3 ways to maximize major donor fundraising NOW

You know how critical major donors are to your organization.

This fact is magnified during the month of December. The amount of money you raise this month largely rests on the shoulders of a few key donors.  And it is your job to maximize your efforts this fundraising.

But if you are like everyone else in nonprofit work, you probably have very little time to add another thing to your to-do list. You are running out of time!

The good news is that this fundraising season you have one more week than usual between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

This means you have a BONUS week to raise more money from your major donors. Another side of the same coin: you have a bonus week to give your major donors the opportunity to experience the joy of giving.  Because never forget; they LOVE to give!

With this in mind, I’ve come up with 3 easy things for you to do to maximize the fundraising season and to make the most of this bonus week.

1. Don’t spend time writing Christmas cards; spend your time writing Christmas appeals.

Since your time is limited, you should focus most of your energy on what will produce revenue. Christmas cards are nice, but they won’t generate revenue. The first thing you should work on and deliver is a Christmas appeal. Ask your donors to make a generous year-end gift and then once you receive that gift you can send them a thank you note and wish them a happy holiday.

2. Call your top 10 major donors who haven’t given a gift this year right now and set a time to meet with them to ask them for a year-end gift.

Be very clear that the purpose of the meeting is to ask them for a gift. Taking the time to meet in person sends a strong message that you value them and their giving to your cause.

3. Say, “YES!” to any and every invitation you receive to attend a holiday party, open house, public event, etc.

This is a great time of year to deepen relationships with current major donors and to meet their friends. I know you are tired and feel maxed out, but the number of opportunities to meet with current and future donors in-person won’t come this way until December of 2018.

Major donors are incredibly generous people who give a significant percentage of the total donations for your organization. So it’s essential that you maximize the fundraising season and take advantage of this bonus week between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Now is the time to lead your donors to give a big year-end gift, and when possible cultivate new relationships that will fuel your major gift fundraising throughout 2018.

If this blog post sparked your thinking, then I know you’d benefit from a webinar I hosted a few weeks back. Click here to get our Major Donor Year-End Fundraising Webinar and learn an easy-to-follow system that will help you get (bigger!) gifts from your most valuable donors before the year ends. You’ll feel confident with a step-by-step plan for what to do this year, and you’ll love knowing that you’re stewarding your most important donor relationships!

I believe in you and the work you do so much that I’m going to give you my personal discount code. Type in JRS25 (that’s for James Robert Shapiro) and you’ll get an additional 25% of your purchase of this product and/or any other products you purchase from our site.

How To Get Matching Funds from a Major Donor

Matching funds are the easiest way to make everything you do (appeals, events, newsletters, you name it) raise more money.

And your easiest source of matching funds are your major donors.

We’ve had great success helping our clients get their major donors to donate matching funds. When done correctly it engages the major donor, gives the major donor a chance to multiply their impact (who doesn’t like that?) and helps you raise more money towards your development goals.

Here’s how we go about it. And of course every major donor is different, but here’s the approach that’s worked for us . . .

Review your major donors for the right donor(s)

Look for a donor who either a) hasn’t given a gift yet this year, or b) you think has the capacity to give another gift at year-end. At year-end, I think approaching majors who haven’t yet given a gift this year is your best move.

Approach the donor with a question

Use the opening question of, “Would you like the chance to multiply your giving and increase the impact of your generosity?” You want to — right away — get the donor in the frame of mind that they can increase their impact by donating matching funds.

Share the stats with them

Make it clear to the donor that they will be multiplying the impact of their own giving. Here’s why: not only do they get their gift matched by the rest of your donors, but there’s additional giving that takes place because of the match!

Look at these stats from MailChimp. I would share these stats directly with your major donor, and talk about how their donation can make results like this possible:

  • Matching funds increase average gift size by 41%
  • Matching funds increase the # of donations by 110%
  • Matching funds increase revenue by 120% (and that’s not including the matching funds themselves!)

Do you see how a match does more than double the money you raise? You get 2x the original amount because you have the match, and the funds raised to match it. But then your fundraising performs better than average too! This is an instance where 1 + 1 = 2.5. THAT’s the opportunity you have to give your donor!

Give them a deadline

If your donor is interested but doesn’t commit, give them a deadline that’s reasonably soon. You want to make them feel like opportunities to multiply their impact like this don’t come around that often (which is true). Tell them that if they say “no” you are going to contact another donor because you need the match to increase fundraising results.

And if you haven’t heard from them by the deadline, contact them to check in. Then if you need to talk to another donor, talk to the next person on your list.

Having a match really is the easiest way to increase your fundraising results. And if you want those kind of increased results for your year-end fundraising? Figure out what major you should be talking to right now and approach them right away.

If you need any other help with your major donor fundraising before December 31, click here to purchase our webinar. It’s watchable on demand, and includes a major donor tracking spreadsheet. You’ll learn to prioritize which majors you spend your time on first, how to get them ready to be asked, and then how to ask them well! You’ll raise far more money from your majors before the end of the year!

For Major Donors, November > December

“Most major donors make their giving decisions prior to December.”

