Fast forward to December 31st. You're thrilled because everything went exactly as planned for your year-end fundraising push. You secured a matching gift and the match wasn't just met--it was exceeded! Your board is thrilled and your staff is excited to be able to do everything they planned for 2020 (unlike prior years when they had to scale back because there wasn't enough funding to do everything). It was a total team effort, but you're enjoying your—albeit brief—moment in the sun as your organization's fundraising hero.
As you reflect on how everything fell into place, you realize this year was different. Donors wanted to engage—they were excited about giving. Some donors even contacted you about making a year-end gift and not the other way around. It was truly an "all the stars and planets aligned" type of moment.
Does this sound unbelievable?
Maybe, but it can be your reality if you're willing to start working on it today.
A successful year-end is the result of months of intentional, relational, and inspirational hard work. It's not rocket science, but it is hard work.
Intentional Hard Work
Donors don't normally drift into making gifts that stretch their capacity and commitment. Rather, they are led there...on purpose...with a defined strategy.
What's your plan for each major donor for 2019? How much funding will you need from each? How many new donors will be needed? How many existing donors will need to be retained and upgraded? What percentage will need to make stretch gifts? What are your strategies for making these things happen?
The best way to have a disappointing 2019 year-end is to not work throughout the year to set yourself up for success. Instead, start from your desired best outcome for each donor and work backward.
For instance, if you believe a donor is capable of making a stretch gift this year, what's it going to take to get them there? How many meetings, phone calls, emails, presentations, etc. will it take? What topics will resonate with them? What's their stretch number? Do they have access to assets other than cash that can make it happen?
Developing an individual vision and a strategy for each major donor is the entry fee for a successful year-end. It won't guarantee it will happen, but, if you don't do it, a successful year-end is not in your future.
Relational Hard Work
Achieving the individual vision and strategy for each major donor rises and falls on relationship. The more intimate the relationship, the more likely the vision will be achieved. The level of trust between you and your major donors is a big factor in the level of intimacy in your major donor relationships.
In his book, The Speed of Trust, Stephen M.R. Covey points out that trust is an unseen variable in producing results. He uses the following formula to make his point:
How we think things work: Speed x Execution = Results
How things really work: (Speed x Execution) x Trust = Results
In other words, high trust speeds things up and low trust slows things down.
The more your major donors trust you, the more quickly your vision and strategy for them can be achieved.
Covey identifies 13 Trust Behaviors that build trust: talk straight, demonstrate respect, create transparency, right wrongs, show loyalty, deliver results, get better, confront reality, clarify expectations, practice accountability, listen first, keep commitments, extend trust.
Spend some time going through these behaviors and identify those you can focus on this year with each donor to help build trust.
Inspirational Hard Work
According to the 2018 U.S. Trust Study on High Net Worth Philanthropy, the top two reasons major donors are inspired to give are belief in the mission of the organization (94%) and belief that their gift can make a difference (93%).
What percentage of your major donors can accurately state the mission of your organization? How often do they see it? Is it in included in things like email signatures and receipt letterhead? Is it on your business card and personal stationery? Beyond simply being able to quote your mission statement, what percentage of your major donors understand your mission and can describe it to a friend or acquaintance?
The story of a transformed life (or lives) is the best way to show major donors how their gifts are making a difference. Ideally, this is done through a video profile of someone your organization has served ("I was here . . . then I came into contact with X organization . . . now my life is completely different . . ."). However, you can also share these types of transformations through written articles, long-form email, and verbally while in-person with your donors.
In addition to stories of transformation, you can also show major donors the impact of their gifts through new programs that have been launched, new or updated program results, testimonies of impact (in cases where life transformation isn't complete yet), and overall program performance. The more impact you can show, the better.
A successful 2019 year-end is waiting to be created. Be intentional by developing a vision and strategy for each major donor. Be relational by working hard to build trust and speed up the time it takes to achieve the vision and strategy. Be inspirational by openly promoting your organization's mission and the impact of your major donors' gifts.