How to Build a High-Performing Major Gifts Program
In this webinar, Gail Perry, MBA, CFRE will help you get your board and team on board to generate game-changing major gifts for your organization.
Steven: All right, Gail. I think we’re up and running. So is it okay if I go ahead and kick off this party?
Gail: Yeah. Yeah. Kick it off.
Steven: All right. Awesome. Cool. Well, good afternoon, everyone. Thanks so much for being here. Good morning, I should say, if you’re on the West Coast. Thanks to all of you for being here on a Monday. It’s going to be a fun one, because we’re here to talk about building a high-performing major gifts program. And my name is Steven Shattuck, and I’m the Chief Engagement Officer over here at Bloomerang. And I’ll be moderating today’s discussion as always.
And just a couple of housekeeping items real quick, I just want to let you all know that we are recording this session, and we’ll be sending out the recording as well as the slides later on today. So if you have to leave early, that’s okay. We hate to lose you, but if you have to be, if you’re kind of in a meeting or something, we’ll get you all that good stuff. You can review the content. And if you stick around for the whole thing, you can share that content with a colleague or a boss or whatever you want to do.
Most importantly, as you’re listening today, please feel free to use that chat box right there on your webinar screen. We’re going to try to save some time at the end for Q&A. So send us your questions and comments along the way. We’ll try to get to them at the end. We love for it to be interactive. So don’t be shy at all.
You can do that on Twitter as well. I’ll keep an eye on the Twitter stream there. And if you’re having any trouble with your audio through your computer, try dialing in by phone for the audio. We find that that is usually a lot better than the computer speakers. So do that. If you can, if that’s comfortable for you, if you won’t bother a co-worker or anything, just dial the number and the email from ReadyTalk that went out around noon Eastern.
And if it’s your first Bloomerang webinar, I just want to say an extra-special welcome to you, folks. We do these webinars just about every week. We bring in a great guest like Gail, totally educational, no sales pitch, but I will give a little commercial for Bloomerang right now. If you’re interested in our donor management software, check out our website. Don’t do that right now. Do that in about an hour. We got a great presentation coming up from one of my favorites.
Gail Perry is joining us today. She is a longtime webinar presenter for Bloomerang, definitely one of our favorites. Hey, Gail, how’s it going? You doing okay today?
Gail: I’m just great. So glad to be visiting with everybody.
Steven: Yeah. I’m just going to brag on you real quick.
Gail: Go ahead.
Steven: I don’t want to take up any more time away from you. So if you guys don’t know Gail, you got to follow her. You got to check out firedupfundraising.com. Excellent resources. If you see her name on a conference schedule on another webinar, definitely go to that session.
She’s awesome. She’s been doing this for over 30 years. She has raised hundreds of millions of dollars literally throughout her career. Like I said, speaks a lot, does a lot of training. Writes a lot. She’s got a great, great book called “Fired-Up Fundraising,” which is all about turning those board members into a passionate fundraisers, which we all want to do, of course.
Loves major gifts. She does a lot of writing for other publications like GuideStar, Capital Campaign Masters, all around beautiful human being, too. So you don’t want to hear from me. You’re here to hear it from Gail. So, Gail, I will let you take it away, my friend. Give us all that major gift advice. Go for it.
Gail: All right. Well, you are so cool, Steven. Thank you so much, everybody. It’s terrific to be with you today. And how about doing me a favor. Why don’t you type into the question box your organization and where you’re located because it’d be so much fun to see who’s here and what kind of organizations are here. You know, we have a rich and vigorous nonprofit community all over the world that come in for these fabulous webinars from Bloomerang.
And by the way, I highly recommend Bloomerang software. And he’s not paying me to say this. United Way, John Hopkins, our friends in Dakota, San Diego. Look at everybody. Salvation, Ontario, Idaho, Charlottesville, Wichita, Dallas, New York, Massachusetts. This is just terrific. Welcome, welcome, everybody.
Just a little bit more about me, you know, you heard of . . . I’ll just skip over this. But I was tickled to be named one of America’s top 10 fundraising experts. So that’s a bit of a cool thing. Hello, Mary Kay and Kevin and Lisa and Barbara. Thank y’all so much for letting me know. Mary Kay says, “Come down to AFP ICON in March for the big AFP conference.” I’ll be there.
So let’s talk about major gift fundraising. Because there’s so many obstacles that stand in people’s way. And one of the biggest obstacles I find is that people don’t understand why it’s so important. And today we’re going to talk about those obstacles. I’m going to give you some tips on how to overcome your limiting beliefs, which I think a lot of it happens in our head.
One of the issues is time, how to get into the office. I’ve got some strategies to help you. We’ll talk a little bit about board members and how to get them on board. And we’re going to . . . And please don’t . . . You can leave early if you have to. But the grand finale is going to be the structure. You do not have a major gifts effort unless you have the structure underpinning in it. We’re going to hammer that in right at the end of our session today.
So let’s talk briefly about why major gifts fundraising is the most efficient and the most effective way to raise money. And this is a slide I use a lot in my presentations. You might have seen it. It’s from Greenberg’s book on fundraising, which is one of the CFRE books.
