if you start to considering fundraising from the donor’s perspective, you will understand it is a marathon, not a sprint. One bit of caution, if you wait another six months or year with excuses as to why you can’t start changing your fundraising yet, you are putting off your growth.  And probably losing quite a few donors along the way. Start considering the donors’ POV ASAP.   

This Summer, Focus On $50 Donations – 7 Reasons Why

Focus on $50 Donors

As fundraisers, we spend a lot of time on major donors–whether finding, cultivating, asking, and/or stewarding them. It seems to make sense, it’s quite difficult to meet your annual goal $50 at a time.  But, that doesn’t mean that the smaller donors are not essential to your organization.  In fact, they may be more valuable. That is why, this summer you should consider something different and focus on $50 donations.

Fewer people are donating money.  The Chronicle of Philanthropy highlighted this shift to fewer donors giving larger amounts in a special report, The Disappearing Donor. (Note: These articles are “Premium”, you might not be able to read them unless you subscribe or visit a library.)

There is a reduction in the number of donors over the past 20+ years according to “Where Are My Donors?  At the same time Giving USA listed increased annual donations for the prior three years, the report indicated that in  “2014, the latest year for which data is available, 56 percent of American households made a charitable donation. In 2000, that number was 10 percentage points higher, according to the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy … Giving declined across every age group and every income and education level.”

How can you ensure you will have enough donors for years to come? Here are 7 reasons to focus on $50 donations.

  1. Smaller donors can be amazing advocates for the nonprofit. Some major donors only want to give money and not be bothered again. Smaller donors may do more – be more involved, share excitement as they learn more and, invest more over time.
  2. It doesn’t have to take more time to cultivate 100 $50 donors vs. a single $5,000 donor. Think about it for a minute.  For the 100 donors, you have to spend time segmenting interests, writing letters, emailing, sending articles/invitations (or other stewardship touches) and encouraging deeper engagement.  For an individual $5,000 donor you have to consider their interests, write a major donor letter, determine who will personalize it, find a time for that person to actually sign it, schedule times to meet with that donor throughout the year, consider personalized stewardship opportunities, and a calendar to ensure they will get done. At larger nonprofits, major donors are served by major gifts officers while other donors are often personally ignored. At small and mid-sized nonprofits, it is a matter of prioritization. Major donors cannot get all of the attention.
  3. $50 donors do not always stay $50 donors. Everyone has an entry level gift they give to nonprofits.  Whether consciously or unconsciously, they are testing the nonprofit to see how they are treated, how their investment is used, and whether they will give again in the future.  How will you treat them, how is their investment being employed and how will you encourage future giving?
  4. 20 years of smaller gifts can mean as much to a nonprofit as a major gift. If you have not yet started to track lifetime giving, now is the time to compile a list of 10+ year donors. Do you have some who have given for 25 years? Those are valuable donors who probably don’t get enough appreciation.
  5. Fewer small donations mean fewer donors in the major gifts pipeline. Ok, that brings us back to a major donor focus, but development has to have a dual strategy. You have to retain major donors and smaller contributors. It can take years of stewardship to upgrade a donor (10-15 touches) so focusing on smaller donors is not a one-time approach.
  6. You are laying the seeds for financial sustainability. Making your budget this year is important, but so is next year and the next year. One major donor can change their mind. All 100 of your $50 donors are less likely to shift priorities during any one year.
  7. Let’s take back the 80/20 rule (80% of the funding comes from 20% of donors). We have seen the 80/20 rule turn into the 90/10 rule.  #7 is similar to #6, but we want it to be stressed again and again. Putting numbers to your situation will provide clarity. One donor who decides that this year they want to support their congregation’s capital campaign instead of their child’s school fundraiser can shift the stability of both.  The more donors, the less the impact of any one gift.

A culture of giving to nonprofits is important for society, in general. No matter what tribe you associate with (political, religious, geographic, demographic, favorite social media, etc.), we don’t want to live as isolationists. We want to help others, that is why we work in the nonprofit sector.

Some want to raise money for a longtime church member’s grandchild in need of surgery and provide medical facilities with money for research the next day.  Others understand how important it is to help religious and academic institutions cover scholarships because dues and tuitions don’t provide enough. Maybe you see that there are buildings in need of repair and cities and towns without the room in their budgets to ensure clean, safe buildings.  We are a society that relies on each other but is in denial about our own part of the ecosystem. As donors decrease, the needs do not.  So encourage those lower level gifts, and value each and every donor. It will make a difference now, and in twenty years.

Read more about donor retention:

Creating a Monthly Giving Program: A Solution to Donor Retention and Financial Sustainability

Learn How an NPR Donor Drive Will Increase Your Donor Retention

It’s Time for You to Evaluate Donor Retention For the Past Year