That’s a powerful lesson that I learned the hard way. My background was mass donor fundraising; sending out millions of letters, and creating donor-acquition TV shows, and doing radio campaigns.

In that world, December is the most important month to focus on.

But when I started doing major donor fundraising I was taught two incredibly powerful things for major donor fundraising at this time of year:

  1. Know exactly which of your major donors have not given a gift yet during this year
  2. Ask those majors to give a gift no later than early November.

What I learned was that a large portion of major donors make their giving decisions before Thanksgiving. And there are lots of stories about major donor families meeting during Thanksgiving weekend to decide what organizations to support that year.

Not all majors are like this. But in my experience, enough of them are that soliciting your majors before Thanksgiving works better than after Thanksgiving.

For the majors that you are going to meet with and ask in person, aim for before thanksgiving. (Which means you should start setting up those meetings in October.) For the majors who you are sending a major donor proposal or mailing to, send it the first week of November.

Could you make a reminder call in December? Of course? If they haven’t given yet, should they still be included in your year-end direct mail and emails? Of course.

And remember:

For most organizations major donors provide between 80% and 90% of total revenue from individual donors.

This is important. This is worth your focus. It’s worth doing early.

tl;dr? For majors, November > December

And if you need help making a plan for your majors, check out our webinar. We created it expressly to help smaller organizations maximize their major donor revenue and relationships! It will walk you through the easy way to make a proven plan to get major gifts before the end of the year.

No Mystery, Just a Major Donor System That Works

Hopefully you’ve heard that Jim is hosting a webinar expressly designed to help you get major gifts before December 31st.

This is your last chance to sign up for the live webinar, where you’ll be able to get Jim’s advice and your questions answered.

Listen, this thing is the real deal. It’s about giving you an easy-to-follow system to get major gifts AND deepen your relationships with major donors.

Because major donor fundraising shouldn’t feel like an unsolvable mystery. I’m in all the meetings, hearing questions like ‘How do I know who to talk to first?’ and ‘What do I do if I can’t get a meeting with them?’ and ‘That donor already gave last year, what do I ask them to give to this year? And how much?’

Jim has the answers.

Well, he doesn’t have all the answers. He has a system. And that system gives you your best shot at getting gifts. And the system is built to honor your donors and deepen your relationships with them. Because we believe the same thing our friends at the Veritus Group do: it’s not just about the money!

Take a look at this graphic from the webinar. Jim is teaching you his 4-step Identify, Rank, Move, Ask system. It’s easy. And after this page you’ll know who to focus your time, efforts and money on first. And second. And third.

We built you a spreadsheet that you’ll receive with your purchase. It’s built so that you can enter your donor data, rank and track your majors. For a small shop without a sophisticated donor software system, this alone is gold and worth the price of the webinar.

But I need to be clear; you’ll still have to do some work. This isn’t some magical unicorn of a webinar that solves all your major donor problems. There is no silver bullet.

Let’s just call it a shortcut. This webinar allows you to download the accumulated wisdom of the really smart fundraisers who have gone before you. They know that successful major donor fundraising is about having a system —> that generates a plan —> that tells you who to talk to next and what to say to them —> which gives you the best chance for major donor fundraising success.

Especially at this time of year.

Because there are no guarantees. But you CAN stack the odds in your favor.

Sign up for Jim’s webinar today. It’s October 12 at 10:00 am Pacific Time. If you can’t make it, we’ll record it for you so you can watch it as soon as you want to start raising more money.

It’s $179. It’s in the territory of “the best $179 you’ve ever spent.” With the seminar and a little work (which you were already going to do, but now it will be more focused) you’ll raise thousands (or tens of thousands) more. And you’ll have a system that you can use for ALL of next year to raise even more from your donors. Go sign up!

Hidden Pitfalls: Not Following Up on a Pledge

Is your organization good at following up on pledges from donors?

In my experience, most organizations aren’t. And it’s especially apparent with major donor pledges.

The lack of follow-up usually comes from fears around ‘bothering’ or ‘badgering’ the donor. People fear they will ‘drive the donor away’ or ’cause a problem in the relationship’ — especially when the donor is a major donor or a board member.

And only one person needs to voice these fears and they spread like wildfire.

But these fears are mostly unfounded and do far more damage than you think.

When follow-up on a donor pledge is absent or insufficient, here’s what that communicates to the donor:

It says that the donor’s gift isn’t important.

Because if their gift was important – if it really mattered – the organization would be in touch with the donor early and often. It would be telling them how important that gift is. The organization would actively be trying to get the gift!

It says that the donor herself isn’t important.

Donors know that other people are giving to your organization. They imagine that you’re out having wonderful lunches with the big donors, happily giving and receiving, making the world a better place and enjoying it while you do. So when a donor isn’t followed up with, they feel like they must not be important enough to get the good treatment.

It says that your organization doesn’t have its act together.

The donor knows you have to pay bills, pay salaries, and use money to help the people who need help. When a donor makes a pledge and doesn’t hear enough about it, it feels to her like your organization must not track money very well. It makes her wonder what happened to the other donors who made pledges. And if you’re really raising as much money and helping as many people as you say you are.