And it’s also general rule of thumb that fundraising events, if you add in the staff time required for fundraising events, you’re looking at about 50 cents on the dollar for raising that money. And the annual fund takes about 25 cents or 30 cents on the dollar. But major gifts that involve high-dollar, one-on-one act, only cost 5 to 10 cents on the dollar.
So if you’re really looking for profitability in your fundraising strategies, choose a strategy for fundraising that’s going to yield you the biggest dollar return for the amount of time and energy you’re investing. There is no question that major gifts and capital, and capital campaigns are based in major gift fundraising. They’re the shortcut for getting the money that your organization really needs.
And a friend of mine who has a hospice facility in North Carolina said that she and her staff just killed themselves to raise about $100,000 from a big event, and they were just exhausted. And she said, “I could have gone out with four or five donors and raised that amount of money and saved us all that pain and anguish.”
So I think it’s really important when you’re discussing your fundraising strategies at the beginning of your fiscal year that . . . and you can use me as political cover. You know, you can innocently ask, “What is our fundraising strategy? Do we want to focus on areas that are going to be the most efficient ways to raise money so we’re not just spinning our wheels?”
And this is some data from the fundraising effectiveness project that we talk a lot about these days. And I want to focus on the green circle on the right-hand side of the page. And actually, I blew it up right here in this slide. And what they’re saying really is that 90% of the revenues across the board and all these organizations that were studied came from 15% of donors.
And, you know, Jerry Panas and many of the fundraising greats have always said it’s 90/10, you know, 90% of the money comes from 10% of the donors. And if you really look at your funding sources in your organization, you probably have a handful of key funders who are providing a majority of your funding. And that includes individuals and major donors of all types. So focusing here is a no-brainer, right? It’s a no-brainer.
So I think use this slide to go to your board members and ask the innocent questions. I have a great post on my blog called “Asking the Cage-Rattling Questions About Fundraising Strategy.” Because lots of times, we’re in a position of convincing our board members and our CEO of what strategies really are the smartest. So I’m always happy to back you up with data that will help you.
And so let’s talk a little bit about the obstacle. What is holding your organization back? And I’m wondering if you could please, again, answer in the question box and share with me your thoughts what is holding your organization back from raising major gifts. I did a survey last year, and it was fascinating to hear everybody’s perspective on the challenges that they face. So what?
Lack of potential donors, board support, staff capacity, too many competing tasks, lack of knowledge on how to do it, lack of clear processes, one board member, low public visibility, don’t know where to start, distracted by other fundraising tasks, carving time to get out, not many major . . . Well, this is fascinating. Boards buy-in. Such an important issue. Not enough qualified candidates. Huh. Lack of a culture of philanthropy. Scarcity thinking. Oh, I love that one. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Not enough prospects. Too much time on one funder. Ooh, Cecelia, I feel your pain.
But listen. Guess what, you are not alone. These issues happen with everybody. And we are dealing in a nonprofit environment. I was just reading the Agitator blog post today about donor retention that the fact is that nonprofits staff is always stretched too thin. And setting our priorities and focusing is the only way that’s going to save our butt and save us from probably going bonkers with too many things on our plate.
And, you know something, I’m going to try to go back to some of you all and answer some of these comments privately. I think that’d be a lot of fun. Happy to have a dialogue with you all.
And by the way, my Fired-Up Fundraising Facebook page has . . . it’s a great place to ask me any of these questions. I’m happy to talk about it. But let me give you my take and some tips, okay? Because I would agree with you that there are serious obstacles that hinder your fundraising success. You are smart, you’re dedicated, you know what you’re doing, yet you’re prevented, in a way, from being able to be successful.
And here’s the thing, and I’m going to repeat this a couple of times, that one of the biggest issues with major get fundraising is that people think it’s all about asking and all about the money. And your board members are probably terrified of that. And please, we say over and over and over that it’s never about money. It’s about changing the world. And I’m going to show you how to frame your fundraising approach so that board members won’t be scared off, right, so they will support this as a smart strategy and an efficient strategy.
And this came from my survey. Two hundred and five people answered my survey, gosh, last fall that what is your biggest challenge. And it’s really interesting to look at the word “cloud.”The word “cloud.” I like the word “door” over here in the far right because people say “can’t get in the door.” I got a set of strategies for that too.
But let’s look, you know . . . I would think the five major obstacles, one of those is limiting beliefs. And somebody said once, and I just love this quote, that “Fundraising:Desperately feared and desperately needed.” And we should make a joke about that with our board members, because part of my life’s work is to help board members feel more comfortable about being involved in fundraising and help them find places where they can be comfortable and where they can be supportive.
But this is what, you know, your leaders are saying, “Did somebody say the F word?” You know, fundraising, that’s the F word. And the reason is that people are feeling . . . they feel awkward. I mean, we’re raised not to talk about money. And I was raised to be a southern lady. Oh, you don’t talk about other people’s money, you know, or your own, because it’s so rude. And now that’s all I do in my career is talk about other people’s money.
But people make up all of these stories and myths particularly about major gifts. You know, they imagine themselves as begging. They imagine themselves as being rejected. Let’s see if I can get those. Here we go. The Rejection slides showing up, you know. And they really imagine that fundraising is cold calls. I mean, your board members are making up these things. And they think that they’re supposed to rush in and just blurt out a $100,000-ask.
