Finding and Engaging Major Donors During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Expert Amy Eisenstein, AFCRE, shares tips and strategies to ask for major gifts in a virtual world.
Categories: Expert Webcast
Finding and Engaging Major Donors During the COVID-19 Pandemic TranscriptPrint Transcript
Excellent, I just I’m gonna turn on my camera for one second and say hello to everybody. If, well, maybe, maybe, maybe I am, maybe I’m not alright, I don’t know if the camera was working. But we’re gonna go ahead and get started on how Read More
Excellent, I just I’m gonna turn on my camera for one second and say hello to everybody. If, well, maybe, maybe, maybe I am, maybe I’m not alright, I don’t know if the camera was working. But we’re gonna go ahead and get started on how to engage donors and ask for major gifts in a virtual or a COVID. World. I’m laughing because right before we got on, we were having some tech challenges. But that means they’re all out of the way now, and we’re going to have an awesome presentation. So to get started, I want you just to think about for a minute, what is stopping you from raising major gift, what really think about what’s preventing you and if you want to pop your thoughts into the questions box, and just share some things that that is preventing you from raising major gifts, whether it was prior to COVID, or if it’s COVID. Related, go ahead and really think about what is getting in the way. And of course, some of the most common things are time resources, lack of lack of prospective donors, lack of know how, and so we’re gonna start thinking about that. But I want to know if it’s changed because of COVID. Or what’s really getting in the way of raising major gifts. And for you to think about it. I mean, I’m getting lots of responses. So lack of courage, I appreciate that, thank you for sharing that lack of knowledge, lack of skills, lack of prospects, so we’re going to try and try and combat some of those things. But I think being aware of the fact that you’re not raising major gifts, and what the risks and the benefits are, will really help motivate you, I hope to get started with raising them. So the good news is that I’ve worked with hundreds of organizations, possibly even through speaking 1000s of development directors and executive directors during this past year for COVID. And guess what, they have been amazingly successful at raising major gifts over the internet over zoom on phone. And so I want to make sure that that is the case for you as well. All right, so we’re gonna get started with a fundraising myth. And that is that everybody gives the same amount. So your board members may believe that if you need to raise $100,000, that all you need to do is find 100 people to give $1,000 each. Now, of course, that math works, right. If you do find 100 people to give $1,000 each, then you’ve raised $100,000. But that is actually not the way fundraising works. And it’s really hard to find 100 people to give $1,000 each. So we’re going to talk about how major gift fundraising works, and what you need to be doing to find those donors and to raise those major gifts. So the way that major gift fundraising works with like a lot of things in life, is along the lines of the Pareto principle, you may know it as the 8020 rule. And that means that 20% of your donors likely give 80% of the dollars that you raise, and in major gifts, and then capital campaigns, it’s actually even more extreme than that. It’s often 9010. So 10% of your donors might give up to 90% of the dollars raised. So while we’re talking about fundraising and raising major gifts, specifically, we want you to focus on the people that have the ability and the capacity to bring in the most results. That’s what we’re going to talk about right now. So if you’ve ever been in a capital campaign, or any kind of major gifts campaign, it is very likely that you’ve seen this kind of gift table before. And it’s a really basic gift table for $100,000. It’s the same kind of example I use just a minute ago. So if you want to raise $100,000, instead of looking for 100 people to give you $1,000 Each, I would argue that you just you are going to need only about 50 people half as many to give you some of the key gifts. So the first gift you’re looking for in $100,000 campaign or a million dollar campaign, it doesn’t matter or a $10 million campaign is approximately 10 20% of the goal that you want to raise. And so the first gift you need is a $20,000 gift. And you can see that the first 12 donors to this effort, get you 70% of the way to your goal. And that’s how major gift fundraising works. And so we’re looking for those key donors who have the ability to really make significant gifts and transform your organization and have a really outsized impact. That’s what we’re talking about here. So I’m curious how big a major gift is at your organization? Right now, what do you consider a major gift? So again, in the q&a box, just put A, B, C, or D, if you consider a major gift under 1000, B, if it’s 1000, to 5000, see if it’s 5000 to 10,000, or D, if it’s over $10,000. What what do you consider? And if you don’t know, that’s okay. And I love somebody said, I’m new, but I think it’s D, great, lots of lots of everything, we have a pretty broad spectrum. I will say that
