What if we plan ahead?“Where do you want to be in five years?”
Have you ever been asked that question? Do you have an answer – or are you like most people who are just trying to get through the day?
I don’t know; I feel like many of us don’t value long-term thinking. I read lots of LinkedIn articles on the virtues and necessity of long-range planning, yet I’m not seeing this actually played out in the thinking or strategic planning of major gift officers and their caseloads.
I think your job is so tough with all your day-to-day tasks as you cultivate and steward donors, that it’s very difficult to think about how you would like to grow the value of your caseload – let alone work toward goals with individual donors over the long term.
Yet I believe that if you were to spend time thinking about the long term, it would inspire and inform your daily, monthly and annual strategic plans – because you would be driven by a vision.
One of the many things I love about my business partner, Richard Perry, is that he likes to think big. I’ve seen firsthand, over the last 20+ years that I’ve known him, how that thinking actually becomes a reality with the growth of his businesses and the clients he has helped.
And his “big thinking, big vision” focus is what drives us at Veritus as we work with our clients every day.
Let me tell you how this plays out practically. We are constantly doing free major gift assessments of non-profits’ donor files. In this assessment we basically figure out the health of their major gift programs, specifically looking at donor attrition and donor value attrition. There are other things we look at, but those are two of the biggest factors in understanding what is going on with your program.
More often than not, these programs have a ton of problems. Over a four-year period, we often see little or no growth in the overall major gift program. Basically, donors have either stopped giving, or they give less every year while new donors come in to “pick up the slack” – and the result is very little or no growth.
When a non-profit leader sees this, they are shocked at how much revenue they are losing year over year. I mean, they kinda know the program isn’t growing that much, but they weren’t sure why.
Now they know.
But then, we take that file and we show the non-profit what is possible given their CURRENT donor assets, by doing a five-year revenue projection. In most cases what we see possible is anywhere from 70-300% growth in revenue from that major gift program.
We now have a vision of what is possible! And we can create a roadmap on how to get there.
The people that “get it” are pumped, and they immediately want to figure out what they need to do to get there (sometimes with our help).
But I’m going to be honest with you. Many see that five-year revenue forecast, and they get overwhelmed and stymied by it. Some are skeptical, and others don’t believe it’s possible.
It’s good for us at Veritus to see the reactions. Because if they don’t get jazzed by what is possible (and believe me, we are actually conservative in these projections) then we don’t want them as a client. I’m very serious about that.
Short-term thinking is the death of a major gift program. Short-term planning is not donor-centered. Short-term actions only serve the immediate needs of the organization.
How do you think about your major gift program, your portfolio and your individual donors? Are you only concerned about what is going to happen with them this year? Or this month, or this week?
In my next post, I’m going to give you some practical ways to start thinking long-term, so you will have inspiration each day to drive your daily actions.
It’s going to be good.