And board members, if you’re listening, I hope that you will understand that when we approach a major donor that we do so with the utmost carefulness, and we warm up donors, and we don’t really jump into an ask unless we feel like they are ready and that they are expecting such a conversation.
And, you know, and I have found with all on my board training that I’ve done for years that board members really, really enjoy a good, solid major gift training that’s practical and skills-based and it’s not necessarily about the ask. And just call it education not training, and I think they’re much more open to it.
And one of the reasons, I think, it’s really important, in terms of hurdles, that we need we need to educate our leaders of all types about what kind of expectations are really possible in the major gift realm and from one person, especially if there are other jobs. And so many people have other jobs, right? They’re directors who are handling this kind of fundraising along with learning and organization, or development directors, or staffers that have multitude things on their plate.
And I do think that being able to be absolutely realistic about what’s doable is absolutely essential for sanity. And you have to be able to push backI think on board members who are trying to get you the . . . who want you to say [both and 00:15:24], you know, the sense of abundance that, yes, we can do the grand gala with $1 million in sponsorships, plus successfully execute all these other activities.
But, you know, again, it’s not about that money thing. It’s about the strategy and about what one person, you know . . . what kind of goals, financial goals and activity goals, can you really could upon one person.
And, you know, people write me all the time about how are they going to get out of the office and how are they going to handle their workload. And I like the strategy of saying to my board members or to my [inaudible 00:16:01] and whoever setting these strategies, is that I can do this or I can do that. And the expected financial return of this strategy is this amount of money, and the expected return from that strategy is that amount of money. You decide. You set my priorities.
And so I think that that’s a reasonable way. So it’s businesslike. And it helps avoid the let-someone-else-do-it. You know, we all talk about a culture of philanthropy. A lot of people have mentioned that that that’s a hold up, a block, an obstacle, that people don’t understand philanthropy and fundraising and are afraid of it and are not supporting it. Getting everybody to understand what fundraising is all about is the first step towards getting over this let-somebody-else-do-it philosophy. Because the culture of philanthropy means they’re a bunch of people who embrace fundraising and think it’s important, right?
And one of the things that I talk about in terms of limiting beliefs that people really enjoy and really lands with people is this notion of abundance versus scarcity. And let me talk to you. This is why scarcity means to me when I’m working with a board. I’ve served on like 24 boards.
Let’s see if you raise your hand here, how many times have you heard a board member or even fellow fundraising colleagues say, “Oh, we’re not going to be able to be successful. We don’t have hungry children. All these other organizations are eating up, gobbling up all the money in town. And we’re just little old, best-kept secret in town. And, you know, the economy is abysmal. They’d be roaring nationally, but in our location, it’s awful. Oh, there’s all, you know . . . ”
Tell me in the question box, have you ever heard this? You know, I wish we had a Nerf gun and a Nerf ball to shoot at people who are negative because . . . Everybody is laughing, you know. It’s called avoidance. I think there’s a psychological notion called avoidance when you’re making up stories that are going to keep you from being successful. I mean, I would like to banish naysaying from every board and every nonprofit in the world.
And a quick story. You’ll enjoy this. My friends were a big . . . My friend has run the Carolina Ballet for years. She used to say to me, “Gail, my staff says that they can’t raise any money because they don’t have any hungry children.” And then she left the ballet to go run the girl scouts. Cute little girls, you know, to market, to donors. And she said, “Gail, my staff says that they can’t raise any money because they don’t have any free donor tickets to give away and to court, to entertain donors with.” And it sounds like the pie is always green around the other foot and that everybody thinks makes themselves so small.
Sofia says, “There’s money out there. We just need to link the right people to the right need.” Absolutely. You know, I’ve never been a runner. And I’ve never run a race, thank God. But if I were going to run a race, I would not look on either side of me and think,”Oh my God, that lady, look at all those muscles. She’s a powerhouse. She’s won all these races.” And I’d look at the other lady, and I’ll say, “Oh my God. She’s like a Goliath. And I’m going to lose right now. I shouldn’t even try to run because I’m going to lose.”
That’s what your board members and leaders and colleagues are saying. You’ve got to banish that. You know, I’m making light of some of these things, but that’s the way you can do it, is to make light of them so that people don’t feel like they’re coming right at their face and being confrontational.
And, you know, I mean, in terms of abundance, here’s the North Carolina Symphony, they have 98% donor retention in their upper level donor annual fund categories. And that includes the $25,000 level. I mean, they have awesome donor experiences. And this is the fun. This is a relationship stuff. This is the fun stuff of fundraising. So if you can go from the scarcity mindset, you know, to the idea that we are celebrating our donors, and they are great assets in our organizations, then you’re really are moving along the path toward productivity.
And, you know, just another point about this whole notion of is fundraising about money, is it about the transaction, or is it about the relationship? These are distinctions that we can sort of use to educate our people and ourselves, you know. And in major gifts, is it about us or is it about the donor needs? It’s actually a marriage between the two, happy, happy marriage.
