Creating a Competitive Edge

posted in: Major Gifts | 0

When Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks, he said “Because that’s where the money is.” For your group to successfully raise funds with major gifts, you too need to know where the money is… and how and why people give.

Fundraising is both an art and a science. The information below summarizes the science of securing support. The art is in understanding how to apply these fundamental principles to your group’s unique circumstances.

I. Sources of Contributions for US Non-Profits

  • Individuals 71%
  • Foundations 16%
  • Bequests 9%
  • Corporations 5% (Source: 2017; Giving, USA)

Understanding the most likely sources of support for your group is the first step to successful fundraising.

II. About Major Gifts

In fundraising as in much of life, the 80/20 rule applies: 80% of the results come from 20% of the people. A broad base of support is valuable. But the most efficient way to secure funds is to concentrate on the limited pool of prospects who can give the largest gifts.

Factors that define a major gift:
A. The donor’s giving capacity; his or her assets and income.
B. The closeness of the prospect to the cause.
C. The prospects’ interest in the project at hand.
D. The influence of the individualtrying to procure the gift.

While you can’t influence the prospect’s capacity, you CAN identify the most capable prospects, find the right person to approach him or her, and develop an approach to increase their closeness and interest in your group.

III. Why People Give

Fundamentally, people give altruistically because they know the importance of the institution, or they know the importance of the GIFT to the institution.

Motivations are usually mixed, but there are seven types of donors, each of whom should be appealed to differently:

  • Altruists give out of generosity and empathy.
  • Communitarians give to improve the community.
  • Devout give for religious reasons.
  • Dynasts have a family tradition of giving.
  • Investors give with an eye on tax and estate benefits.
  • Repayers have benefited from the charity they support.
  • Socialites throw social functions for the community and have a grand time doing it.

Donor self interest in contributing can result from the following:

  • a desire to repay an obligation to the solicitor.
  • a desire for standing or recognition from others; peer pressure.
  • self preservation or fear, as in medical research.
  • a feeling of guilt at material success.

Corporations also advance their marketing as well as their philanthropic objectives through visible support for non-profits that will advance their purposes.

IV. Why People Do Not Give Major Gifts

  1. They are not asked.
  2. Lack of confidence in the governing Board, volunteer or professional leadership.
  3. Absence of a compelling and reasonable plan for the organization’s future.
  4. Lack of understanding about the organization’s mission and methods.
  5. Premature asks before the prospect is ready.
  6. Having the wrong person make the ask.
  7. Failure to ask for a reasonable specific amount, supported by research.
  8. Failure to recommend appropriate non-cash gifts.
  9. Failure to include the spouse or associates in the cultivation process.


V. Factors to Implementing a Successful Fund Raising Major Gift Campaigns

  • Major gifts are easier to secure as part of a campaign.
  • The campaign should be a top organizational priority.
  • An intense campaign timetable and plan should be developed and closely followed.
  • Strong institutional leadership must be demonstrated.
  • Volunteers should make their own gifts before asking others.
  • A well-documented case must be developed.
  • There needs to be an emphasis on asking for gifts.
  • There must be peer (face-to-face) solicitation.
  • Goals are established, respected and met.
  • Specific gift plans with donor recognition are offered.
  • Sights (gift request amounts) are kept high.


VI. The Key Principles of Campaign Plans

Face to Face Solicitation
To meet personally in the home or business of each prospect is critical to the success of capital campaigns. A personal visit is the most effective way to raise funds:

Pledge Gifts
To offer prospects the opportunity to pledge their gifts over time through a multi-year pledge payment plan, enables a $1,000 donation to become a $3,000 pledge gift or more. Studies have shown that donors who pledge their gifts contribute 2 to 3 times as much as others.

Request Specific Gifts
People will be more comfortable and generous when solicitors offer guidance about what is expected and what their peers are giving.

An Emphasis on Major Gifts
Early substantial gifts will create momentum, inspire confidence and credibility, and provide significant money. In many fund raising campaigns, the 80%-20% rule applies: wherein 80% of the funds raised are contributed by 20% of the actual donors. Some campaigns are experiencing a 90%-10% ratio.

A Phase-by-Phase Approach
A sequential approach, starting with the most committed and capable prospects and expanding outward will ensure success.

A Campaign Atmosphere
A sense of excitement and urgency will help achieve the best results. Campaign meetings, reports, brochures, posters, and events are designed to support a campaign atmosphere.

An Intensive Timetable
Strict deadlines and focal points of activity keep volunteers productive and motivated.

Donor Recognition
All potential donors should be presented a specific gift plan with memorial and commemorative giving opportunities.


VII. Two Essential Campaign Ingredients
1 – A Case for Support

> It serves as your “sales prospectus” to potential leaders and donors.
> It conveys the importance, relevance and urgency of the program.
> It gives people rational and emotional reassurances that the campaign deserves their support now.

The case, or reason why people are asked to give, must be compelling — it must attract attention, interest, and be salable to the community at large and particularly to leaders and major donors. It explains to people how your campaign will help their community, why they should care, why your group is best qualified to solve these problems, how the funds will be used to solve the problem, and how you intend to raise the funds. It also insures consensus about what the campaign is for.

2 – Leadership

> Existing volunteer and staff leadership must demonstrate strong commitment to the campaign.
> Volunteer leadership plays the central role.

Campaigns, by their very nature, require the support of effective and committed leadership. Existing Board members, Administration, development staff and volunteers in the campaign must make the campaign a priority. Strong leadership is essential, in terms of structure and organization, and for the example its’ actions, energy and financial support demonstrate to others.
Sources of Support

> All prospects should be asked to give significant gifts.
> Those with large resources will be called upon first to give in an extraordinary manner.

A capital campaign requires large numbers of potential givers who have a connection or potential connection to your mission. Some prospects with unusual qualifications by virtue of affluence, association, and inspiration, will be called upon to contribute in an extraordinary and outstanding manner.

To discuss putting these ideas to work for you, reach out to us today.

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