Tag Archives: Major Gifts – Beyond the Solicitation

Executing The Major Gifts Moves Management Process

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Major Gifts – Beyond the Solicitation Series – Part 11

In the past three installments of this series we focused upon how to “move” a donor from ever-increasing annual giving to become a major donor.  The process of moves management employs a series of steps (moves) for each identified prospect which “move” prospects from gaining their attention to eliciting their interest in your organization so that they develop a desire to take an action—make a major gift—and then through thoughtful, well-planned individualized steps of stewardship keep them continually moving to the next gift.

Now, as we conclude this year’s series on major gifts moves management, we turn to the most important aspect of any plan—it’s implementation.  Here is a methodology to execute the plan based upon the Franklin-Covey Four Disciplines of Execution.

1. Focus on Wildly Important Goals (WIGs)

In order to execute a plan, it is important to be absolutely focused upon the right objective.  The first principle is to narrow the focus of your goals, ideally choosing one, but definitely not more than two.

The second aspect of consideration is to make sure that the focus is upon the important and the urgent and not the unimportant or anything that lacks urgency.  Here are some examples of strategic goals from which you might choose:

  • Number of gifts of $5,000+ increased by XX%
  • Number of new gifts at $5,000+
  • Amount of money in gifts of $5,000+ as compared to last year
  • “Card for Card” increase of all $1,000+ donors by XX%

2. Act on Lead Measures

The second principle is to act upon that which is forward-looking, in your control.  We call that a lead measure or an activity that enables you and your team to achieve your “wildly important goal.”  You should differentiate between the lead measure which indicates whether you are likely to achieve your goal and a lag measure—which as its name implies—describes what you have achieved through an action completed in the past.

3. Keep a Compelling Scoreboard

Keeping score—and letting everyone in agency see and know it—is the third key principle of execution.  The “scoreboard” is simple and graphically visual.  It is dynamic and is updated daily.  On the scoreboard you keep track of lead measures such as

  • Complete four quality visits per staff person per week
  • Ask for something on each visit
  • Document quality follow-up after each visit within 48 hours

4. Create a Cadence of Accountability

Finally, and, once you have established the goal and lead measures, the single most important activity is to create and maintain a system of accountability through weekly meetings.  In these recurring meetings, everyone reports on past performance during the prior week and announce plans for the coming week’s activities.  This is where plan execution actually happens.  It is accomplished through a shared accountability.

At least weekly, we account by reporting on prior commitments, review the scoreboard to learn from successes and failures and plan in order to clear the path and make new commitments.

We make commitments and are accountable to ourselves, each other, the team, our supervisor and the agency.  In this way, through a carefully drawn plan that is well-executed we achieve the important goal we have set for the sustainability and growth of the organization.

To read the other pieces in the Major Gifts – Beyond the Solcitation Series click here.

To speak with David about how he can help your nonprofit’s major gifts moves management process, call him at 800.361.8689

Six Steps to Implementing the Major Gifts Moves Management Process – Part 2

Major Gifts – Beyond the Solicitation Series – Part 10

David A. Mersky imageIn part 1 (click here to read it) of this piece we focused on the first three steps.  “The first three steps help you enlist major donor prospects who will be part of your moves management community.  First you identify prospects then gather information through prospect research—formal and informal—and, finally, evaluate each prospect to determine that he or she is a worth allocating the time and energy of staff and volunteer leadership.”

The next three steps help implementation of the major gifts moves management process.

Step IV: Track “Moves”

The first and single, most critical step in the process is tracking each move and the follow up step that is essential to the implementation.  This step requires exquisite discipline.  With each discrete move or contact, you need to file a call report.  Here is the data of which you need to keep track.

  • Type of Call:
    • Foreground move
      • Letter
      • Phone
      • Email
      • Tweet—or other social media contact
      • In-person
  • Background move
  • Planned purpose of the move
    • Cultivation
    • Solicitation
    • Other
    • Summary—detailed notes—actual outcome of the move
    • Next Steps
      • Continue on the moves management list
      • Remove from moves management list
      • Reassign to another moves manager

Step V: Maintain Accountability

Weekly, bi-weekly and/or monthly face-to-face meetings of the major gifts management team with reports by each staff moves manager.  These meetings are designed to maintain a cadence of accountability.  Their frequency is a function of time available and the number of prospects in the process.  In advance of each meeting, a report containing the following data is distributed.

