Major Gifts

Cultivating Potential Donors

To confirm a major gift, an individual must be cultivated. An effective way to identify and cultivate potential major donors is by exposing them to your organization in a comfortable setting. I recommend hosting a reception for 30-50 potential donors who you would like to become more involved in your organization. I recommend hosting about three to four receptions per calendar year. The reception should take place mid-week on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday after work from six to eight in the evening.

Utilize your Board members and current donors to host receptions in their homes or at your organization. Send out invitations to each potential guest and do a follow up phone call a couple weeks after the invites have been mailed. Engage your Board members and key volunteers to help with these follow up phone calls to potential guests that they know. If these guests can attend, ask the Board member to attend as well and act as “host” to this guest. This Board member will become the relationship manager between the potential donor and the organization. Here is how I break down the role of the host(s) and the role of the organization:

Host Role
• Has already expressed an interest in the organization
• Strongly believes in what you are trying to do and is willing to say so
• Will agree to host the party (at their home or at your organization) and arrange for catering services
• Is willing to open up his/her address book and invite friends and acquaintances
• Has already made a donation (money, services or goods) to your organization and/or will make a donation the evening of the event

Organization Role
• Create reception invitations and provide them to the host and your Board members. Although your Board members will be asked to invite guests, you will rely mostly on the host to invite guests
• Gather RSVPs
• Assemble brief presentation, PowerPoint, packets and any additional information
• Provide venue with tables, table clothes, belly bars, chairs, etc. (if hosted at the organization)
• Send out follow up letters to all guests and invitees

At the reception, there will be time to mingle over food and drinks from six to seven before a simple and effective presentation is given. The reception offers an opportunity for the attendees to network with one another. From seven to eight in the evening, give a brief presentation on your organization including a very soft sell by informing guests of the financial needs of your organization.

All attendee contact information is gathered at the event in order to send a follow up letter thanking each person for attending. The thank you letter often results in a donation (many times one-time donation) from those who attended the event. Additionally, those who were invited receive a follow up letter letting them know we missed them at the event and to refer to the enclosed brochure for more information. This letter also results in a donation (many times a one-time donation). Each attendee will also receive a follow up from their relationship manager.

Each guest will be provided a packet of information when they leave the reception. Although there will be donation cards available to fill out at the event, you will prefer to have the opportunity to follow up with each guest after the event. This often results in a larger donation or a multi-year pledge.

If the potential donor needs more cultivation, invite him or her to take a tour of the organization.

If the potential donor is ready for an ask, set up a face-to-face meeting.

Tour of Organization’s Facility
If a picture is worth a thousand words, a tour of an organization’s facility is worth a million. A tour is an opportunity for the potential donor to see the programs firsthand. The potential donor can witness after school programs and what a difference the quality staff members make in the lives of young adults or the potential donor will see the need in the eyes of each puppy who has not been adopted at the shelter. Often it is a great idea to have a knowledgeable staff member or student served by the after school programs give the tour. Ideally, you would like your relationship manager (Board member or key volunteer) to also attend the tour to make your potential donor feel more comfortable and connected. At the end of tour, answer any questions that the potential donor might have and set up an opportunity to meet again for a one-on-one visit.

I’ve attached a Step-by-Step to Confirming a Major Donor worksheet for an easy reference on how to cultivate and solicit a potential donor.Step-by-Step to confirming a major donor

Next blog will tell you how to set up and complete a Face-to-Face Solicitation.

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