the reason that I asked this question is, first of all, it’s important to know what you consider a major gift at your organization if we’re going to be talking about raising major gifts. And there are a couple of reasons that it’s important to know first of all, it is different at every organization, a major gift for a small social service agency might be $1,000, or $5,000. But at a big university, they’re not going to start thinking about major gifts until 100,000, or maybe even a million enough. So it really depends on who’s in your database, who’s on your board, the experience of your staff. But the reason it’s important to know what a major gift is, is it will help determine a few things. One is donor recognition, right? As much as it would be great to recognize all the donors in the same way. We just don’t have the time or resources to do it. So you may treat your $50 donors differently, and you’ll acknowledge them in a different way, then you’re going to treat your $5,000 donors, you also need to decide how to use your time everybody put, you know what’s preventing you from raising major gifts time? Well, so we don’t want to use your time out having a one on one conversation with somebody, if you’re going to ask them for $100. That doesn’t make sense. It’s not a good use of your time. So knowing what a good use of your time is, and a major gift that your organization is, is important and appropriate. Also, I want to make sure that everybody on the call recognizes that I don’t have a million dollars on this list, right? Well, sure, a million dollars would be a major gift for all of us probably at every organization. Those are certainly not the gifts that you’re going after at the beginning. That’s not how you’re starting your campaign, or your major gift effort. So we’re not going to worry about those million dollar gifts for now, if you get one wonderful. The process actually that I’m about to describe is exactly the same. But a major gift of 10,000 or $25,000. For for the majority of you on the call would be a terrific gift. Okay, so we’re going to quickly go through the four stages of this, this fundraising cycle, we’re going to start with step one, which is donor identification, who are you going to raise money from step two is cultivation, that’s relationship building. Step three is solicitation. That’s the actual ask. And step four is stewardship and follow up. And these steps can actually be applied to any type of fundraising, including grant writing direct mail events. But of course, we’re going to apply it for our conversation here today, two major gifts to raising major gifts. So we’re going to start with donor identification. That’s step one. And in order to really target and solicit and work with the best prospective donors for your organization, you want to identify those that are the best for your organization. And you’re going to start with those that are closest to your organization, board and staff members, possibly clients. So sometimes it is appropriate for clients to be major donors, other organizations, that’s not an option. But you’re going to look at current donors, your largest and most loyal donors, your don’t your volunteers and your other donors. And as you move outside the circle, you get farther and farther away from the center of your organization. But the reason that I show you this is because frequently When people are getting started raising major gifts, they somehow think that major donors are somehow out there, and you just have to go out and find them. And that really isn’t the case. Experience. And data tells me that major donors are actually right there in your community, and already supporting your organization. And that’s actually where DonorPerfect comes in. Because you should be tracking your existing donors, your loyal donors, your biggest donors. And those are the first people that you should be going to for even bigger and bigger gifts. And so we want to start in the middle. Now, I love this little handy acronym for donor identification, it reminds us who the best prospective donors for your organization are. A is for access. Who do you have access to, to me, this means that you have their email address, their home address, maybe their phone number, and if you call or, or email that people, they will respond to you. So if you’re thinking that a major prospective donor is Oprah Winfrey, you can use this acronym to remind yourself that if you call her or email her, she’s not going to call you back. And so you don’t have access to her. B is for belief, does the person believe in your mission? Or your cause? Or could they and C is for capacity? Do they have the ability to make the kind of gift that you’re looking for? And so, and for most of you, those are 510 $20,000 gifts, they’re not it’s not a million dollars.