  • Prospect Name and unique identifier to tie back to your fundraising data management system
  • Philanthropic capacity rating
  • Status—where are they on the moves management continuum—the five “I’s
    • You have just identified a potential major gifts donor
    • You are gathering information about the prospect
    • The prospect has demonstrated some interest
    • The prospect has become involved
    • The prospect has made a gift and become invested
    • Date of last contact
    • Nature of contact
    • Next step
    • Comments from Moves Manager/Team

Step VI: Keep Score—Weekly Report

Finally, you create an agency wide dashboard for the major gifts moves management process.  In this way everyone becomes a partner and shares in the success of the effort.  The dashboard should contain the following:

  • Date of report
  • Total number of prospects in the system
  • Total number of moves planned for the “year”
  • Number of contacts made this week
  • Dollar value of prospects “moved” this week
  • Dollar value of pledges or gifts booked this week

Next Month: Executing the Major Gifts Moves Management Process

To learn how David can help you enlist major donor prospects, call him at 800.361.8689.

Six Steps to Implementing a Major Gifts Moves Management Process – Part 1

Major Gifts – Beyond the Solicitation Series – Part 9

David A. Mersky imageLast month we focused upon how to “move” a donor from ever-increasing annual giving to become a $5,000 major donor.  The process of moves management employs a series of steps (moves) for each identified prospect which “move” prospects from gaining their attention to eliciting their interest in your organization so that they develop a desire to take an action—make a major gift—and then through thoughtful, well-planned individualized steps of stewardship keep them continually moving to the next gift.

This month, we will turn to a six-step implementation process and a methodology to execute the plan with disciplined execution.  To go a bit deeper on each step, the process will be split into two articles.

The first three steps help you enlist major donor prospects who will be part of your moves management community.  First you identify prospects then gather information through prospect research—formal and informal—and, finally, evaluate each prospect to determine that he or she is a worth allocating the time and energy of staff and volunteer leadership.  The second three steps focus on the application of your findings.

Step I: Identify Prospects

Begin by, reviewing your current database of donors.  Screen for frequency of giving, recency of support, those who increase their gifts annually and possibly the “diamonds in the rough,” high net worth individuals who have demonstrated interest in the area in which your organization functions, such as at-risk youth. This would be a good time to conduct an electronic prospect screening of your identified prospects to determine, wealth as well as philanthropic and political giving patterns—sure markers of value for further consideration. Then, engage your board collectively and, better still, individually, to identify sources of information about and relationships with the prospects.

Step II: Gather partners

When you meet with a board member, share a list of suspects—people whom you believe could be major donor prospects.  Ask your board member

  • What is the prospect’s gift capacity rating?
  • Do you have access to this prospect—will they return your call?
  • Can you share information about this prospect?

Step III: Evaluate Prospects

Once you have met with your board members—and your colleagues on the staff—collate all the information that you have gathered.  You are seeking to answer questions such as:

  • Why is this individual a prospect?
  • In what has this person expressed interest?
  • For what purposes should funding be sought?
  • What is the giving capacity? (See donor research)
  • What is our present relationship? (Prior gifts & involvement)
  • Who are partners/centers of influence?

Now, that you and your team have agreed upon the prospects with whom you wish to move forward strategically, you develop a detailed plan of background and foreground moves for each prospect.  Once you have each plan, you turn to the three key steps of implementation.

Click here to read the second part of this article, focusing on implementation

Click here to read the rest of the series

Successful Major Gifts Moves Management – What is Moves Management?

David A. Mersky image

Major Gifts – Beyond the Solicitation Series – Part 8

You have identified a potential major donor from among your most faithful contributors. She has made an annual gift every year for the last 12 years and in the last three years she has steadily increased her giving from $25 to $250. You called her when she made her first increase and every year thereafter. She has shown up at leadership briefings to which she was invited. You have done your due diligence and prospect research. You learned that she has meaningful philanthropic capacity based on her wealth and other activities including her political giving. You have even checked with members of your board who have filled in the gaps with valuable anecdotal information.

