3 Key Major Gifts Fundraising Strategies for 2016

Hurray, the economy is starting to come back.

And donors are giving again. Big gifts. Major gifts. Transformational gifts, even.

It’s more possible than ever for you to bring in serious money.

Major gifts fundraising strategies are changing!

Ahhh . . . major gifts . . . the pot of gold!

I’m seeing some important new trends in how organizations are engaging with major donors.

These “friendlier” ways of approaching and dealing with major donors are showing up all over the place – in both large and small organizations.

Here are three major gifts fundraising strategies that can help you forge closer relationships with the lovely people who love your cause.

1. Treating major donors and prospects like they are true partners and insiders.

You should always have a few major donors who are so close to you that they feel like good friends.

People you can call on phone and say “can I get your take on this idea?”

These are folks who are treated like partners – standing alongside you to accomplish your important mission.

Note: Donors are NOT treated like they are high on a hill, far far away.

The fear is gone: they are just regular wonderful, lovely people who care a lot.

And you are buddies with them. Hurray!

2. Holding very small leadership gatherings with major gifts donors and prospects.

I’m seeing more and more very small elite events with prospects and major donors – like a ‘leadership circle.”

This is an extremely effective strategy that is social, high level and easy to implement.

For example,  let’s look at what Saint Mary’s School in Raleigh, NC is doing. The fabulous new head of the school, Monica Gillespie, is visiting major cities around the US.

Monica Gillespie, Head of Saint Mary's School Raleigh NC

Monica Gillespie, Head of Saint Mary’s School Raleigh NC

She’s gathering with small groups of key donors in living rooms for what she call an “Inside Look” conversation.

Ms. Gillespie is inviting key donors who have already demonstrated a philanthropic commitment to the school.

And she says the purpose of the “Inside Look” conversations is to bring them:

 up to speed with the school by sharing high-level data about the institution. Our goal is to share critical information about the school and to engage in a conversation with them. 

Note: this is a very high level strategy presentation and discussion. It’s not about what Saint Mary’s DOES. Instead it is about the outlook and context for the school.

Strategy discussions are powerful. The big picture is fascinating to your donors – and to everyone.

Why is Monica holding these conversations? Well, fundraising of course. But also she says that,

Their support as alumnae or friends of the school is powerful and inspiring, and we believe that they deserve to be connected to the school in this way.  They are our “investors in our vision.”

Try your OWN leadership circle gathering of key supporters and see what comes out of it!

3. Taking major gifts donors out into the field to see the organization at work.

Organizations are helping their major donors and prospects get really close to field work.

They are establishing relationships between program staffers and donors. (!)

Program staffers are able to show donors and prospects just what is going on.

Notes: Donors get to see the real thing – stuff that they really care about.

For example:

  • A donor who is been fascinated by medicine — gets to get to know a star surgeon and observe her at work.
  • A donor who wanted to be a ballerina as a child — gets to know the prima ballerina and watch her rehearse.
  • A donor who may have encountered abuse  — gets to know the counselors on your staff and hear about their work in similar situations.
  • A donor who loves animals — gets to know the veterinarian at the animal shelter and learn how to become a volunteer himself.

Remember – your donors are interested in your work because they REALLY care about it.

They are THRILLED to get to see your organization in action. It gives juice and meaning to their life.

So don’t be afraid of your major donors! Instead, invite them to the party!

Bottom Line:

Treat your key donors like the Insiders and Investors that they really are.

Love on all your donors a lot. Tell them what you are accomplishing.

Share high level strategy with them. And connect them with the work in the field.

You’ll be successful if you do!

What are YOU doing to make YOUR major gifts donors feel like insiders? Let us know with a comment!