Identify and nurture individuals with potential to be major contributors.
A gift of $1,000 or more is usually defined as major. Your dollar amount may differ based on what your donors are currently giving. Here is a basic blueprint for an ongoing program to keep turning modest givers into major givers.
1. Put together a Major Gifts committee.
Developing a major gifts program is all about building personal relationships. You can't do it alone. Your committee should include board members and existing supporters who are well connected in the community and interested in helping you reach out for significant donations.
All committee members don't have to be comfortable asking for money, but some certainly should be. They should also be major donors themselves. Because you'll be sharing sensitive information with this group, it's important to have them sign a confidentiality agreement.
Denver Dumb Friends League put together a fundraising packet (.doc) for its board members that presents expectations for fundraising and provides resources for doing it successfully.
2. Rank your donors.
Your current donors are your best source for future major gifts, so, to get started:
With this more select list of prospects, ask your committee members to:
Add information from your donor records about what has prompted each of these donors to give in the past. All of this will give you a portrait of your prospect that will enable you to design the ideal solicitation.
The best prospects have both high capacity and inclination to give. But a donor with high inclination who is capable of a $5,000 gift is usually much more valuable than the community billionaire who could give $1 million the next day if they wanted but hates animals or who is otherwise not inclined to give.
3. Develop an action plan.
There are many strategies for cultivating major gift prospects including:
All are designed to bring the prospect closer to the organization through some degree of one-on-one contact.
4. Put your plan in writing and review it regularly.
Each committee member should have a copy of the Major Gifts Plan. This includes:
Members should record information about every contact, such as date/time and the prospect's response. You can use forms like these to manage information about contacts with major-gifts prospects:
Regular meetings to review the status of the plan will keep committee members on track, and give opportunities to celebrate victories, share strategies, and make adjustments.
5. Say thank you.
Of course, for each major gift received, you'll send a formal thank you letter, signed by the board president or executive director, and including a receipt or a statement that no goods or services were received by the donor. A phone call from the board president or executive director, telling the donor how the gift will help the animals, will mean even more.
Find more tips for effective thank-yous.
6. Honor your major donors.
Beyond these basic acknowledgements, most organizations host at least one leadership event every year.
Most major donors don't want you to spend money on them; however, they do like to let others know about their support. Giving a simple but well-designed leadership pin will allow them to display their support and open the door to conversations about why they want to be identified publicly with your work.
7. Be good stewards of your donor relationships.
Stewardship is absolutely the key to donor retention. It is extremely common for organizations to focus on the gift as an end game and not realize the important of ongoing appreciation. Thanking a donor should never end with a thank you letter:
Photo courtesy Pune Dracker