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The 5 Phases of Securing a Major Gift

Major gifts to your organization don’t just happen! You must take the time to invest in building a relationship with the prospective donor. If you have not started to build those relationships the time is now. Major gifts are not just for capital campaigns. They are also critical for your annual fund which provides unrestricted dollars.

There are 5 phases of a major gift process.  They are listed below:

1. Identify: Who will you ask? You should have a goal of at least 20-30 potential donors that you will work within a year.  The best way to identify potential donors is to check your database. Hopefully, you have a database with donor history going back at least two or three years. If you don’t have an “official” donor database, don’t worry.  A database can be an excel spreadsheet.  You are looking for your largest donors cumulatively and your most loyal donors.  These donors are going to be your best individual giving prospects. They already have an affinity for the organization and are showing it by donating money.

Side note:  You can get a discount on the Bloomerang donor database by going through techsoup.org

2. Qualify/Discovery: Does this individual have the ability to make a significant gift to your organization and are they inclined to do so? You can conduct research on major gift prospects in several ways.  Sources of major donor prospect information can include:

  • Their past giving history – with your organization and with other organizations.
  • Peer screening activities in which others who know the prospect provide confidential insights into their financial capacity and interests.
  • General news about the prospect in magazines, newspapers, or generally read online resources.
  • Specific prospect research tools and online databases such as wealth screenings.
  • Discovery phone calls and visits with the prospect.

It is important to remember that donors do not give because your organization needs money.  They give to satisfy their own needs.  The discovery phase seeks to discover this satisfaction step.  Therefore, the discovery phase should be focused on gathering information on your prospect and not focused on providing information to your prospect.  To do discovery well, you must ask good questions and actively listen.

3. Cultivation:  The next step is to engage and involve your major gift prospects in the work of your organization.  You must start to build relationships with the individuals on your list. It is true what they say, “people give to people.” Donors want to trust and like the individuals at the organizations they support. Cultivation is about building relationships before asking for money. You can not skip this step. 

You must, even if you already know the people on the list, create a plan for each of the individuals.  The plan should be strategic and customized for everyone. Check out the blog post The Top Six ways a Nonprofit can Cultivate Donors to develop your plan.

4. Solicitation: This is when you make a compelling request for support. When you’re ready to begin asking your prospects for major gifts call and schedule an “ask meetings” with each of them.  When you schedule your meeting make sure you are honest. Let them know you would like to discuss how they can invest in your organization in a bigger and more meaningful way. It should be no secret why you’re coming.

Once the meeting is secured.  It’s ideal for two people from your organization — preferably the executive director and a board member to attend. It needs to be people the prospective donor has already met at least more than once.

It is important that whoever attends prepares and practices before the meeting.  Also, remember, this is about relationships, so the person who asks should have the strongest relationship with the prospect.  The ask should be for a specific amount for a specific program or service.

5. Stewardship and Recognition: This is when you extend gratitude and acknowledgment to the donor.  How will you thank your donors so that they understand the impact they’ve made on your organization?  It is important that you offer thanks, so donors want to give again and again and again.

Check out the blog 26 Clever and Easy Ways to Thank Your Donors.

I hope this helps. Let me know in the comments. Sharing is Caring.

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