7 Keys to a Successful Major Gift Program – Key #3: Do You Have the Right Moves?
My head is spinning, 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 passions and interests. And that there’s no need to be digging around for more information, 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’s 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.
That’s why Key #3 of the ideal major gift program is about strategy. And that’s why I’m asking, “Do You Have the Right Moves?” Because having the right strategy springs from a clear understanding of the donor’s passions and interests. If you secure that information, then you can go 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’s 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 bolstered 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 the donor’s interests and assures them that their gift has made a difference.
  • An internal memo that addresses some problem or situation in the program area that the donor’s interested in – this gives the donor an insider’s view.
  • An appropriate gift
  • Invitations to special briefings
  • A newspaper or news magazine clipping that describes a problem you’re 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 who’s been helped in the donor’s 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 email that gives a success story or sets up a problem.
  • A note on the donor’s Facebook page (once they’ve accepted you as a friend) that reports on what their giving is doing.

…and scores of other “touches” that show the donor that you’re present with them in this relationship, that you care, that you notice when they give, that you’re open to their questions and concerns, and that this relationship is about a partnership, NOT an economic exchange.
All 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’re doing.
  3. To set up the ask.

Now make a list of all your planned moves for each donor and place each move into one of the above three categories to see if you have enough moves for each donor. 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? 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 typewritten letter – it can be a handwritten note. It can be a postcard or an email, which costs nothing.
  2. Am I giving the donor an insider’s view of what we’re 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-trenches stuff.
  3. Am I properly setting up the ask? This is about knowing where you’re going as it 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 opinions on what they think and how to deal with it? Setting up the ask is not a one-time event – it’s 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. (Tweet it!) You can’t be thoughtless in your relationships with your boss, partner, spouse, subordinates, friends, etc. and expect those relationships 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 passions and interests – one that is tailor-made for them and honors the unique and wonderful people they are.
Read the whole series, 7 Keys to a Successful Major Gift Program:

Key #1: Attributes of the Ideal Major Gift Organization
Key #2: Make Sure You Have the Facts!
Key #3: Do You Have the Right Moves? (This post)
Key #4: Develop Offers that Donors Want
Key #5: Turn Planned Giving into Strategic Giving
Key #6: Treat Corporations and Foundations Just Like Individuals
Key #7: What You Get Done Matters!