Now what?

How do you get her to take the next step with your organization and become a major donor with an annual gift of $5,000 or more?

Now is the time to employ what major gifts fundraisers call “moves management,” a process in which you take a series of steps (moves) for and with each identified prospect each of which will “move” the individual prospect to action—to move to the next gift.

What is moves management?  Let’s define a “move.”
Each “move” represents a discrete contact, by whatever means:

  • Email
  • Phone call
  • Letter
  • Fax
  • Face-to-face conversation
  • Planned events

There are two types of moves—background and. foreground moves. Moves are where cultivation and not solicitation occurs. To be successful, you should plan one move per month—twelve per year.

Goal of Each Move
In cultivation, it is hard to “quantify” goals. You should avoid goals that are too general. Be realistic—you will not attain a major gift in three moves. Here are some sample goals:

  • Your prospect accepts an invitation to a site visit
  • You gain a better sense of how the prospect feels about agency
  • You determine if pace of moves and goals is correct

Planning Each Move
There are a number of steps to take when you plan each move:

  1. Review key points to cover during the move
  2. List benefits that will appeal to prospect
  3. What action are you asking prospect to take, i.e., what should be the next step in the process
  4. List questions you anticipate the prospect will ask as well as your answers

The next part of planning for moves management is to determine who participates in the process.

  • The leader is the prospect or “moves” manager, who is generally a member of the development staff.
  • Next is the primary player who is the person to whom the prospect is not able to say no.
  • Then, you need to identify natural partners—the people who can serve as sources of information with strong relationships with the prospect.

People who may be centers of influence—additional sources of information –should be consulted.
Each member of this virtual team is there because of who the individual prospect is. And each team is likely to be different—depending upon the prospect.

Role of the Moves Manager
The moves manager, with responsibility for one hundred or more prospects at any one time—each of whom is at a different stage of development, creates a strategy for each prospect. The manager tracks the prospect’s relationship to organization, plans moves, and coordinates the primary players, natural partners as well as the centers of influence. Above all the moves manager is responsible for executing the plan. If circumstances warrant, the moves manager reconfigures the strategy and continually refines the plan.
Moves management is, above all, a process that enables you to manage your time and the resources of your team.

NEXT MONTH: Six Steps to Implementing a Major Gifts Moves Management Process – Part 1

LAST MONTH: Getting to Know Your Donors: Using & Understanding Prospect Research

Getting to Know Your Donors: Using & Understanding Prospect Research

Major Gifts – Beyond the Solicitation Series – Part 7

David Mersky sqDonations initiate relationships, and these relationships benefit by knowing important details. With information publicly available more than ever before, understanding prospect research is becoming an increasingly significant tool for nonprofit organizations to increase their fundraising capabilities.

Sophisticated analysis can help you identify who has the capacity, as well as the inclination to give to your organization. It is possible to identify an organization’s best prospective new donors, as well as better understand how to approach each one of your existing donors to request an increased donation.

Some organizational leaders shy away from prospect research because they believe that it is too intrusive.  However, professional prospect researchers—those who abide by the code of ethics of the Association for Prospect Researchers for Advancement (APRA), for example—use only publicly available information accessible to anyone.  Advancement researchers must balance an individual’s right to privacy with the needs of their institutions to collect, analyze, record, maintain, use, and disseminate information.  The key difference is that professionals do it efficiently and economically.

Additionally, understanding prospect research helps:

  • start and develop relationships;
  • identify prospective donors who share your organization’s values;
  • uncover “hidden” donors;
  • increase gifts from existing donors;
  • plan the approach and engagement strategies;
  • determine each donor’s capacity to give as well as a potential gift amount;
  • determine the “ask” amount;
  • formulate ask strategies;
  • segment donors by likelihood of giving, capacity to give, and type (annual, major, planned) of gift;
  • identify potential board members and organization champions;
  • build guest lifts for events;
  • efficiently use fundraising/development resources; and
  • reduce fundraising costs.

