My head is spinning around and I think I’m going crazy.  Seriously. What’s got me wound up is hearing, once again, from a very capable MGO, that every donor on his caseload has the same interests and passions,  that there is no need to be digging around for more information,  that there is no need to create a unique moves management plan for each donor, and, that “all they want to do is help.”
Well, of course, all they want to do is help!  Isn’t that what giving is all about?
But this person, who is so good in so many ways, is so lost on this point.  And so are many other MGOs in too many non-profits here in North America and Europe.
And that’s why Pillar #3 of the ideal major gift program is about strategy – that’s why I am asking, “Do You Have the Right Moves?”  Because having the right strategy springs from a clear understanding of the donor’s interests and passions.  And, if you will secure that information, then you can be about DOING the right things with the donor.
Once your caseload is set, a contact plan should be created for every donor – a plan that is specific to them, their interests, and their giving patterns.  Our philosophy is that a major donor is only asked once or twice during a year, and that the ask is buttressed throughout the year by a stream of what we call “touch points.”  These touch points, a minimum of one per month (sometimes more), include tactics such as:

  • A report from the “front line” which matches their interests and assures the donor that their gift has made a difference.
  • An internal memo that addresses some problem or situation in the program area that the donor would be interested in.  This gives the donor an insider’s view.
  • An appropriate gift.
  • Invitations to special briefings.
  • A newspaper or news magazine clipping that either describes a problem that you are dealing with and/or talks about the organization.
  • A copy of an actual letter from a person helped by your organization.
  • Invitations to visit program sites.
  • Personal visits.
  • Telephone calls or postcards.
  • A report from the Chronicle of Philanthropy that says giving is down, etc.
  • A video or audio clip that either shows a problem or shows a solution.
  • A birthday or anniversary card.
  • A book that deals with compassion or caring.
  • A note from various leaders in the organization.
  • A picture of a person that has been helped in their area of interest along with a post-it note from the MGO that says something to the effect of:  “Here’s a picture of Joe – a person your giving has helped in the X area” along with a brief project report.
  • An e-mail that gives a success story or sets up a problem.
  • A note on the donor’s Facebook wall (once they have accepted you as a friend) that reports on what their giving is doing.

…and scores of other “touches” that show the donor that you are present with them in this relationship, that you care, that you notice when they give, that you are open to their questions and concerns, and that this relationship is about partnership, NOT an economic exchange.
All of these predetermined moves should strategically serve three objectives:

  1. To tell the donor how their giving is making a difference.
  2. To give the donor an insider’s view of what you are doing.
  3. To set-up the ask.

In fact, I suggest that you make a list of all your planned moves for each donor and place each move into one of the three categories above to see if you have enough moves for each one. And ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Am I telling the donor often enough  that their giving is making a difference?  How often is too often?  OK, if you told them every day, that might get to be a little much.  But, two or three times a month in simple low cost ways might be just right.  It doesn’t need to be a fancy type- written letter – it can be a handwritten note.  It can be a post card-  or an email, which costs nothing.
  2. Am I giving the donor an insider’s view of what we are doing? Am I letting them know how the project or program is going, good and bad news, – how a technical approach to the problem is working, or not working?  Insider stuff.  Not just high level blather!  Down in the trench stuff.
  3. Am I properly setting up the ask?  This is about knowing where you are going as relates to the ask.  Have you been talking about a problem the donor is interested in solving or addressing?  Have you been doing it for months, sharing info on why the problem or situation needs to be dealt with, providing technical info on the causes and possible solutions, and sharing third party opinion on what they think and how to deal with it? Setting up the ask is not just a one time event – it is a sequential and logical process that spans many months and builds.

Having the right moves is so critical to success in major gifts, as it is in all relationships.  You just can’t be thoughtless in your relationships with your boss, partner, spouse, subordinates, friends, etc. and expect them to be meaningful.  We know this!  But, too often, we just put our hands out and go for the money.  When you stop and think about it, that’s pretty offensive.
As we’ve said many times in this blog – donors are partners, not sources of cash.  And they deserve a thoughtful and caring approach from you – a strategy that springs from their interests and passions – one that is tailor made for them and honors the unique and wonderful people they are.
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