We love working with major gift officers. There is nothing more fulfilling then helping a great MGO discover a breakthrough strategy with a particular donor, or figure out how to guide the donor through a complex gift.
Every week when we check in with MGOs, we’ll commonly ask them things like, “Have you thought about this point? Have you asked this question? What about this…” (We also frequently check in with their in-house manager – usually the Development Director or Director of Major Gifts – to make sure we’re all tracking together on the larger, high-level major gift strategy.)
So today I’m going to pretend you are one of the major gift officers we manage, and I’m going to ask you a few questions about your caseload and donor file. Hopefully, these questions will spark some thought and action:
- What’s the highest point of contact you’ve had with each donor on your caseload this year? Now you might be asking what does “highest point of contact” mean? In the major gift world, your highest point of contact would be a meaningful face-to-face contact that resulted in a solicitation of a gift. The second-highest would be a meaningful contact face-to-face with a donor without a solicitation, then a phone call that moved the relationship forward, then a phone call where you spoke, then a personal note, etc… I really need you to be honest about it. I think you may be surprised by the low number of meaningful contacts you’ve had with many donors. The point of this exercise is to assess how you are communicating with your donors and to make a commitment to increase the number of meaningful contacts in the New Year. It will make a huge difference on your overall revenue.
- For how many donors on your caseload do you have a long-term plan for soliciting a large gift? Have you asked for a smaller gift now, to set up that major solicitation in the future? You should have donors on your caseload from whom, in two or three years, you are going to be asking a large six or seven-figure gift. If you wait that long to ask for ANY gift and only think you need to steward the donor along, that large gift may be in jeopardy. Our advice is that you have to ask for smaller gifts, then report on the impact of those gifts before leading up to a massive solicitation in the future. Many MGOs and their managers make the mistake that the only way to “set up” a big ask is to steward a donor with gifts, check-in calls and invitations to events. But we have found the best way to get the big gift is to ask for smaller gifts that the donor is passionate about. That experience of giving to your organization will lead to much larger gifts.
- Do you have planned giving donors on your file that have the potential to give major gifts? Many organizations have donors that, once they have committed to a planned gift, they put them into lifetime stewardship mode. Richard and I think this is a huge mistake. We’re always urging MGOs and their managers to audit all of their planned giving donors and develop a strategy to cultivate them for a major gift, in addition to their planned gift. Of course, not every planned giving donor is a good prospect for a major gift, but a handful might be. You’re losing out on revenue from donors right under your nose.
These three points are something you should consider as you head into 2016. Sometimes you can get so bogged down in your day to day work, it’s hard to lift your head up to see the bigger picture. Take some time this week to step back a bit and see where your caseload and donor file are moving.