And my last point about mindset is, you know, my book is called “Fired-Up Fundraising” and my website and my Facebook page, Fired-Up Fundraising, you’ve got to be enthusiastic and fired-up about your cause. And you got to be just . . . I mean, you can’t do it every single day. You don’t have that wonderful, expansive energy. And when I was the frontline fundraiser, I would wait until days when I felt really good to make my calls. I mean, my phone calls, because you needed a cheerful voice. But I think that Ralph Waldo Emerson said that nothing great was ever accomplished without enthusiasm. So never forget that being fired-up is absolutely critical.
And, you know, a couple tips about board members. I absolutely believe that, and I’m happy for you to use these slides anytime and to educate your board and do some training, that there’s so many parts of major gift fundraising that are really social and fun. And many board members should be able to find a role for themselves that they can enjoy, that they can enjoy.
And if you just think about this whole cycle of major gifts, you know, you qualify your prospects, you engage with them to get to know them, and asking is not just one little tiny moment. It’s like a series of discussion. So you open the discussion. And then you close. And then after that gift, you go back into deep stewardship mode. And remember, the first gift is never the largest if you do a lovely job with a donor. So putting board members to work and identifying prospects and thanking and cultivating, that’s the fun stuff. And that’s where they can really, really shine and should be able to shine.
So a lot of people said “not enough prospects.” And so let me give you my tip for finding the major gift prospects you need. And I want to talk about your sleepers, your sleeper prospects. And Kathryn Gamble, who’s my consulting colleague, and this is actually . . . and you can see Kathryn on some of my Facebook Live videos on our Facebook page. And we do Facebook Live every Wednesday at noon, if you want to join us. It’s lots of fun. She believes in the Dorothy School of Fundraising.
And you remember Dorothy at “Wizard of Oz” who said, “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.” And we say to you that you already have all the major gift prospects you need. They’re just sleeping inside your donor files. And what I mean by that is that your major gift prospects are donors to you but they’re giving smaller gifts. And the reason that you don’t know that they’re major donor potential is that you haven’t qualified them or researched them or you’re treating them like a very small donor. And so they don’t have any incentives to self-identify.
And Kathryn, before she came to work with me and run our consulting practice, she was the internal manager of the North Carolina Museum of Art, $50-million capital campaign. And do you know that Kathryn found the lead gift for that campaign from somebody who was giving . . . a member who was $100-a-year member.
And somehow Kathryn met them, they showed up in an event or something, and they made some noises or she said they showed signs of having more capacity. Because Kathryn has a radar going round and round with these prospects just trying to understand them and listen to them. And she realized that they were doing a huge estate planning project. And they didn’t have any heirs. They ended up getting the museum $9.5 million. And that was the lead gift of that capital campaign.
So when you’re thinking about where to look for your prospects, start with what you have. Start with a group of . . . This is a fundraiser I had it actually at my house in Raleigh a while ago, and there are all these people. Some of these people are major good prospects right in your pool.
So one of the flags that you can use is to consider who’s made a substantial gift in the past 18 to 24 months. My good friend and colleague Eli Jordfald is a senior major gift director at Lineberger Cancer Center at Chapel Hill, and she . . . you know what she does, you know, 30 plus years, she closes $10-million gift.
And, you know, she’s way up there in the major gift ranks, but she closes her door every other Wednesday afternoon and makes calls to donors. And she said that she’s always looking for somebody who writes $1,000 check out of the blue, out of the blue. And she’ll call them up, and she will try to qualify them on the phone, which is . . . And she’s got a whole presentation called Mastering the Art of the Discovery Call.
And so what I think you need to do when you’re . . . I’m going to talk a lot more about your prospect list. Your major gift prospect list is a fundamental tool and it’s part of the structure of your overall effort. But you must narrow down your focus, especially if you’re a smaller organization.
What I mean by that is that you cannot . . . If you have lower amount of time to devote to a major gift, you’ve got to restrict yourself to just the number of prospects you can cultivate. And when I started in fundraising at Duke University, my mentor, the big scary Vice President John Papa [SP], he said to me, he said, “Gail, major gift fundraising is like spinning plates on a stick.” He said, “You can’t spin but so many plates.” And he said, “You just give a little one nudge here, a little one nudge here, and a little nudge here.” And he said, “Gail, what happens if you try to spin too many plates? They all crash and falls down.”
And I always remembered that. And he said, you know, “Gail, when you’re ready to close the gift or the donor is ready to give you, you gently remove the stick, and you harvest the gift. You gently take the plate so it never breaks,” right, “and only then can you start spinning another plate.” So I think spinning the plate on the stick analogy is really a smart way to approach your major get prospect list.
And don’t forget that women are more generous than men. And I love this slide from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University, their path-making study a few years ago founded that when you compared boomer and older women to boomer and older men in the same financial circumstances, those women, that group of women, made . . . for every $100 dollars that men gave, women gave $258. So it says women give more than twice as much as men.
So women give more frequently. They make more gifts. And they also give larger gifts. And I would say sometimes that your ladies are your sleeper prospects. Because sometimes the men somehow seem to get more attention, or your attention goes to them, and there maybe a lovely little old lady on half of your community who loves your organization and would love to have coffee or tea or lunch with you.
So think about . . . lots of times when I’m doing a workshop, I’ll put people in small groups. I’ll say, “Come up with your list of sleeper ladies that you may be missing.” And, you know, when you’re putting together that prospect list, I like to look at current donors, and also former board members are often neglected potential prospects. And your volunteers, lapsed donors. Some of your some of your lapsed owners may have huge potential. And older people in general I think we need to be looking carefully.