All right. So
in in order to. In order to identify the best prospective donors for your organization, I want you to go and look at your existing donors and supporters. And you are going to print out lists from your donor database of people who have been loyal donors who have given multiple times over the past few years, your biggest donors. And so we’re really talking about focusing on the best prospective donors for your organization. You can see along the bottom here, we are going to rate these people by affinity, how closely connected are they to your organization. So A and B here stands for access and belief, like I showed on the last slide, this is our ABC acronym. So people who are closest to our organization who volunteer who love our organization, and then also people with the biggest capacity, we’re going to start fundraising from those people. Okay, somebody in the comments said something about having a volume issue. I’m going to assume since we haven’t heard from anybody else, that there’s no real volume issue here. Okay, step two. So So basically, step one was identifying the best prospective donors for your organization to raise major gifts from and they are people already affiliated with your organization, for the most part, they’re people at the center of your universe. So they’re your existing donors, your board members, perhaps your clients, people in your community, people who care about your issue. That’s who we’re going to be looking at. If you don’t have donors, or you’re just getting started, it’s exactly the same thing. You need to go to people that you know, that are in your networks, people that are connected to your board members who have the capacity and are interested in the issue and the cause that you’re looking for. Alright, so step two is cultivation. Now it’s time now that you’ve identified who you want to be working with and working towards this year. It’s important to build relationships with them. So what are we talking about in terms of building relationships? You know, we talked in the title of this session, we talked about engaging donors, this is where you engage your donors. So whether they’re new potential donors and you don’t have a relationship with them yet, or they’re board members or active volunteers, before you can ask them for a gift. It’s important to to cultivate them to build that relationship. And really cultivation is a two way street. Right? If you think about a relationship, it goes both ways. So what do you want to learn about the donor? What do you need to know about the donor before you can ask for a gift? And what does the donor need to know about your organization? One of the traps I think that too many nonprofits and new fundraisers fall into is that you they think it’s their job to educate donors about everything they know about the organization. And so they would tell them, you know, stories, facts figures all about the organization. But that’s one way and one directional. And by doing that, you haven’t learned anything about your donor. And so it really is hard to engage them. If you are not asking them questions, getting to know them, why do they care about your organization? Is it important? Is it meaningful to them? If not, they’re never going to be a big donor to your organization. So one of the key ways to cultivate and build those relationships is to ask open ended questions. So if you’ve done this before, and you want to share with others, go ahead in the questions box and type in some open ended questions that you’ve asked donors before to get the know them. If you haven’t done this before, you can go ahead and guess at what some good open ended questions might be, to get to know people, and you can think about it as going on a first date, right? What do you need to know, to start to get to know somebody? Right? In this Day of COVID, it’s important to ask about them, them and their families, right? We want to make sure that everybody’s okay, before you really dive into any organizationally related questions. You might, if they’re an existing donor, we want to know, why did they give in the first place? Right? How are they connected to the organization? Why is this organization important to them? And if they’re an ongoing donor, why do they continue to give? Okay, so what, you know, why do they continue to give? Why are they a good donor to your organization? What’s important to them about the organization? Because then those are things that you can emphasize when you’re asking them to give even more. What interests you most about our organization? Right? What changes have you observed this year in the community in our organization in your giving? Right? What what’s different this year because of the pandemic? Have your philanthropic interests change? That’s a possibility. And you have to know that before you ask for a big gift, how would you like to help? Right, we really want to ask those types of questions. How do they want to help? There’s some great questions that people have added to the q&a box. When these suggesting if you could solve any problems in society today, what would they be? Right? You really want to get to what do they care about what’s important to them? And how does that connect to your organization?
Okay, Jacinda I hope I’m saying your name right, saying what makes them interested in our organization? Absolutely. All right. Yes. And yes, she Yoshika says, Tell me about what led you to support our organization, right, those Genesis stories, how did they get involved? Why do they care? These are really important components of, of, of getting to know somebody before you can ask them for a big gift. Thank you for sharing your great questions, by the way. So this is my very basic one page cultivation plans. So you’ve identified potential donors for your organization. And now you are cultivating them. So we want to do this in a thoughtful and strategic way. And so you want to write out a plan for every potential major donor. So before you look at this too carefully, I am going to go into the details of this briefly. But I do want to say that the number of people that you should be working with should be a manageable group. So if you are a development director or an executive director, and you have more than one responsibility on your plate at your organization, which I assume as most of you, you want a list of 20 Maybe 30 People that you are working with on an annual basis or at a time, unless you’re a full time major gift officer and your only responsibility is raising major gifts. You don’t want 50 or 100 or 200, prospective donors. For those other donors, you’re going to have more automated opportunities to interact and engage with them. But this really personal one on one cultivation plan, I want you to keep to a manageable number of about 20. Start working with 20 people because I want you to start to have some success. If you are working with 100 people, you’re