Help! I Need to Attract Major Donors
Can you help us out with our donor messaging (story-telling and/or branding strategy)? We are well along our way to our crowdfunding campaign preparations. Although at this point, we are not 100% confident enough to launch with our current messaging strategy (which we think might need more of a storytelling component).
Confidence is built, not bought.
Depending on the size of your budget, there are thousands of companies, consultants, conferences, webinars, and guides available to help you develop, refine, and test your messaging strategy. Storytelling is important and very hot right now.
As a Personal Fundraising Coach (and your friend), I’m invested in your success vs adding your nonprofit’s name to my ever-growing client list. So I’ll give you this one for free.
Test Before You Spend. Share your message (Case for Support, Vision Statement, etc) with your Board and create a 3-question survey in your fundraising software to quickly gather feedback (no fundraising software? schedule a demo). Keep it simple; remember, you’re just trying to determine if the message is ready for prime-time so have them rate the message on a scale of 1-10.
Score 7 or higher? Great! Now, test your message with a larger, more diverse group – make sure you have representation from all donor prospect groups.
Score 6 or below? Work to understand the feedback you received. Revise to incorporate and don’t hesitate to ask for help and further clarification. Share the results with your Board as it can often help build the case for budget re-allocation/future funding.
Too many nonprofit pros waste a lot of time and energy over messaging. Don’t get me wrong – it’s important. I’m just saying you should simply take it on a test drive before deciding you need a chauffeur (and then spending too much time looking for a chauffeur). In my experience, outsourcing this essential component of fundraising might not help you feel like a confident pro.
How do I attract major donors without traditional fundraising tools such as annual giving society, donor appreciation events, planned giving program, board and CEO support, and asking only for Area of Greatest Need? I spend considerable time on the phone/email inviting donors to coffee with limited success.
Remember the person who gave up? Neither does anyone else.
Here’s a 5 point plan to get you started today,
1. Throw the list of traditional tools away
“Traditional fundraising tools” shouldn’t be a barrier to your success. They’re there to help you, but if that’s not happening, throw the whole list away.
2. Immediately stop all coffee meetings*
I’m sure you’ve been to more than enough by now. Meeting with a prospective major donor alongside the roar of coffee grinders and intermittent first name shouting isn’t fun for anyone. Meet with prospects on your turf or theirs. Here are two ideas:
Your prospect’s office or home
Benefits: It demonstrates respect for their time, the prospect is at ease, and you can learn more about them than any Google search could provide.
Your nonprofit’s headquarters or a location where your mission is delivered
Benefits: the prospect gains a better understanding of how you deliver on your mission, they can meet program directors and individuals served by your organization, and the prospect can see how other major gift donors are recognized (naming opportunities, etc.)
*Location exceptions granted for coffee/caffeine-focused nonprofits
3. Choose your words carefully
Start by replacing “attract” with “engage” and “donors” with “prospects”. First-time donors may be attracted to your mission, but major gift donors are engaged and cultivated over time. It’s more than semantics – you may need to shift your attitude about how you communicate with these prospects.
4. Reset your expectations
Let’s say you meet tomorrow with an existing $5K+ donor to your organization. Here’s the BEST case scenario: This could result in a major gift around July 2022. And this is operating under the assumption that you make a strong first impression, really listen to the donor, engage on a consistent regular basis (that’s 2 times a month via email, 6-8 in-person meetings, and present a funding opportunity that resonates with their philanthropic interests). Basically, bringing a major donor on board takes time.
5. Understand your audience
How well do you know your existing major gift donors? Try to meet with one in-person or video conference each week. Too many to count? Create a survey in your donor management system to get to know them.
No donors yet? Launch a recurring giving program and invest in each donor like the future of your org depends on it (because it does).
Somewhere in the middle? Invest in a wealth screening tool. Don’t let all the data being collected by companies go to waste. This intel will help you focus your efforts.
Ask a Fundraising Coach is Network for Good’s weekly advice column, where Personal Fundraising Coach Andrea Holthouser tackles your toughest challenges in the world of fundraising, nonprofit management, donor relations, and more.