The donor doesn’t feel like their gift makes a difference.

The most important one. If a donor doesn’t hear directly and often about her pledge, she wonders if her pledge was really going to make a difference. Because if it was really going to make a difference – if it was really needed – wouldn’t the organization have gotten in touch with her? Maybe her gifts don’t make that much of a difference after all . . .

Makes you want to do a good job following up with the pledges you receive, doesn’t it? Here’s a quick list for how to do that well:

  1. Always have a deadline. Deadlines are amazing at causing action to happen – both on your part and on your donor’s part!
  2. Communicate with your donor(s) early and often about their pledge. I recommend 3 times: once immediately after the pledge, once about halfway from the pledge to the deadline, and once a month before the deadline.
  3. In your communications, mention that their gift is important, that it matters, and that it will make a difference. You want your donor to know that her gift matters and that it is needed.
  4. Be sure to mention that you understand if circumstances change and they can’t give the amount they pledged or fulfill their pledge by the deadline. You want to give your donors an honorable way out.

Think of the whole thing as a ‘kind business process’ that’s honoring to your donors and honoring to your cause or beneficiaries. Don’t let fear get in the way of loving follow-ups! If you do, you’ll lose revenue and harm relationships with donors.

How To Avoid The Dreaded Summer Slump

Most organizations experience a “summer slump.” They raise less money in the summer because — let’s face it — donors are busy doing other things.

But your organization can avoid the slump, and can even turn it into a strength! There are three main steps, and here’s how . . .

Step 1: Do A Fiscal Year End Campaign

If your fiscal year ends on June 30th, do a Fiscal Year End campaign. We just recently posted how our clients have successfully done this — read that for the full details. But in a nutshell, run a campaign with a direct mail letter and a few emails asking your donors to give a gift before June 30th to “help [your organization] end your fiscal year strong.” I’ve been doing fundraising for over 20 years and I’m always surprised these campaigns work. But they always do!

Step 2: Develop A Summer Offer

Is there a reason your organization is busy during the summer or early fall? Or a reason your beneficiaries need special help during the summer? Or a reason you need funding during the summer? If so, ask your donors specifically to help with that reason.

For example, we do this for an organization that helps homeless moms and kids. Each year we run a “Back To School” campaign during the summer that asks donors to help provide school supplies, backpacks, clothes and shoes for the children in their programs. We’ve done it for 4 years and have raised more money each successive year.

Step 3: Ask Your Major Donors

You have many major donors who give annually and have flexibility for when they give their gift. Approach them, tell them about the summer slump and how helpful it would be to get their gift in the summer. I’m sure at least one will help you. And here’s a delightful little secret; I bet that donor will give you another gift at the end of the year!

That’s how to avoid your summer slump!

Your Major Donors Are Waiting to Hear From You

Many of your major donors made a significant donation at the end of 2016.  If your organization is like most, some of your major donors feel like you haven’t Thanked or Reported back to them what happened because of their generous gift.

If you find yourself in this situation, and you feel bad for not being as proactive and appreciative as you should have been, don’t worry.  It’s not too late!

Now is the time to make sure you ‘close the giving loop’ with your major donors.  If you do this, they will be far more willing to make a significant gift in 2017!

Here’s what I suggest you do:

  1. If you don’t know who your top 30 donors are, then make a list right now!
  2. Identify when their last gift was and then see if you promptly Thanked them and ever Reported back to them.
  3. For your donors who were not properly Thanked or Reported to, create a plan to do so in the next 7 days.
  4. Pick up the phone, write a thank you note, send a picture of a completed project, etc. The work you do now to close the loop with your donors will pay big dividends later this year when you need to ask them again for a significant gift.

Don’t wait to work this plan.  Your donors deserve your proactive attention and communication.

Major Donor Fundraising: The Lonely Major Donor Rep – Is That You?

Major Donor Fundraising

Major donor fundraising work can be lonely work.

Unless you work for a large charity, odds are you have to manage a major donor portfolio AND are also tasked with other fundraising or administrative tasks.

Here are a few tips to help you improve your major donor productivity while improving your work life.

  • There is no need to feel lonely. Your major donors want to meet with you, talk with you about your work and help people in need.  Think of them as your friends.  Every day you have time in your calendar for coffee or lunch meetings.  Ask your major donors to meet with you for these normal, every day activities.
  • Reach out to other fundraising and major donor reps from organizations in your area. Meet once a month to talk about the work you are doing.  This is a great way to learn from others — and to share in the ups and downs of your work.
  • Ask a co-worker to hold you accountable to productivity goals. This can be anyone from your organization that you trust.  They don’t have to have any fundraising experience.  They just need to understand what you are trying to achieve and be willing to hold you accountable to that work.
  • Join a local fundraising association. Attend their classes, webinars, and conferences.  There is a community of fundraising professionals out there that love to share ideas.  Connect with them!
  • Ask your boss for clear productivity goals. This is true for your non-fundraising tasks as well.  If you are wearing multiple hats at your organization it is important for you to know what success looks like for each “hat.”  The more you know, the more you can grow!

I hope these ideas help you find ways to connect with others and encourage you to give your best effort each day.