going to be overwhelmed and not do this with anybody. So start with a short list, and then you can expand. So you want to write a cultivation list for your top top 20 VIP people. If it’s appropriate, invite them for a tour, it can be virtual these days. Absolutely. You’re not just going to send the top 20 prospective donors to your organization, the newsletter, but you’re going to add a personal note to it, use their first name, let them know, you know what you hoped they pay attention to, right? Like, we thought you might be interested in the article on page two, or your pictures on page three or whatever, do something personal and meaningful in in March. And of course, this doesn’t have to be in these months. This is just an example. You’ll have a one on one, I’m using the word coffee meeting to mean sit down face to face, it could be virtual, it can be over zoom. Now, you may notice that I have different people who are responsible for these activities on the right hand side, board members development director, Executive Director. That’s because you’re building relationships between individuals, potential donors, and the organization. If your donors only have a connection with your executive director and your executive director leaves, that whole relationship evaporates. So we want to make sure that your donors are connected to the organization. Okay, so you can do all of these cultivation activities, okay. Yes, I have gala and gala table on there. Obviously, we’re not doing that this year, or it’s virtual. But you want to make sure that there is ongoing interactions. Sometimes it’s just going to be sending them information like in February the note on the newsletter, but throughout the year, there are opportunities for you to ask them those important questions. Like if you’re giving a one on one tour, or having a coffee meeting, or making a phone call update, you’re going to be able to get to know those people. And it can all be done virtually over the phone over zoom over video chat. All right, the third at the third part of our fundraising cycle is solicitation. That’s the actual ask. So first step is donor identification. Make a list of people that you’re going to try and get to know and that you hope to ask for a gift this year. Step two is cultivation. That’s the relationship building. There was a question in the chat box about how long does this cycle take. And I will tell you that it depends wildly on how well you know the person on your list. If you are, you know, working with someone who’s a board member or an active volunteer, you don’t have to do a year’s worth of cultivation, you might just have one meeting to discuss their hopes, dreams and desires for your organization before you ask them for a gift, maybe you know, in a few weeks or a month time they make a decision. Other people that you’re just getting started with this could take up to a year of cultivation and getting to know them and multiple outreaches and multiple touches. I will say that for the vast majority of you, if you’re raising money for an annual fund, you want to make sure that you get that ask out within 12 months. There’s, you know, if you don’t feel ready, which the reality is, you probably won’t if you’re just getting started, no matter how much research and cultivation you’ve done, you’re going to feel a little bit unsure of yourself because that’s only natural. This is a new, a new skill you’re working on. And so I would say don’t think of the gift you’re asking for as the ultimate gift or the mega gift. It doesn’t have to be the biggest gift. In fact, it won’t be the biggest gift these people ever make. Make. If you do this well. You’ll be able to go back to them year after year after year. So go ahead and get out I want to first ask, I’m definitely within a year.
So now I’m curious in the questions box again, how frequently are you asking an individual donor, not the same donor over and over again all year, but an an individual for a specific amount of money in a one on one setting. So you’re not mailing them a bulk mailing or over email. It’s not over social media, but you’re actually face to face with someone, even if it’s over zoom. So just A, B, C, or D in the chat or sorry, in the questions box, less than five times a year, five to 10 times a year, at least once a month, or more than 20 times a year. Oh, or zero times a year? I guess that’s a right. Okay. All right, excellent. So most most people are answering a there’s a few C’s and DS good. Most people are wanting to move things up. And the reason that I asked this is because I just want you to pay attention to it. Right? Be aware, if you’re asking less than five times a year, you know that you’re not raising major gifts in a regular and ongoing and consistent way. Pay attention to it. And then you’ll set a goal to do it more frequently. So small amounts of time really do add up. One call a work day is over 225 calls a year. So if you’re not calling your donors, one donor every day, you’re not calling donors enough, because fundraising is all about building relationships and interacting and engaging with donors. So you might be calling just to say thank you one time, you might be calling to check in and make sure they’re okay. During this crazy year, you might be calling to ask them a question or ask them for advice, you might be calling to ask them for a meeting, lots of great read reasons to be calling your donors every day. In order to really have a major gifts program, you need to be meeting with your donors on a regular and ongoing basis. So how many times a month? Are you sitting down face to face, and I am including zoom? So really making sure that you are doing that on a regular and ongoing basis? Allison, I see you’re asking How frequently do you ask the same person each year, or I thought you were going to ask me with the same person each year. So you know, each person that’s on your major gift list, you will want to have two or three face to face meetings with a year one, one or two, to cultivate them and to get to know them better, and to get to know their wants and their needs. And one to ask them for a gift. And then probably one to thank them. And to follow up, which we’ll get to in just a minute, excuse me for a minute. So and you can ask the same person more than one time a year for a gift. But for the most part, you’re going to be asking annual a try and get, you can say, you know, we want to ask you for these three programs, or, you know, last year you gave to us at the annual appeal, and during our gala and during our raffle. So we you know, we want to ask you once this year that would cover all of those things. But if you have a special need that comes up, you can absolutely go back to your closest donors for a special project or a special need that comes up. Okay, so what are you going to do? This year we’re asking by video. You’re going to start by checking in and catching