And let me show you this slide. In 2014, Chronicle of Philanthropy did an analysis of the age of the top donors. I wish they’d do this again. And we made this chart up. But the average age of the major donors of 2015 was 80 to 89 years old. Your major donor prospects are older.
I was just with a consulting client in Philadelphia last week. And we were looking at some of the fundraising materials. And the font was so small. And the designer or the marketing manager is a millennial. And he showed me the piece of material. And I said, “Gosh, I can’t read it. Where are my glasses?” And I said, “The font is too small.” And he said, “I don’t think the font is too small at all.” And I said, “Well, you’re a millennial. Your donors are boomers or older than boomers.”
And he thought twice, you know. And I said, “The minimum font for fundraising is considered to be 14 points.” And designers don’t really like that because they like to make pretty things. And Cecelia is just saying that she had $1-million lead gift from a woman. Yeah, yeah. And so, you know, we don’t think that the older, older people, and especially the older, older ladies are our prospects, but they really are.
So let me just go in a little bit of technical stuff. I mean, you probably know this, about major gifts, but I love the distinction between a suspect and a prospect. A suspect is someone who is not qualified, you know. And you’ve probably seen this chart a lot of times that we try to find donors, who are potential donors prospects, who are both have a high likelihood or high interest in our project and also have high capacity.
So we’re looking for people. We don’t want to go after people who have a low-capacity who are passionate, or we don’t want to go after highly passionate people . . . or, I’m sorry, high-capacity people who are not that interested because you’re going to be beating your head against the wall.
And, you know, I work a lot of boards. And so they are all really interested in thinking thoroughly about the vocabulary and the approach to major gift fundraising. And the whole notion of educating everybody on what a qualified prospect is is really helpful, you know I like to have a prospect list on a back burner list. And you can put all the people who are not yet qualified on the backburner list and you can get to them when you get to them.
So you qualify . . . I teach a lot about donor qualification in all of my work if you follow my newsletter or read my blog. And of course, we’re always trying to determine their capacity, which is the polite word for wealth, you know, and determine their inclination, because that means, like . . . are they cold, warm, or hot? You know, how warmed up are they?
And so my quick and dirty advice on how to find more major gift prospect, look close to home and start with 30 names. I kid you not. And my major gift coaching program, we start with a 20 or 30-name prospect list, and we go back to basics over and over and try not to spread ourselves too thin, you know. And review prospect list, review your donor list, do some screening sessions.
Consider your former board members and former capital campaign donors who maybe have been neglected. And, you know, formal prospect research is always a good idea. It’s not necessary. And I just want to tell you just a tiny bit, this is not tiny commercial, that I do have a major gift coaching program that runs for 10 months every year, and we’re just starting to talk about 2019.
And what it is that. . . I’m always looking for 40 organizations who are really ready to dive in and make it happen. And they get, myself and Kathryn, as major gift coaches, plus training and a lot of hand-holding and just about everything you need to be successful in major gift fundraising.
So the goal is to get 10 asks on the table and to brush up on your major gift skills. And here’s our curriculum. And so if you would like to find more about it, you can go to majorgiftcoaching.com, and I’m happy to get on the phone and give you a free strategy session if you want to find out. It’s really a matter of fit. And you have to apply. And I have to vet you and interview you and accept you. So it’s not like a quick process. We both have to decide if it’s the right fit and the right thing to do. So that’s my little commercial.
So I do want to share with you all. I want to hear from you now. What’s possible from your end with a solid major gift program? If you had expanded or revamped or juiced-up, fired-up a major gift programs in your organization, what would be possible? I want to hear from some people, you know. How much money is that? What would be possible for you if you really could make major gift happen.
Oh, Melody says, “The website is up again. I’m sorry.” I don’t want to be too much of a commercial. So I didn’t want to go through too much on that. But Jennifer says that she would have better strategic planning. Regina says she has no idea. Monica said she would have more resources and people to deliver results. Yeah, yeah. Just think.
“Our facilities would get refreshed.””We would reach more people.””We could run our camp for more weeks during the summer.””We could build more homes for families.” Oh, you all, this is wonderful. You know, “We could become . . . more time to focus on mission.” I love this, you know. “We could build a new integrated behavioral health care center.” Bless your heart, Melissa. And Lindsey says, “We can bring food to communities.” Wow.
So, you know, major gifts is really, really, really important, and that’s why I spend so much of my career trying to help people master these strategies. Because it’s possible for you, no matter how big or small your organization is, it is absolutely possible. Gary says, “We could get more funds to nonprofits in Idaho.” Every single person on this call, no matter how large or small your organization is, no matter what your service area is, major gifts are possible for you. I promise you they are.
So let’s talk about the rest of them obstacles and have some fun, you know. I want to acknowledge that not enough time to devote to major gifts is an absolute essential problem and challenge for people to be successful. Because we took some people into the major gift coaching program last year. And the people who were not as successful as we wanted them to be is because they didn’t spend the time on it. And they said they got all mixed up with doing other things, and “wham,” they did not get the ask on the table.