The most important predictor of a donor’s likelihood to give is past philanthropy. Statistically, it is the best predictor of future behavior. For example, there is a strong correlation between political giving, as reported by the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) and charitable giving: a donor who has made multiple political gifts totaling $15,000 or more has almost certainly made at least a five-figure gift to a nonprofit organization.

Additionally, understanding prospect research can uncover shared interests and engagement strategies, and help you find hidden connections between your donors and your organization’s leaders.

This knowledge can also help formulate an ask strategy. For example, a prospect may have a relatively low income, but large amounts of real estate. By discretely introducing real estate into the conversation and providing examples of real estate gifts, that donor can be persuaded to make a larger gift than one based on income alone.

The other aspect of prospect research to consider is the old 80-20 rule: 80% of your gifts will come from 20% of your prospects. (Some development officers say the ratio is closer to 90-10.) By identifying the 20% of your prospects who are most likely to make significant gifts to your organization, you can focus your efforts and maximize your fundraising/development efficiency.

NEXT MONTH: Moves Management—What is Moves Management?
LAST MONTH: Identifying Your Best Prospects—They are Closer than You Think

Identifying Your Best Prospects—They are Closer than You Think

David A. Mersky image

Major Gifts – Beyond the Solicitation Series – Part 6

Are you having trouble finding new major donors or even prospects for new first time gifts?  Welcome to the club!

For a variety of reasons, donors exhibit an ever-increasing level of anxiety when asked to contribute to —for them—a new organization, no matter how compelling and worthy the enterprise and its mission may be.  Without “new donors” you will find it increasingly difficult to fund the charitable investments vital to your organization and its ever-changing, growing demands.

So, if people are not making new, first time gifts, where are you finding new major donors and the money to achieve your goals?

Jerry Panas and Bill Sturtevant, giants in the philanthropic universe, taught me long ago that it requires nearly five times the effort, staff, and dollars to acquire a new donor as it does to retain one. Yet some nonprofits seem to spend more time and energy pursuing a new giver than making the effort to keep the old friend happy and engaged.

We know that with proper planning you can retain your donors. It has been demonstrated that with effective development and stewardship, you can be certain of an enthusiastic donor base and high retention.  Following this six-step plan will help to create a culture of giving at your organization.  And the key to your success is to be found in your donor database.  Your new donors in this coming year are most likely to come from that wonderful group of people who supported you in the past, but have not done so in the last year or even in the past few years.

How do you resurrect their support?

Step 1: Segment Your Donor Database to identify those with the highest likelihood of renewing their support.

Step 2: Engage Your Board to review the lists of prospects to see where they can help.

Step 3: Create Gateway Events to re-engage these once faithful supporters.

Step 4: Make a Follow Up and Involve Call which is the single most important step to create lifelong donors

Step 5: Plan Your Work and work your plan in a disciplined manner.

Step 6: Celebrate Achievements by informing all your partners—volunteers and staff—of every step that you get closer to goal.

If you would like to receive an expanded, detailed six-step plan, send me an email at david@merskyjaffe.com and I will forward it to you.

NEXT MONTH: Getting to Know Your Donors: Using & Understanding Prospect Research
LAST MONTHListening – The Lost Art

Listening – The Lost Art

Major Gifts – Beyond the Solicitation Series – Part 5

David A. Mersky image
People talk more than they listen.

The problem is pervasive in modern society. Many of us don’t listen because we’re too busy talking, texting, blogging, and using Twitter and Facebook to give our point of view.

Because most people have gotten used to talking without listening, this tendency to transmit rather than receive has become the hallmark of the cyber-era. The attitude that often characterizes our narcissistic society is “no view is as an enlightened and informed as my view,” we don’t even bother to consider what others have to say.

That the ability to listen has lagged so much in this digital age, when the channels of communication have multiplied, seems ironic and counterproductive. And, in major gifts fundraising—when you are face-to-face with your prospective donor—the failure to listen is a recipe for disaster and why I named this piece,  Listening – The Lost Art.

When we are in a solicitation or cultivation meeting, a huge mistake too many of us make is to be so eager to make our point, we stop listening as we search for a way to grab the conversation.

