Thursday Thoughts

Major Gifts ... a low cost way to identify probable donors
Part 1

If your world is like mine, you’ve noticed that the economy has been a bit turbulent over the last few years. Fundraising, while always an important part of any not-for-profit’s budget, has become perhaps THE critical element between simply surviving and thriving.
There are different ways to try to close the fundraising gap – hosting special events (time and cost intensive), sending a direct mail (increasingly expensive and historically low returns) or writing proposals to foundations and/or corporations (whose budgets are also strained.)
“Let’s solicit major gifts,” exclaims the executive director to chief development officer!  Great idea … it sure sounds simple enough.  But what is a “major gift”?
The answer to that question differs from organization to organization. In smaller organizations it may be $500.  For larger organizations it could be $10,000. Defining what the target ask will be is a good place to start.  But there are other critical components to consider as well
One needs to understand that the “ask” is actually the last step in the process.  There’s much to do before then.
The first thing to do is to look at who are the organization’s current donors – and they can be an individual, foundation, corporation or organization.  Make a list of those who have already given a major gift in the past (whatever that amount is for your organization).  How recently?  For what purpose? 
Also consider looking at those donors who have given close to that amount. They may have the capacity to move up the giving ladder. Remember that the people most likely to give are the people who have already given.  Add them to your list.
Every organization seems to know those community members who have the financial ability to make a significant gift.  Add them to the list.
Next, consider who has a strong RELATIONSHIP with the organization, with the staff (usually the executive director or the development officer) and/or with members of the Board. Have they or a family member received services directly?  Are they currently or formerly on the Board? Have they been long time donors?  Are they known well by the person with the primary relationship? 
Hopefully your list is getting significantly longer.

Propensity vs CapacityTry this: Divide a sheet of paper into four quadrants. One axis is CAPACITY to make a gift.  The other axis is the PROPENSITY to make a gift … which is to say, how close are they to the organization ... what is their willingness to make a gift to your organization. The axes are labeled LOW to HIGH.
Place the names of the people on your list in one of the four quadrants. It’s a judgment call, but do your best.  Do they have high capacity but low propensity? High propensity but low capacity? 
Those most likely to be able to help your organization in a significant way will appear in the High Capacity, High Propensity quadrant.  These are you best major gift targets.
So what’s next?  As Santa would say, “make your list and check it twice” because next week we’ll examine the key to soliciting a major gift, the RELATIONSHIP and the necessary preparation before one sets up the meeting to make the ask.


Contact Larry at 330-696-6709 or


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