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"That donor I don't have to worry about..."

donors fundraisers major donors major gifts relationships success Aug 08, 2023

One of the great joys I have, being a fundraiser, is meeting donors who are true fans of our mission. 

You may have had donors like that - they're supporters and they give regularly. They may attend events or volunteer. They talk about your work to others. You may not even realize how much of a fan they are. 

They may be the ones who you "know" you can count on for a gift - maybe $1,000, or $5,000 or even $25,000. 

I've got big appreciation for "donors you can count on." But danger also lurks...

Sometimes the supporters you count on "giving that gift of $X every year" (or more often) are actually only giving as much as they've been inspired to give.

Looking at the calendar, I know it isn't long now before we all will be in the "fast and furious" of year-end giving. 

We'll have so much to do with the fundraising, budgets, event planning, or that board thing... With our time often split between fundraising and "can you help with this?", it can be easy to count on that awesome supporter to come through with the major gift with very little effort from you.

You know the one... "I'll just call Chris and ask for the 2023 gift - It'll come in." you count on Chris being satisfied with nonprofit e-blasts, an annual report, and a note on the thank you letter (or smiley face at the end of your last thank you email, 11 months ago). 

You appreciate Chris. You know there are other donors you have to struggle to get in front of. Chris saves you time to try to get in front of that prospect that you've tried 9 ways to be in touch with every outreach trick in your tool belt. (And the Executive Director is really sure you can get a $15,000 gift this year!)

What if you decided to inspire the "sure bet" donors, the ones who have been giving so loyally. What if you had a conversation about the future direction and inspired that person this year...

... rather than take the same gift and run after the next shiny prospect?

It would mean changing up some of your strategies - investing more time in those with great loyalty and determining how to inspire them to the next level.  

I'm inviting you to take a look at the donors you put a "100% sure" next to in your probability box. How might you get into a conversation to discover (or rediscover) this donor's values, where their support has been directed, and how you might frame a conversation about the vision for the next 3 or 5 or 10 year horizon?

As my friend Rory Green notes, "It is easier to get people who love you to give you more than it is to get people with money to get to love you and your mission." 

So as you prep for the year-end and are reviewing your portfolio, take a second look at the "sure things" and decide if you're willing to have a meaningful conversation about what is next in your nonprofit's big picture - and if they are ready to come along as partners - maybe even lead. Spend some time in a Discovery meeting or on a Discovery call. Invest in inspiring THEM. 

I'll share a little case study: 

I was coaching a fundraiser (half time director of development/ half time admissions at a small private girl's school). They wanted to grow their major gifts - for me, job one is something like thank you calls to connect with the donors (they were great at reaching out locally, less so when alumna were outside the region). Part of the script I offered was, "Which of our 4 school values has been most valuable to you at this point in your life?" It was a good way to do a little discovery and bring them back to a time that helped create they women they were today. 

 As the fundraiser was starting to implement the calling to thank donors giving $1,000+, she called an out-of-area alumna had been giving faithfully for years at $1,000. Now this woman might be very well known in Seattle (where I'm from) but not so well to the school. This alumna had made many 6-figure and 7-figure gifts to other organizations during her life. 

The client called, no answer, so she left a message of gratitude and an invitation to call back. 

What a shock the client had when a call came from a Seattle number - it was the donor! She wanted to share her thoughts. And also, she had in mind that she wanted to make a gift to a specific program - of $100,000! 

Then I actually got a call about what to do next - this was the largest gift they had ever received. 

Something as "small" as connecting back to the transformation (in this case, a neighborhood school values taking a this young girl to graduation - and everything she learned and lived).

Or in your case, it might be the difference you're making in the community and seeing over the horizon to the next transformation the community may experience - will the donor be part of the community will to make it happen?

Thinking of the time we have in each day or month or quarter, we often think of "new prospects" (or are pointed toward them by others). But don't forget the faithful - who are fans and may be waiting to have you tell them the big picture and how we can get there. Or that one program that needs a boost to get underway. Or that last 10 acres to create the protected wetlands. 

Step back from the tasks and look for the inspiration that you can share! It may make all the difference in your fundraising this year. 

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