Who – exactly – makes or breaks your fundraising goals?

We’re going to spend this month blogging about major donor fundraising, and teaching you to get better at it quickly.

And I’ll start with an educated guess about your organization: a majority of your fundraising revenue (from individuals) comes from a small percentage of your donors.

Most of our clients have at least 80% of their fundraising revenue coming from about 20% of their donors. For a couple of organizations it’s as high as 95% of the fundraising revenue coming from 5% of their donors.

Most organizations we start working with would say they ‘pretty much know that our top donors bring in most of our revenue.’ But it’s the organizations who ‘know exactly which donors bring in most of the revenue and have a plan to help them give even more’ who raise a LOT more money.

If you don’t know your ‘major donor revenue ratio,’ stop what you are doing right now and figure it out!

Once you know your ratio, you’ll instantly have a game-changing realization: you need to focus more of your efforts on cultivating those relationships.

I am constantly amazed at how many organizations don’t know their ratio. One look at your ratio is all it’ll take to know how important it is to build relationships with your top donors, and to do all you can to retain them.

And listen – I am the first one to say that major donor fundraising is not easy work. It takes time and real effort. But in my opinion it’s the most important work you can do to sustain and increase your fundraising revenue.

Consider this: if a majority of your fundraising revenue comes from a small number of donors, then you should spend a majority of your time working to keep those donors actively giving and (if possible) giving more.

Let me hit this point home for you with a short story.

Recently I was asked by our local fundraising association to talk to a group of fundraising directors. After my talk, I was approached by one of the directors in attendance. She asked me how I expected fundraising directors like her, from small organizations, to do all that I was teaching them to do. She felt overwhelmed with all of her fundraising responsibilities, and it was common for her to feel paralyzed by her workload.

My response to her question was simple and direct.

I encouraged her to figure out which fundraising activities produced the most revenue for her organization, and spend her time maximizing those activities. I also told her it was okay not to do some of the fundraising tasks on her list, especially those tasks that produce very little revenue.

She looked so relieved to know that she didn’t need to do it all!

This story illustrates two things:

  1. You are one person, and you can’t do it all. So it’s important for you to focus on the fundraising activities that produce the most revenue.
  2. In order to focus on the fundraising activities that raise the most money, you must say no to some of the tasks on your fundraising list that don’t produce revenue.

Over my 20 years of fundraising, I have seen this kind of thinking and prioritization turn overwhelmed fundraising staff into focused, energized and driven fundraising professionals. And they start raising more money immediately!

So here are your next steps:

  • Figure out what percentage of your income is coming from your major donors
  • Identify exactly who those donors are
  • Shift your thinking to prioritize everything to you do to retain and upgrade those donors
  • Make a plan for each one of those donors for the rest of the year. After all – if you make a plan for the donors who provide 20% of your income, isn’t it more important to make customized plans for your donors who provide 80% of your income?

As this month goes on, we’ll talk more about how to make your plan for each donor, how to ask them, and how to increase their giving!

Jim Shapiro

Jim Shapiro is the fundraising coach you always wanted, the proven Sherpa who can help you get to the top of the mountain. He has 20 years experience raising money, including serving as the VP of Development for a $300m nonprofit. He then co-founded The Better Fundraising Co. to help small-to-medium nonprofits raise more money. Jim is married, serves his community by coaching high school football, and has three children.

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