Major Donors Major Gifts Major Gifts Program

Major donors are in your midst

How can smaller nonprofitsengage potential major donors?

My mantra is, “pick up the phone.”

Who do you call?

Anyone making an annual fund gift of $1,000 or more.  Don’t have anyone like that?  Then drop down to $500 or even $250.

The nonprofit community has a love affair going with paper. But to engage major donors, you’ve got to get to know them. And they need to know you. So, when I say, “pick up the phone,” it’s not to ask for anything – quite the contrary. It’s to set-up an in-person visit at the donor’s home or office. If your donors are spread across the country, focus on one geographic area at a time and set-up multiple visits.

The corollary mantra to “pick up the phone” is “get on the plane.”

To engage potential major donors, you need to deeply understand their interest in your organization. What prompted the first gift? What does he/she likes best about your programs and services. How does your organization tie into the donor’s life -family, work leisure and school? What other organizations does he/she support? What’s the draw?

Similarly, the donor wants to know more about you. If you’re on the board, why? As staff, what do you see on a day-to-day basis that keeps you motivated? How well your organization’s programs and services resonate with his/her interests. What impact is he/she having?

Board, staff and donors alike want to help build your wonderful organization. An in-person visit is a great time to consider whom else the prospective major donor knows who might be interested in your organization’s work. Do be clear about how the donor can assist as a “connector” and ask how to best involve him/her, e.g., “Are you willing to make an e-intro?” to “Can I use your name?”

Where’s the money, you might be wondering? Nowhere until a relationship is established. And rightly so.

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