In truth, when we listen, we communicate. How we listen determines how well we communicate—and how effectively we solicit or steward a donor.

Many of the most successful people in the world — whether in business, politics, the arts, or social relations — have been good listeners. It is a skill that is rarely instinctive, but it can be learned.

  • Pay attention and do not be distracted. Serious conversation is never easy. Stay in the moment and listen attentively.
  • Listen well, you must want to hear what the other person is telling you. You must be empathetic and focused on the other person.
  • Do not be judgmental. A major duty of the listener/solicitor is to be open-minded and to reserve judgment.
  • To be a good listener, one must also exercise restraint — be patient and do not interrupt. Be the relaxed, attentive listener who patiently waits, or is even gently encouraging.  Then you may be the one who truly hears and overcomes the objection and achieves the gift.
  • Express what you think or feel, but avoid being argumentative or aggressively competitive. Do not engage in intellectual gamesmanship.
  • Misinterpretation of what someone else may be saying is another barrier to becoming a good listener. Never hesitate to ask for clarification or to restate what you’ve heard in your own words to make certain you heard what was intended. Done properly, this will tell the prospect you are truly listening and want to understand the points being made.
  • Be alert to coded messages. Sometimes, what you are being told is communicated less in words than in sighs, pauses, laughs, asides, gestures, tears or facial expressions. Be aware of the total range of human communication.
  • Observe body language and be mindful of your own. Leaning slightly forward implies both attention and interest as does the occasional nod. Sitting or standing with your arms across your chest gives the impression that you are not interested or are being critical. Frowning or smiling inappropriately may send the signal that you are not really listening.

Listening is the single most powerful tool in your kit of fundraising skills, if you are willing to develop the skill.

To speak with David about how he can help you learn to listen, call him at 800.361.8689


Identifying Your Best Prospects—They are Closer than you Think

Engaging Volunteer Leadership in the Major Gifts Process

David A. Mersky image

Major Gifts – Beyond the Solicitation Series – Part 4

Last November, I published a piece on Leadership Roles in the Development Function. This month, I want to focus best practices around leadership engagement—both volunteer and staff—in the major gifts process.

The key to successful volunteer leadership engagement is exquisite staff support upon which the volunteer can rely.  To provide that kind of support requires a detailed plan for every aspect of the development program—from prospect identification through stewardship—as well as a whole-hearted commitment to execute the plan with a pervasive sense of optimism and a consistent cadence of accountability.

As I wrote six months ago, the staff:

  1. provides information about the prospect for the volunteer assigned;
  2. develops proposals and all manner of written communications;
  3. creates first draft of solicitation letters;
  4. coordinates mailing;
  5. schedules solicitation rehearsals;
  6. gathers information about programs and tax advantages for each solicitation call;
  7. follows up on all solicitation calls to obtain contact reports; and
  8. organizes regular report meetings

In an organization, even one that is well-staffed, the task of engaging the volunteer leaders in the major gifts process is the responsibility of the board chair and the leadership of the development committee.  The engagement process is not unlike a solicitation.  But, you are not only asking for a gift of financial resource you are also seeking the commitments of time and talent.  And, just as you prepare for a face-to-face solicitation,, so do you lay the groundwork for a call to recruit someone to undertake a role in the development process.

Part of the preparation for the recruitment call is to know what it is you expect of the development volunteer.  Every new volunteer should be prepared to

  1. learn—and become fluent in—the mission, goals and programs of the organization;
  2. identify prospects for major gifts;
  3. gather and provide information about prospects;
  4. edit and sign solicitation letters;
  5. practice solicitation calls with team members;
  6. call to make face-to-face appointments;
  7. solicit gifts on behalf of the organization;
  8. ask for the gift in a solicitation meeting;
  9. submit contact reports of face-to-face encounters; and
  10. participate faithfully in regular report meetings.

If the staff members understand their roles and the board or development committee chair prepare and conduct effective recruitment meetings, then your organization will be blessed by an outstanding team who do what they say they are going to do in securing the philanthropic resources essential to fulfilling your organization’s mission, vision and values.  With preparation, diligence, and accountability, anything is within your reach.

