Major Gifts Donors Are Different is veteran fundraiser Jim Eskin’s take on the nuances development officers encounter when ensuring major gifts donors meet their personal goals. Here’s what Eskin has to share:
Human relations are a complex subject. And donor relations are just as or even more complex.
Every donor is different. Something that might appear insignificant to one person can matter a great deal to someone else.
In the world of fundraising, we never want to take chances. It is always prudent to take the high road and make as many genuine and positive impressions on those we will be asking for precious gifts of time, talent and treasure.
Over several decades as both practitioner in higher education advancement, and now as a fundraising trainer/consultant working with a wide range of non-profits of all different sizes and from all different sectors, I’ve vividly observed so called small actions that substantively nurture awareness, affinity and trust. So, here’s my list of 10 little things that can culminate in major and impactful gifts.
1. You can never thank the major gifts donor prospect too much and this begins with thanking them for the most precious gift of all — their time. Unlike money, time can never be replaced. Make it an intuitive habit to start every meeting by thanking donor prospects for the opportunity to visit with them.
2. Visits to their homes or offices represent forensic field days. The photos, books, mementos and other items on display can reveal immensely important insights into their lives and what they value. Be sure to make a thorough inventory of everything on display. Even more importantly ask questions that will show your interest and reveal even more telling insights.
3. Bigger advancement operations may have full-time research staff and access to wealth screening tools. But never underestimate the value of Internet searches which likely will reveal family relationships, career accomplishments, and even more importantly, philanthropic and community priorities.
4. Find out communication preferences which every day grow in possibilities. Do they prefer to be contacted on land or cell lines? Do they opt for short and sweet text messages? Do they regularly keep up with e-mail? Are they into video-conferencing? Equally important, find out when in the day they would like to be contacted.
5. If you’re lucky, they will prefer face-to-face visits, which is typically the most productive interaction that can be made by professional and volunteer non-profit leaders. Again, you must discover what their preferences are. Do they like visits to their home or offices? Or do they prefer to visit the non-profit’s facilities that provides a keener sense of the mission in action?
6. Modest smart devices have opened the door for even low-budget non-profits to produce and send impact videos. One of my favorites is brief testimonials from scholarship recipients and other beneficiaries of the donor’s generosity.
7. I’m not a big fan of providing donors with swag and other branded merchandise. With all due respect, most donors won’t know where to put these items. I am, however, a big fan, of very personal gifts. For example, I have a colleague who makes her Grandma’s favorite cookies. These have brought smiles and delight to even the wealthiest of donors.
8. When you have the opportunity to meet with major gifts donor prospects and they offer you something like a glass of water, always accept. This gives you one more chance to convey gratitude and express the two magical words of Thank You!
9. Be sure to ask about what the donor prospect has recently enjoyed reading, watching or otherwise spending their spare time. This opens the door to establishing common ground and once again provides clues on their values, priorities and interests.
10. I consider handwritten notes to be the “secret sauce” of sound stewardship. Follow up on meetings with such notes as promptly as possible. They don’t have to be long or fancy. Think about it: How many handwritten notes do you receive? This simple practice will set you apart from most other fundraisers and non-profit leaders.
A small thing might be received and perceived in precisely that manner. But you never know when it might really connect and touch someone in a profoundly personal and effective manner. Besides, these all represent the right things to do, and you never need reasons to do the right things.
Major Gifts Donors Are Different was first posted at Development Systems International.
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Jim Eskin’s consulting practice, Eskin Fundraising Training builds on the success of his more than 200 fundraising workshops and webinars and provides the training, coaching and support services that non-profits need to compete for and secure major gifts. He has authored more than 100 guest columns that have appeared in daily newspapers, business journals and blogs across the country, and publishes Stratagems, a monthly e-newsletter exploring timely issues and trends in philanthropy. Sign up here for a free subscription. He is author of 10 Simple Fundraising Lessons, which can be purchased here.
Jim Eskin – Founder
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