So the people, I want to tell you about Brenda Campbell in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She was a participant last year in the coaching group. And she was CEO of a nonprofit. And she would take a couple of hours, a couple of days a week every morning at home to make her major gift calls. And her video testimonial is on that web address majorgiftscoaching.com. She said, “The only way she was going to be successful,” and she raised hundreds of thousands of dollars last year with more on the way this year, “was because she got organized to get out of the office.”
And so, my friends, treat this like the challenge that it really is. It really is a challenge. And here are my tips, right? First of all, I mentioned earlier, you can say to people, “I can do this or I can do that. Let’s decide where I’m going to focus my attention,” you know. And get everybody on board with what you’re up to. Get your administrative and back-office people to understand that it’s your job to be out of the office and having lunch and coffee with donors, and ask them to push you out, right?
And I think it’s really helpful in the group staff meetings to announce your goal of how many visits you’re trying to get done a month so that everybody knows it’s your job to be out there and enlist the back office team as aides and not critics. Because that’s an issue in a lot of organizations.
And so another obstacle, and a few people mentioned this earlier, don’t know how to approach donors. Oh, dear. So how do we approach donors? You know, I’ve showed you this chart earlier. And I like to teach the sort of a way called facilitating your way to the gift.
And what you’re doing is that you are the adviser and the coach to your donor. You are the professional representative between the donor’s love for your organization, their passion for your work, and your organization itself. So you serve sort of like a stock advisor. You’re an adviser. You’re a facilitator. You take the approach of Mr. Donor or Miss Donor.
I know you really, really wrenched it in our ministry. What is your interest area? Let me introduce you to some of our program staff. Let me help you find out more about what we do and answer your questions. And if somebody is passionate about your work, they’ll be thrilled.
And let me tell you a little story. You may know I was a would-be ballet dancer, and I love dance. And once, the Carolina Ballet was performing “The Nutcracker” in Raleigh, you know, they would do the big Nutcracker like they do every year, and I would always dress up my little girls and I would take them to “The Nutcracker” every year. It’s like our annual thing. And one year, one year, you all, they invited my daughters and me to go back stage during intermission, during “The Nutcracker.” And, you know, I was bonkers. I was about to weep. I was so excited, you know.
I mean, there’s sugarplum fairy warming up, and she’s this ethereal creature, and I’m going, “Oh, I’ve never seen anything so beautiful.” And my daughter is, like, getting the thumbs-up. She’s, like, in the fifth grade. She’s giving the thumbs-up to some dances. I’ll never forget that experience as long as I live. I’ll never forget how thrilled I was.
And so I’m bonkers about this particular mission. And you’ve got donors, who are bonkers about your work. And you’re missing the joyful opportunity to engage with them and bring them joy when you help them learn more about and see your work in action. So take it from me. There’s this potential there.
I would love to talk about creative ways to get in the door. And I’m actually thinking about doing a series of videos and sending them out, 16 different videos on succeeding with strategies to get a meeting with your donor. Let me know if you’d like that.
So I’m really big on the strategy of advice visit. And what I mean by advice visits is that your donor does not want to visit with somebody who’s going to blabber at them and do all the talking. Your donor thinks that he or she should do the talking, and he or she has something to offer you.
And quick story, I was visited by this . . . I used to be a donor to the big national organization. And this new lady came to town. And she was a young woman who was heading up the statewide chapter. Called me for coffee. I said, “Oh, I would love to meet with you.” Well, do you know, this young woman talked at me for 60 minutes, and she did not want to hear one word out of my mouth.
And, you know, I could tell her who in Raleigh she should have met with, who would be passionate about her cause, who could open the door for her. I would have set up some meetings for her. I would have helped her with donors. Nothing. She just wanted to talk to me.
And so I thought, lady, why are you just sitting here talking? Because I might as well be a mole on the wall if you don’t want to hear anything back out of my mouth. So I passed that along to remember that donors expect for you . . . they expect to do the talking. So the old strategy of if you want money, ask for advice, and if you want advice, ask for money, is just so, so, so important.
So I just think, how can I pick you your brain, what do you think. I’d love your opinion. I have a lot of posts on my site about the kind of questions you ask, the advice visits that really do get you in the door. The donor is going to say no if they think you’re making a presentation. I’ll tell you that right now.
And, you know, my friend Linda Frenette, she would approach this lady for an advice visit, and the lady said, “Don’t come see us. We don’t have any money to give you so you might as well not waste your time.” And Linda said, “I just want to run this program by you and get your input.””Well, come on, I’d love to tell you what I think.” And Linda walked out with the $10,000 challenge gift without even being asked . . . she didn’t even have to ask.
And then my big star a couple years ago in my major gift coaching, Indraloka animal group went to see their top donor, and they threw out their presentation, and instead decided to ask him for input on their business plan, and they walk out with a $1.5 million challenge gift for him. And they did not ask for it.
So these strategies really, really, really work, you know. And what you’re doing is that you’re asking your donor what are they interested in, what do they think, what do they want to accomplish with their philanthropy, what do they think you should be tackling, do they like this program or project of yours, you know.
