April is all about major gifts. I have found that cultivating and soliciting a major gift is an exercise in matchmaking.

I’m speaking on this very topic at the end of the month:
2010 Chicago Fundraising Summit
“Complex Issues Affecting Major Gifts Solicitations”
Illinois Institute of Technology
April 28th 11:15 AM to 12:30 PM

In this economy, we are seeing a greater need for nonprofit services and a huge pull back in funding for nonprofits. Corporate giving, which is closely tied to corporate profits, has decreased and I’ve seen corporations donate more in-kind gifts instead of cash. Private Foundations have not received a high return on the principal of their funds (like in past years) and therefore are giving less.

So, who still has funds available to donate?

Individuals. We already know that they account for about three quarters of all donations. According to Giving USA: Individual giving, which is always the largest component of charitable contributions, was an estimated $229.28 billion, or 75 percent of the total, in 2008. This is a decrease of 2.7 percent compared with 2007 estimates (-6.3 percent adjusted for inflation).

In order to attract individual donors, nonprofits need to be increasingly savvy in their approach. The key is:
Right potential donor asked by the…
Right person in the…
Right way at the…
Right time for the…
Right request in the…
Right amount.

As development officers we often play the role of matchmaker – matching a donor’s passion and funds with our organization’s projects and needs. When the match is right, the gift is significant.

Asking for a donation is a lot like dating.

First, you need to find your potential donor. Often you can find them at the places you frequent like community events or fundraisers. Just like with dating, it almost always works better when you have a mutual friend introduce you (the organization) to the potential donor.

Second, you need to get to know each other. Invite your potential donor out to your facility to learn more about your organization. Make sure it is a comfortable location and setting for your potential donor. Create a dialogue, not a monologue. Often it helps to have your mutual colleague attend as well.

Third, establish a mutual interest. Does your donor have an interest or passion for your programs or mission? Present to the potential donor your different programs and projects to see which ones strike a cord with him/her. Create meaningful conversation that is not only centered on your organization so you get to know your potential donor.

Fourth, continue to cultivate your potential donor. Just like in dating, you want to keep in contact and continually invite your date to events – but don’t smother them.

Fifth, after you have developed a relationship with your potential donor, it is time to pop the question. Much like a marriage proposal, this solicitation needs to be well researched. What is the best way to solicit this potential donor for a donation? Craft an individualized proposal for him/her outlining the donation amount and the specific need it will fill at the organization. Frame the presentation from the potential donor’s perspective. Capture his/her heart and mind. Don’t focus on the request. Focus on the person.

Finally, continue to nurture this relationship just like you would a marriage.

Good luck with your dating donor cultivation and solicitation.


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