Unlock the Key to Major Gift Success Through List Reviews

By susanlienau | September 6, 2016 | Featured News, Leadership Development, Major Gifts, Philanthropy Operations

Have you ever struggled to generate a list of qualified donor prospects? As fundraisers we find ourselves reviewing lists, searching the database, scheduling meetings and making calls to broaden our donor pools.

List review sessions are an effective first step toward realizing your donor potential – and a worthwhile exercise Averill employs with our clients. Below we answer your questions about what a list review is, who should be involved, and how to turn a name on a list into a major gift prospect.

Why expand my donor pipeline?

You are in the beginning stages of a major fundraising campaign, and identifying top donors for major gifts is a priority. Sure, you can and you SHOULD reach out to your year-to-year donors. In fact, soliciting your recurring donors is the most cost-effective way to fundraise. However, do not underestimate the value in adding to your top 50, broadening your base of donors to ensure your organization is reaching its fundraising potential and preventing donor fatigue.

Where do I start?

With members of your board’s development committee. Have you considered tapping into the networks of those closest to your organization and who are passionate about fundraising? Your board, comprised of individuals who are committed to the financial well-being of your organization, is hand-picked for several reasons including each member’s ability to give financially, commitment to your mission and access to their networks. This last quality, however, can easily be overlooked and underutilized. Once you’ve engaged your development committee, reach out to additional trustees, volunteer donors, your staff and others who can be helpful resources to expand your donor pipeline.

How do I build my initial list?

Your first objective should be to contact each development committee member, individually, to discuss one-on-one either in-person or over the phone, who in their network can give, has access and would be willing to help further your organization’s mission. You might start by digging into various circles which would apply to your trustee: their religious community, fitness club, alumni groups, other not-for-profit boards, business, neighbors, etc.

From there, build an initial list of names. With each subsequent meeting, bring with you the compiled list of names to spark discussion and generate ideas. Finally, once you’ve exhausted your inner circle, conduct a list review session with your board’s development committee to build a strategy for developing relationships with key prospects.

I developed a great list…how do I build these relationships?

There are a variety of ways to engage new prospects. Each prospect is different, and so the type of engagement, team involved, and follow up will depend on each individual. Below is a selection of our suggested relationship building opportunities.

  • Briefing meeting: Conduct a 45-minute meeting with a prospect at his or her office, over lunch or at your facilities to learn about his or her interests and share your mission, future goals and financial needs.
  • Tour of your facility: Take a prospect on a tour of your facility – whether it is a soup kitchen, hospital, women’s shelter, or policy institute. He or she can interact with those you serve, and meet key organizational leaders. Tours present an opportunity to make an immediate and long-lasting impact on prospective donors.
  • Invitation to a reception: Receptions are an excellent, small-scale environment for prospects to meet key leaders, learn about your mission and become engaged with your mission. An invitation from a connection – whether that’s a board member or volunteer – may help to motivate attendance.
  • Invitation to an event or gala: A larger-scale event – possibly a gala or golf outing – is also an excellent venue through which to introduce others to your organization. If you know a top prospect will be present at your event, be sure to assign that person to a trustee, donor or staff member.

Follow up, follow up, follow up!

Regardless of a prospect’s potential, he or she will not turn into a donor unless there is timely, adequate, and planned follow up! Assigning follow up to someone on your board’s development committee or fundraising team is critical to further developing the relationship and ensuring your organization remains fresh on your prospect’s mind.

Write a thank you note, invite him or her back for a discussion about giving – whatever the next step may be, you must act on it to move the relationship one step closer to making a gift request!

And if all that doesn’t work, have a back up plan. Unfortunately, not every prospect is going to become a major donor, but that doesn’t mean they won’t contribute to your organization.

Once a prospect has declined contributing a major gift, provide them with other ways they can support your cause that doesn’t involve a major donation. For example, you can invite them to:

  • Become an recurring donor. Let’s face it: consistent smaller donations are better than no donations! If a donor isn’t willing to become a major supporter, let them know that they can contribute monthly or annually using your online donation form.
  • Join your membership program. With a membership program, donors pay a monthly or annual contribution, but what sets it apart from recurring gifts is that the donors receive several perks like discounts to events and much more. The key is to make sure that donors stay engaged in your program, whether that’s through members-only fundraising events or exclusive merchandise.

Following up with prospects is key; however, if a supporter isn’t interested in becoming a major contributor, always be ready with another way that supporter can get involved in your organization.

Email info@averillsolutions.com and find us on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Visit our testimonials page to see what our not-for-profit partners have to say about us.

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