NEXT MONTH: Listening – The Lost Art

Why People Give to Nonprofits – and Why They Don’t

Major Gifts – Beyond the Solicitation Series – Part 3

David A. Mersky imageOften, when I conduct a workshop or a solicitor development program — particularly with volunteer leaders — I facilitate a brainstorming session.  I ask all the participants to give me every reason they can think of why people give to nonprofits.

With my back to the participants, so that I can write on a white board or a pad of newsprint on an easel, people “shout out” different reasons. Over the years, the reasons have remained essentially the same.  People say that they give because:

  • they believe in the cause
  • they trust the leadership of the agency
  • of peer pressure
  • tax deduction
  • they were asked
  • of who asked them
  • of the private benefits of giving
  • of the networking opportunity with other donors
  • of recognition
  • it feels good
  • to repay someplace or someone
  • it is good for business
  • it is God’s will
  • it feels right
  • it is a family tradition

When I turn around to face the group, I ask them which they think is the single most important reason.  Someone always suggests the “tax deductibility of the gift;” another proposes that it is all about “recognition.”  Still another will offer that “it is good for business.”  Finally someone will shout out, “because they were asked.”

And, of course, that is the answer.  Virtually no one gives until, and unless, asked.  All of the other reasons that people have shared, and that are enumerated above, play a role—depending upon the individual.  Some more than others.  But, the key is that they were asked.  After the fact that they were asked, it is important that they believe in the cause and that they are asked by the right person—preferably, someone to whom they cannot say, “No.”

Those of you who are actually in the business of engaging with donors might consider asking your supporters why they give to your organization.  You could do it in a face to face conversation as part of the stewardship process.  You might also do a survey as an involvement device to ask donors why they give to your organization.

And then you can take what you learn and make sure that the motivators which your donors have identified are included in your subsequent communications with them.

Oh, and if you have not already figured it out, why don’t people give?

They were not asked!

NEXT MONTH: Engaging Leadership—Volunteer and Staff

LAST MONTH: Creating the Plan—Be Disciplined to Succeed

Creating the Major Gifts Plan—Be Disciplined to Succeed

Major Gifts – Beyond the Solicitation Series – Part 2

David Mersky sqThe annual fund is the foundation of every great development program.  It provides an opportunity to identify, interest, involve, engage and acknowledge generous donors.  A thoughtful approach to creating the major gifts plan, of communication and contact, solicitation and stewardship, deepens relationships and creates life-long donors.

But, we now live in the midst of unprecedented global economic and political uncertainty that has an impact on personal philanthropy. Many donors have anxiety about the future.  That anxiety manifests itself in an inability or unwillingness to undertake charitable commitments to new—at least for the donor—ventures and, in many cases, to eliminate gifts to organizations which have been supported for many years so as to concentrate giving to a few through “high impact philanthropy.”

With proper planning, however, you can retain and, possibly, upgrade your donors. In fact, when you follow systematic procedures, the annual fund program is virtually failsafe. Securing donors is obviously the first step. But then you must acknowledge promptly and effectively, show appreciation regularly and sincerely, and give priority to winning, and re-winning, the donor’s heart and mind to the cause.

The key to your success is to be found in your donor database.

Getting Started: A Step-by-Step Plan

  • Segment your existing donor database and select your best major gift prospects
  • Create a “file” for each
  • Collect easy-to-access research
  • Identify and consult with natural partners—volunteers who can help in the development of the relationship with each prospect
  • Develop strategy and gift objectives for each prospect
  • Plan five to ten moves for each prospect—a series of steps (moves), e.g., emails, letters, newsletters, phone calls, events, one-on-one encounters, for each identified prospect which will “move” prospects to their next (first) gift
  • As a result of what you have learned through each move and follow up call, you will create a plan for a “Campaign of One” with each prospect.
  • Modify the plan—it is not static, but dynamic—as circumstances and new information warrant.

Moves management is about time management.  You increase your chance for success by allocating your time and all the resources at your disposal proportionately among the four types of 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 can give 90%

NEXT MONTH: Why People Give and Why They Don’t

LAST MONTH: Assuring Major Gifts Success