A Major Gifts Mentality
Part 2: The Plan

Ann C. Fitzgerald, President

Part 2: The Plan

It’s easy for fundraisers to get excited about a prospective donor and immediately attempt to ask for a donation. In doing so, they may miss important planning steps that lead to greater success in closing a gift.

In the first part of this series on a Major Gifts Mentality, we covered the major gifts team – who is part of it and what do they do. Now we must consider the plan.

The Plan

A successful major gifts plan has five elements:

    1. An acquisition program. Where will you find prospective major donors? Acquisition methods might include direct mail, referrals, and targeted research. Acquisition is an ongoing need for every nonprofit, so assess the number of new names you must acquire each year to reach your goals.
    2. Research. What do you need to know to inform your approach? Beyond wealth, you may want to know about the prospect’s education, family, business or profession, politics, religion, philanthropy, etc. There is a wide range of free and fee-based services to help uncover this information. Or consider joining the Association of Professional Researchers for Advancement [link] to sharpen your research skills.
    3. Prioritization. Armed with research, it’s time to prioritize prospects based on their capacity to give, interest in your cause, and connection to your organization. Concentrate on the top tier of prospects first – maybe 25 or 50 names – and develop tailored cultivation steps.
    4. A compelling case for support. Why should a donor support you? Hone your pitch to demonstrate urgency and relevancy. Convey your vision, consider your competition, and understand your programs.
    5. Cultivation strategies based on the above. How will you engage these prospects? This is the creative part of fundraising, for which you want to involve your team [link], utilize your cultivation tools, and consider what you know about the prospective donors. Try to develop three cultivation steps for each prospective donor.

    Planning shouldn’t be an excuse for delay or inactivity in cultivating new donors. As Philip B. Crosby said, “Good things only happen when planned. Bad things happen on their own.”

    [Next up: A Major Gifts Mentality, Part 3: The Execution]

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