Written by Sarah Tedesco, Senior Vice President of DonorSearch
Who doesn’t love it when their birthday present comes wrapped in a giant, glossy box topped with a bow? Bigger doesn’t always mean better, but it does in the case of charitable donations. Your fundraiser wants every big gift it can get, because your mission matters.
More major gifts won’t come to you just because you want them. The key to major gift fundraising success is saddling up and riding out to discover new major gift prospects.
There are four main strategies for identifying new major gift prospects:
1. Screen Your Most Loyal Donors
Your journey for new major donors begins at home. Take the time to assess the donors you already have in order to identify if any of them might be the major gift prospects you seek.
If donors have given repeatedly to your nonprofit then they obviously care about your work. These faithful donors may give small amounts to your cause, but large gifts to other nonprofits. You want to identify these loyal donors and discover if they have the financial capacity to give an additional major gift to your organization.
Loyal donors also matter because, while they may be unable to donate significantly at present, they have the potential to acquire more wealth or financial flexibility and be capable in the future.
A survey revealed that charitable bequests were 2.74 times higher than lifetime donations, and 78% of planned giving donors gave 15 or more gifts to the nonprofits named in their wills. Just like fireworks displays have grand finales, loyal donors may be saving their largest gifts until the end. This makes any loyal donor, even one who gives gifts under $5k, someone worth paying attention to.
2. Find Donors Who Support Related Nonprofits
Beyond the walls of your nonprofit lie other nonprofits with their own donors. Prospect research can help you find annual reports, on which you can discover introduction level information on major donors, such as names and their level of giving. From there, you can conduct prospect research on the names to wane the lists down to the major gift prospects that might donate to you. Know the indicators of the best donors to save time for other fundraising efforts.
Seek annual reports from nonprofits with similar missions to your own, as many prospects focus their gifts on specific causes, such as education or fighting hunger.
3. Leverage Your Donors’ Relationships with Foundations or Corporate Boards
Many of your donors are actively involved in the community through philanthropy or business ties. Some of these people volunteer and serve on the boards of various foundations and corporations. You want to meet these people, because they have both the capacity to give and an affinity for nonprofits.
Being a board member for a major corporation is a signifier of wealth. Donors who serve on boards but give small gifts to your nonprofit are targets for becoming major gifts prospects.
Board members of foundations may not necessarily have lots of money, but many of them do, and can be viewed similarly to corporate board members. Less wealthy foundation board members can still be major gift prospects, but for more philanthropic reasons. These people are highly invested in a nonprofit, and understand the importance of charitable giving. They are likely to give, and even if not in a major capacity at first, donors always have the potential to acquire more wealth and to become major donors in the future.
Board members of both types are likely to have connections to other potential major gift donors. This is the concept of important people know other important people, and the board members you know can introduce you to new prospects.
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4. Take Advantage of Donor Interaction Opportunities
Some organizations have one time events, such as museums that host opening nights. Other organizations are always coming into contact with new prospects, such as schools who receive new students with new potentially generous parents each semester. Both one-time and ongoing interaction opportunities are great chances to fortify relationships with loyal donors and to meet new prospects.
Plan ahead and know who will be in attendance at your event or who has been newly admitted to your hospital. Prospect research allows your representatives to prepare for specific prospects with tailored pitches.
Organizations who meet prospects through sporadic, one-time events should conduct regular prospect research to keep their databases updated and to identify new prospects to invite to the next event. Nonprofits with ongoing donation processes should always be screening, whether daily or weekly, in order to learn as much as possible about their influxes of new potential donors. It’s one thing to see the fish in the pond, and quite another get them to bite the bait.
Major gift prospects don’t hide under rocks, but you’ve got to be looking in order to find them. Employ a multifaceted search, know how to use prospect data, and find those major donors to provide a boost to your fundraising campaign.
Sarah Tedesco is the Senior Vice President at DonorSearch, a prospect research and wealth screening company that focuses on proven philanthropy. Sarah is responsible for managing the production and customer support department concerning client contract fulfillment, increasing retention rate and customer satisfaction. She collaborates with other team members on a variety of issues including sales, marketing and product development ideas.
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