up of course small talk, you’re going to ask questions and listen carefully. You might share an update about your organization, you’re going to ask permission to ask and thank and confirm. So this is just a really quick little video ask agenda. But you’ll notice that there are several opportunities built in here for you to have the other person asking. One of the big mistakes that new fundraisers make is that they think it’s all about a pitch and that they need to pitch the person while you can share an update and you certainly can answer questions you want to do. You’re getting to know each other and making sure they know about the program in the cultivation stage. There really isn’t a pitch per se you can talk about your program for a few nuts but then engage the donor ask them what questions they have asked them what excites the most about the opportunity? It’s a dialogue, not a monologue, there’s no pitch. That being said, of course, you will want to make a case for support. So you want to be able to articulate who do you serve? Who does your organization serve? Why do you matter? What has changed during COVID? Are you running the same programs and services? Are the needs the same? What specifically does your organization need? What are you looking for? What’s the plan for the future? And has it changed at all? And why now? So you’re going to be able to want to articulate both verbally. And in writing some of these things, this is an important part of asking for funding. Okay, so you may have noticed, in my little agenda, I said, transition transition to an ask. And I like to ask permission to ask I think it’s a nice easy way of easing into the conversation. So I might say something like, Would it be okay, if I shared some of our needs with you? Right? Do you want to hear about some of our needs, because I’m going to ask you to help. So this is what I mean by transition to an ask or ask permission to ask. So here’s some sample language, we would like to ask you, to help one child stay safe after school. So we’re going to be talking about the impact that they’re going to make by considering a gift of $5,000 to support our after school program. So we would like to ask you to help one child stay safe after school by considering a gift of $5,000 to support our after school program. So that’s just one example. You know, we want I’m going to give you some quick sale examples of things that you can request. major gifts, you might be asking for monthly or recurring gifts, one time gifts. In kind items, you might be asking for advice or feedback, if you’re not actually in the Ask mode. Lots of things that you could request just by video for sure. Okay, they’re going to respond with a yes, no, or maybe, and you should be prepared to respond to all of those responses. You’ve asked a question. And now, they you listen, wait, if they say yes, wonderful. That’s the answer you’re looking for. Of course, maybe that means you asked for too little. And next time, you can ask for more. Maybe is actually my favorite answer. It means you asked for so much they need to think about it. You need to at that point, ask them. Is there any additional information that you need before making a decision? Do they still have outstanding questions? What else needs to happen before they make a decision? And when can you follow up schedule the next meeting? Like could we reconnect a week from Thursday? Well, you have a decision by then. While no is disappointing, I really don’t think it’s the end of the world. And so you want to say okay, I’m sorry to hear that. Tell me what you had in mind. What did you want to do? So keep the conversation going. Alright, so now we’ve been through step one, step two, and step three of our cycle. And we are going into step four, which is the stewardship. That’s the thank you and the follow up everything that happens after the ask. And
you know, we’re not going to go into too much detail here. But what I will tell you is that it is absolutely critical that you thank your donors, and that you let them know how their gift was used and the impact that they had or made with their gift. That is what is going to hopefully ensure that they give again in the future. And so also the way you thank your donors is to ensure that they feel thanked. A tax receipt thank you letter does not help ensure that they feel thanked. If you took the time to meet one on one with them, whether it’s over video chat or zoom or actually in person. You should also be thanking them in person. You know, first of course thank you notes and thank you letters and maybe Thank you calls would go out. You can have a board member send a thank you note or make a thank you call All the executive directors should be thanking, whether it’s a thank you note, a handwritten note or a call. But then circling back with them a few weeks or months later to let them know how their gift was used is critically important so that you can start cultivating for the following gift. All right. So I’m going to start to wrap up. And then we’re going to get to questions in about five minutes. But I wanted to give you some some follow up information. These are my five my top five reasons that you should be asking for major gifts right now and this year for sure. Number one, you’re not going to raise money, if you don’t ask, right? I hope that that is crystal clear. This is critically important if you need to raise money at your nonprofit organization. Some people actually have more money right now. And I know it’s hard to imagine, especially if you’re not in that position. But the reality of this year is that for those people that kept their jobs, or were able to transition to working from home, they have not been spending money on travel, or eating out or going to the theater or commuting costs. And there was just an article in The New York Times the other day, that people actually have more money in their bank accounts than they’ve ever had before. I want you to remember that people are eager to help. And so I don’t want you to think of fundraising as twisting arms or begging or them doing you a favor, you are actually providing people an opportunity to make important investments and feel great about themselves. People want to help and it feels good to give, especially when done the right way. I’ve never met a donor who made a major gift, who feels badly about it. They feel proud, they feel amazing that they’re providing scholarships are helping find a cure for a disease or helping clean the environment. Think about all the amazing work that you’re doing. And you’re giving donors an opportunity to feel good and participate in that important work. I’m gonna go as so far as to say that if you are responsible for fundraising in any way your organization, if you’re not asking, you’re being negligent it’s a part of your job, whether it’s a volunteer job, or, or, or a paid job. You need to be out thereRead Less