And Patrick Berard, Hema – Quebec, he is so funny. He was petrified about making visits, petrified. And I’d have to hold his hand before he went on a call. And he decided to . . . there was this huge corporate prospect. Because they were such a big prospect, he was even scared about calling them, you know. And he decided to make the first visit with this corporate foundation lady just get-to-know-you visit. All he was going to do was to get to know you and just getting advice from her about the corporation and how they worked.
And so therefore, he was a raving success on the visit. And she became a wild fan of his. And he ended up with a $400,000 gift from them because he took it slow. And he wrote this, not me, but you have to listen to their story and go with the flow, but don’t be shy to propose something. I’m just so proud of people who really take this kind of training and put it to work.
And so here’s some power questions if . . . a challenge gift, by the way, Cheryl, is when a donor says, ” If you can raise $10,000, I’ll match it with $10,000.” So you are challenged to raise $1 million. And if you can raise that $1 million, you get the million. So challenge gifts have been researched to be very effective. They’re more effective than what you might call a matching gift, even though they’re sort of the same thing. But if you present it as a challenge gift, it apparently is more effective.
But these are just sample. It would be really fun to brainstorm power questions talking to donors, you know. That would be . . . because there are thousand things you can ask them if you’re really interested in them as a person.
And again, you know, we’re always wanting to know what the donor is interested in. And that is my number one objective, is to find out what the donor is interested in. So, you know, just simple ways to get in the door is you can you can do a thank-you visit and drop a holiday gift off at your donor’s office. And if they won’t see you, you can be gracious. And who knows? Maybe they’re there. They’re certainly going to receive you. You know, use the advice visit strategy.
I like to use thank-you events. Because if you’re having a thank-you event for a big gift, you can always invite your donor to that. I’m a very big on small social for organizing social experience to pull VIP donors together. If you can’t get a direct appointment, try to use an event as a strategy to get in front of your donor.
And so let’s talk about Obstacle Number 5. People say they need a structure and training in what to do and say. And so let’s just talk a little bit about the structure. Because from my standpoint, you do not have a major gift program without structure. And here are the five elements with the two absolutely essential. I highlighted the two absolutely essential structure components that you can’t function without them.
And so, first, let’s talk about a major gifts team, a major gifts team. What you need to do is to pull together a tiny little group of . . . I’m sorry, of trusted insiders to help you with figuring out who your prospects are and what your next steps or your moves management needs to be for all the prospects. You’ve got to have a team you can meet with regularly to brainstorm.
And you can also assign everybody on the team can have a portfolio. And you can assign different groups, you know. Your CEO can take on 10 prospects. Your development directors handle 50 maybe. Or somebody else can handle 10. And so people have a mini portfolio or a large portfolio of 100 to 150 prospects.
And you kind of find a dollar goal to people’s portfolio. This is how you establish metrics for your major gift program so that it’s not going to be what we call fuzzy. People say major gift fundraising is fuzzy. And the reason it’s fuzzy is because there are no metrics, and there’s no structure. So structure will save you over and over with major gifts.
And also, you got to have some what I call funding priorities. A lot of people call them donor offers. But what it, you know, the Carolina Ballet, they took me backstage. I’m weeping. I’m weak at the knees. I’m so impressed, you know. If I were philanthropist, the fundraiser would call me back and say, you know, “I’d love to come visit.” I’ll say, “Oh, I’d love to meet with you. I want to talk about my experience. It was so wonderful. I’m so grateful.”
And then the representative from the ballet would say, “Well, you know, we’re trying to bring in a choreographer from New York City next year. And we were wondering if you might want to help fund that.” And I’m going, “Oh my gosh, what a great idea. Yeah.” So, you know, that the fundraiser had a project and had a funding priority to run by the donor. So it’s really essential.
And by the way, Lindsey, “Would you count board members as part of the team?” Team members are not all responsible for soliciting. And board members, it depends on your board members whether they should be part of your major gift team or not. They need to be savvy. They need to know what they’re doing. And they need to be trusted because this stuff is so confidential.
And then, you know, you’ll prospect list. I mean, this is just an example of a prospect list and prospect . . . By the way, Melissa, most major gifts are restricted unless you make a deliberate pitch for an unrestricted gift. But I want to finish this, and I only have three minutes. I’m going to move along.
Your prospect list. You cannot have a major program without a prospect list that’s rated and qualified. It’s got to have numbers next to people’s names. And it’s got to have a next step next to people’s names, right? And you need, number four, the structure, you need . . . I like written cultivation plans for your top 20 or 30 donors, you know, boom, boom, boom. What are we going to do next step with this donor? What is the donor interested in? And what might be the dollar potential for this lovely donor who loves us so much?
So, you know, one of the things about creating cultivation plans is you can plan out step by step by step, you know. What are our moves? I hate the work moves because it sounds aggressive. But when I was a staff fundraiser, I had my top 10 list that I approached my top 10 people once a month. And then I have my next 20 list, and I approach them every other month. And then I had a next 30 list, and I’ve touched them once a quarter. So that was my little mini moves management system that was very, very effective for me.
And then, you know, so the structure includes your prospect list, your team, your cultivation plan, and it also includes a monthly review of goals and progress. So if you’re not having a strategy session with your little team at least once a month, I would say you do not have a major gift program. You don’t have a major program because you don’t have any grounding for what you’re trying to accomplish.
