Several weeks ago we received some not-so-surprising news from a client in the western U.S. I say “not so surprising” because we see the very same thing with other clients all the time. But it was surprising to this client. Here’s what happened.
The criteria this client uses to select donors for major gift caseload assignment include, among other things, that the donor must have given a cumulative total of $2,000 in any of the last three years. That’s a reasonable number. Many of our clients use $1,000 cume. Some are a lot higher.
We were working with this client’s MGO in building a caseload. The way that works is that you select donors that meet certain cumulative giving in at least one of the last three years, then qualify them for caseload assignment. You can read about the whole qualification process here.
Sometimes if we “run out” of donors to include in the process, we arbitrarily drop the selection criteria amount to select more donors to qualify. That is what this MGO did.
And then she began the qualifying process to find out which donors would want to relate to her more personally. In the process, she discovered Mary Ann (not her real name), a donor who had not met the initial selection criteria – a donor the MGO, by lowering the initial selection criteria, had added in an attempt to have more donors to work with.
Mary Ann was a very wealthy woman. Very wealthy. And she was very interested in this organization. She had just started giving in the last few years to “test the waters.” But she was “under the organization’s radar” – there was no clear sign that Mary Ann could do great things for the organization. Even wealth screening did not pick up any clues.
But the MGO systematically worked the plan she had set for Mary Ann and the other donors on her caseload. And as she became aware of Mary Ann’s capacity and interest she changed the plan, spending more and more time, personalizing her approach and working hard to fulfill Mary Ann’s interests and passions.
And then Mary Ann gave $30 million!
And everyone was shocked except for the MGO and us. She had been working carefully to fulfill Mary Ann’s passions and interests, and we had seen this kind of thing before. A donor comes up from the bottom of the donor pyramid and gives a transformational gift.
There are two reasons I am telling you this story:

  1. Constantly be on the lookout for donors who can give transformational gifts. Jeff and I continue to assert that there is at least ONE (maybe more) donor in your file who can do it. Look for him or her. Take a look at this blog post for how find him or her.
  2. When you find that donor, shift strategy and time. You must highly personalize your approach to the donor to fit what your organization does with your donor’s passions and interests. And you must spend more time. It could take more time than your fiscal year! Value the long term.

There are some very good hidden donors in your caseload. Look for them.