Click here for Part 1 of this series, Effectively Managing a Major Donor team.

The Three Keys to Successful Major Donor Development

For a major donor fundraising team, the basic leading indicators that ultimately produce the desired outcome:  talking to the right people, saying the right thing and doing it in sufficient quantity.  Let’s explore these a bit.


Talking to the Right People

There are three things I like to measure to determine my strategy for a major donor moves management plan.  The first element is capacity.  Does this person have the capacity to give a gift that qualifies as a major gift?  Do they have sufficient wealth to make a generous, impactful gift?

The next item I measure is the relationship with the prospect or giver.  Does the major gift officer have a relationship with this person that is close enough to get an appointment?  Will the prospect/giver know them by name?  Does the major gift officer have their cell phone number and/or their private email address?  Will the prospect/giver pick up the phone when they call?  Has the major gift officer been in their home?  These are all questions to measure the strength of the relationship.

Then finally, the critical issue is the affinity the prospect has for the mission/cause you represent.  Does their heart beat for the work you do?  Are they supporting other organizations that do this kind of work?  What indications do you have that they would give if they had the right information about your work?

Have your major gift officers rate each of their prospects/givers in capacity, relationship, and affinity, and use the results to prioritize their work.  The capacity is empirical.  They have what they have.  Although, the last two items – relationship and affinity – are subjective, they are the only two which your major gift officer can impact with the right kind of activity at the right time.


Saying the Right Thing

This is a quality issue.  Talking with a prospect/giver about things which do not interest them gets you nowhere.  It’s a waste of time.  So many organizations treat major donors and prospects disrespectfully by throwing everything at them.  Major donors are put into the regular communications stream.  The important things get lost in the deluge of information that comes their way.

Every communication that goes to a major donor or prospective major donor should be personal, focused and timely.  Do not take anything to a meeting unless it is something you have promised or is strategic to the fulfillment of your moves management plan.  What is this item going to help you achieve?  If you treat a major donor like a general donor you may drive them to become one.

Saying the right thing involves knowing the donor, their values, their interest, their heart for your work, their families, their philanthropic goals, etc.  This takes time and investment in them and their lives.

Far too often major donor representatives see a prospect or current giver solely as a source of money and rush to the ask.  The outcome of this are smaller gifts and fewer of them.  The objective is to bind the major giver to your mission and your value proposition so deeply that they give you transformational gifts which are sustainable over a long period of time.  Saying the right thing–strategically focused to bring them into a deeper relationship with the mission and impact of the organization–is what will accomplish this.  Again, this takes time.


The Right Quantity of Activity

This is where the investment of time and resources comes in.  The organization that isn’t willing to invest in relationship will constantly be churning through givers.  By the way, the measurement of second and subsequent gifts from givers is a really good indicator of effectively doing the things I’ve described.

A moves management plan will outline 4 to 6 personal one on one meetings per year.  This can be in their home, at their business, on the golf course, at dinner or nearly any location or activity but it has to be in person and focused on them.

Each meeting should have two to three written objectives before the meeting and should result in 3 to 5 touches following the meeting.  Early in the relationship an objective can be to learn more about their business, learn about their family, understand their philanthropic values and systems/timeframes and what other organizations they currently support.  As the relationship develops the objectives become more personalized and focused on moving them towards an investment in your cause.

The touches can be delivering the requested information that helps the giver understand the impact, the organization, the project or whatever is needed.  It can be introducing them to someone else in your organization, introducing them to other givers, providing data about outcomes or anything the giver needs to move them in the relationship.

There are myriad other touches that are appropriate.  These are not meant to be a comprehensive list.


Recognizing Your Team 

In managing a major donor team, these are the items I use to ensure we get the results that are desired.  When a team member develops a quality moves management plan, they implement that plan, and the outcome isn’t what has been expected, then I dive into the quality of the information/activity.  Let’s make sure the right people are being targeted.  Let’s examine the depth of relationship.  Look at the match of information to the values of the giver.  As we address these things, the results will improve.

Finally, recognize and reward your team for doing the right things and getting the right results.  In my experience major donor representatives value recognition.  These people generally are not in this work for the money.  Most of them could be making more money in other things and be very successful.  But, they do need to be recognized for their effort and success.  And, rewarding the right planning and activity will produce the outcomes necessary for the organization.

About Bruce Scott

Bruce Scott | SVP Sales and Marketing

Bruce is a trusted adviser to dozens of non-profit organizations. Before joining the company, Bruce was the Executive Director US Development for Bible League International, where he engineered a turnaround in revenue and sustained four years of consistent growth in revenue, new donors and ROI. Bruce instituted a moves management system for the major/mega donor team, achieved the organization's first seven-figure gift in five years, and grew the average gift among major donors by 38%. Before moving into Development, Bruce had a successful sales and marketing career. He has been published in professional journals and has been a popular speaker and conference leader in the area of marketing and development.

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