So here are the five obstacles. And so I’d love to do a quick wrap-up with you. Tell me your key takeaway from this webinar? What really landed for you as a wrap-up? What was your key takeaway, something that you heard today but you think you can maybe implement tomorrow? You know, we talked about limiting beliefs, on advice meetings, ask for opinions, written cultivation plans, structure. A lot of people love structure. Chantrelle [SP] says she’s ready to get out there and talk to people.
It’s relationships. Yeah, yeah. I can do this or I can fundraise. Thank you. Structure, I need my list of 30. Yeah, advice visit yeah, you know. It’s possible, you all. It’s really possible, you know. I would love to talk to you if you’re interested in talking, you know, dedicated each time each week to work on it.
Jenny liked the sleeper prospects. Melissa says she’s going to carve out and reserve time. I promise you, Melissa, this will not get done if you don’t carve out time. Because we are overwhelmed with too much crap on our plate, you know. Calling our donors and having about a monthly essential meeting. Great, Barbara. I love that. Love that.
You know, you all are really smart, okay? And you all can do this. You can do this, my friends. I’d love to take a few questions. And I want to thank you so much for allowing me into your office and your inbox or your telephone today. I love talking about major gifts with smart fundraisers who really want to change the world. It’s my honor, literally, it’s my honor to support you and your cause. Whatever I can do to support you, I’d love to. You know.
I have a Friday newsletter on Friday mornings, and our Facebook Live broadcasts we do on Wednesdays at noon, and I would love to connect with you. So I would love to take some questions. Steven, how are we doing on time?
Steven: Oh, we’re good on time if you. I know we started late because of me. But if you can hang around for a few minutes, I’m willing to as well.
Gail: Yeah. Are donors offended when you call them when they haven’t given you their number? You know, I think if you have the phone numbers, if you have the donor’s phone number, you can certainly be polite about it and say, “This is so-and-so for an organization. I’m just calling to thank you, you know.”
I mean, you’ve got to start a conversation. And you’ve got to be gracious. You’ve got to be polite. You’ve got to be courteous. You’ve got to show up as an interesting person. And, you know, the donor will meet you somewhere, and they’ll decide whether they’re going to spend any time with you or not, right?
Is it better to call or stop by when you haven’t heard back from a donor? You know, you have to be realistic about your donors. They say that only one in every three donors wants to really have face-to-face contact. So realize that some donors are avoiding you for a reason, but you can get in front of them if you can get them to an event. I found myself that.
Planned gifts can definitely be considered major gifts. Absolutely. Can and should be considered. Brock wants to know how often a good donor should be contacted, and how do you know if you’re becoming annoying. You know, there are multiple ways to contact your donor: through calls, or written, or emails, you know. I think as long as you’re cheerful and courteous, you can follow up with your donor. But if your donor is going to ignore you, they say 7 times is finally the limit, but just try to be aware of your donor signals. And they say that donors . . . if you ask a donor their communications preferences.
And, you know, remember, if you’re trying to get in touch with your donor and they won’t you or . . . it depends on does it sound like you’re going to do all the talking? Does it sound like you’re all about you and not about them?
There’s a fascinating article last week about how a woman donor has been treated by male fundraisers and CEOs. How about that, right? So remember that it’s how you come across that makes or breaks whether your donor is going to be willing to connect with you.
And so I tell you what, I’m going to take some of these offline. I’d love to answer these. And, Steven, I can hopefully post these on my Facebook page as Q&A.
Gail: I think it would be lots of fun. Lots of fun.
Steven: That’s a great idea.
Gail: [inaudible 00:57:21] . . .
Steven: And I think . . .
Gail: Yeah, go ahead.
Steven: Oh, that was awesome. Yeah, I was just going to say people should definitely join that Facebook group. It should take you up on the coaching calls. Please visit firedupfundraising.com. Lots of really awesome resources. I mean, as you can see today, Gail is one of the best in the business. So thanks for being here, Gail. It is really cool to have you.
Gail: Somebody said the Facebook group is “Fired-Up Fundraising!”.
Steven: Yeah. You’ll find it. If you type in those words, you’ll get connected with Gail. I love the idea of former board members. I had never heard that before. That makes complete sense. That may have been worth the price of admission alone right there.
Gail: Oh, you’re so funny. Well, listen everybody, if you’re in the U.S., I hope you’re going to have a happy Thanksgiving this week. And it was fun to spend an hour with you today.
Steven: Yes. Thank you all for being here. We’ve got a cool webinar coming up next week, a week from Thanksgiving Day, “Storytelling and Last-Minute Fundraising.” So do you have not quite completed your whole year-end campaigns or maybe you’re looking for something extra add in. Join us. It’s a really good one. Vanessa Chase Lockshin. She is super awesome. Really smart. Always has great advice. So I hope you join us for that one. That’s our next webinar in about 10 days from now. This is Thanksgiving week.
So we’ll call it a day there. Like Gail said, have a happy holiday this week if you’re here in the States. If you’re Canadian, you already had your Thanksgiving. Well, that’s okay. We hope you have a good week too. Look for an email from me. I will send you the recording and slides here in just a couple hours. You’ll get those. And hopefully, we’ll see you again next week. So have a good rest of your week, and we will talk to you again soon. Bye now.
Gail: You all take care. Bye-bye.