Right now, in this moment, you have donors in your caseload who could give transformational gifts. But they’re not giving those gifts right now because no one has taken the time to see them, dream big with them, and take that journey with them as a partner. Getting them there is easier than you think. 

Here are the steps you need to take to move into a transformational space in your donor relationship:

See Them

Sit down with your portfolio. Identify 3-5 donors in Tier A who have capacity and a passion for your organization. This is not about identifying the famous athlete or actor who gave a small gift to your organization two years ago but, despite numerous efforts to reach them, don’t have an interest in connecting. This process is about really seeing the donors you already know who are already supporting your organization at a high level. Look at their giving history, largest gift, years of giving, wealth capacity, their passions and interests, giving to other organizations, and what you know about them from prior conversations. (For example, other large gifts, additional assets, Donor Advised Funds.) 

Dream Big 

First, do your research. 

  • Take your list to your organizational leaders and board members. Ask them to dream big with you. Who do they know on your list? What ideas do they have, and would they join you in a conversation?
  • Take your list to your fundraising team. Talk through strategies and ideas for dreaming big and partnering with those donors. 
  • Sit down with decision-makers in your program delivery staff. Show them the list, identify projects and categories that match the interests and passions, and goal amounts for each donor. Using open-ended questions, ask them to consider what gaps need to be filled or where growth is needed. Ask questions like, “What would need to happen for no kids to go hungry in the summer?” or “If you could grow any program you have right now, which one would make the biggest difference to those we serve?”

Then, create a plan.

  • After you have gathered your research, on your Donor Engagement Plan (DEP), create a draft 12-24 month strategic communication plan. This plan is flexible. But if you don’t create a potential path that holds you accountable, you will get busy elsewhere. And this dreaming will be lost and forgotten. 
  • In your plan, list a big project(s), a stretch goal, and what timing might work for that to occur. Put that on your plan. Start with steps to connect with your donor and ask them more about their passions and interests. Build their understanding of how your organization is meeting that need. Ask them if they would be interested in learning more about some big bold growth plans or a significant gap that your organization needs to fill. Then, include a plan for educating your donor about those big needs. Plan to have conversations that may include organizational and program leadership, tours, touch points, and meaningful connections. 

Take The Journey

  • As you go along with your donors, working your plan, you will find that some of the donors you chose aren’t interested in a transformational gift at this time. This is great. Now you know who you need to focus on. And you haven’t wasted your time because most likely you “seeing them” and connecting in such a meaningful way will lead to continued or increased giving. 
  • Remember, discovering who your transformational donors are isn’t going to be a linear process. This is intuitive. This is creative. Sometimes things bubble up out of nowhere that then lead to something big. For example, I coached a fundraiser years ago who had created a transformational gift plan. And she had been connecting with a donor on her list when she discovered months later that the donor’s late husband had played music and volunteered for the organization. This led to conversations about needing a new music building, which was not the original plan. That led to this $25,000 donor becoming a $7M donor over just two years. If this fundraiser had never started on that journey, being focused on the potential, that connection would have never bubbled up. The transformational gift would never have happened.

Remember, the primary reason a donor hasn’t given a transformational gift is because no one has seen them. No one has dreamed big with them and asked. Donors want to make a difference in the world. Partnering with them to make that difference in a significant way fills their hearts with purpose and joy. So start today with being open to big possibilities and creating and implementing a transformational donor plan.  

And if you want more tips on how to create strategic plans that will allow you to plan for transformational relationships, check out our course on Creating Meaningful Connections with Your Donors