“Some men see things as they are and say why? I dream of things that never were, and say, ‘Why not?'” Robert F. Kennedy
There is hardly anyone in the nonprofit sector who doesn’t dream of the “big one” — a huge check from a major donor that just shows up in the organization’s mailbox one day. But major gifts don’t typically just show up that way.
While a big check could certainly arrive in your mailbox tomorrow, it would most likely happen because you cultivated a donor over the last year or so. With this in mind, let’s look at some ways to develop and support major donors, especially at this holiday season when significant amounts of money could arrive at your organization’s door at any given time.
- Research the background of the major donor prior to making the ask. For a simple search you might trywww.google.com. For a more sophisticated search, try:www.anywho.com (great for reverse phone numbers and search) or www.lambresearch.com (a bunch of prospect info) or www.hoovers.com (look up company information).
- Distribute the prospect list to your board members/volunteers to see if they know any of the potential major donors.
- Go to lunch with someone who knows the prospectand have him/her set up the appointment and make the introductions.
- Have a variety of projects to ask the donor to support rather than just asking for money for the overall agency.
- Closing the gift is the start of the relationship. The goal is not to get the first gift, but to continue the relationship. Develop a strategy to “wine and dine” this person throughout the year.
- Recognition is a critical piece of the strategy. Make sure the thank-you is prompt (within 48 hours) and often (let the donor hear from you at least every two months).
- Establish contact throughout the year rather than just when you need the money. It is critical that the donor hears from you not just when you want money, but when you want to update them on your programs or thank them for a donation.
- Make it dramatic. Introduce the donor to someone who has really been impacted by your organization. Make it an emotional experience where the donor can sense the passion of your work.
- Listen, Listen and Listen some more. Make sure you listen to the donor so you know what they’re interested in supporting and what recognition (if any) they want from their support. Tailor the “pitch” and thank-you to their needs.
- The more difficult it is, the more luck you will have.Raising dollars from wealthy people takes time, perseverance, and a bit of luck. If you stay the course and don’t expect results the first and every time you are at bat, you will succeed.