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.

Major Donor Fundraising: Thank Your Donors Promptly and Emotionally


The 2016 fundraising season has come to an end. Your donors just gave generously at year-end and now are waiting to hear from you.

Specifically, they are wondering if their gifts made a difference.  And if your organization really appreciated them.

So if you want to raise more money in the next few months you need to do a great job thanking the donors who just gave a year-end gift.

Here are my simple rules for thanking Major donors; Thank them promptly, Thank them often, and Thank them emotionally. In our experience, doing this very clearly leads to more giving.

Not only will you see an increase in giving revenue, you will see an increase in donor retention because your donors will give you more gifts and will stick around for longer.

You may need a little nudge to think of ways to thank you donors. Here are few ideas.

  • Write a personalized thank you note. Send it separately from the standard receipt letter.
  • Make a quick thank you video. This video can be from you directly or even better, have one of your beneficiaries say thank you to the donor. This doesn’t need to be fancy. A 20 second video from your phone will do the trick.
  • Call first-time donors to your organization or donors who give their first gift of 2017.
  • Send your donor a Valentines Day card. Tell them how much they are loved and appreciated.

Use these and other methods you know to thank your donors. They deserve it!

Major Donor Fundraising: Kick-Start Your 2017 Major Donor Fundraising

Major Donor Fundraising

January is the perfect time to kick-start your 2017 major donor fundraising efforts.

And the very best way to start is to evaluate last year’s major donor fundraising effort. Review your portfolio and results to figure out what worked and what didn’t.  Then set clear goals for 2017.

For now, let’s focus on making your meetings with donors in 2017 go as well as possible.  Following these 9 basic major donor-meeting tips. They come from an article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy written by Eden Stiffman.

  • Get to know the donor
  • Meet on the donor’s turf
  • Listen intently and avoid talking too much
  • Respect the donor’s time
  • Meetings aren’t for everyone
  • Set reasonable expectations
  • Ask for a donation when it feels right
  • Express your gratitude
  • Involve the whole team

These are great tips and hopefully give you the framework for major donor fundraising success this year and beyond!