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Move ‘em up!

By January 20, 2010September 16th, 2014Donor Engagement, Fundraising

I’ve been asked questions like this often, but recently received this specific question and it seemed like a good one to share at the beginning of the year when you are making plans about your development efforts for the year:

“The organization that I work for has a great base of donors but the top of our pyramid only has 3 donors that we heavily rely on for support. How can we move some of our donors up the donor pyramid?” – from Sacha.

The easy answer is: Ask. Ask more of your donors to increase their gift size at in person meetings AFTER you have spent time with them one-on-one to learn more about WHY they give in the first place.

And, there is more to it than that.

Getting donors to give MORE once they start supporting and investing in your organization is part of what I call the “fun” of development work. Here are a few suggestions on how to create a system to always be working on this:

1. Take a look at your donor list and identify who has given faithfully over a few years, at a significant level, which might be $100 for some organizations or $500 in others and even $1000+ in others. Choose a group of 15 or 20 to start with.

2. Review this list with key leadership (board & staff and even former board members). Identify who would be the very best person to approach each donor to get to know them more deeply and engage them in the work of your organization.

3. Do some donor research next. Either use a firm who handles this or use this list of sites that I identified awhile back to help you dig around and learn more about capacity to give and their interests. Digging For Gold

4. Armed with that data and information, set a goal for what size give you want to invite from each person on the list.

5. Simultaneously, make sure the written messages on your newsletter, website and print materials is very, very clear about what you need the money for…and why more dollars are needed. Don’t ask, but share the facts about cost of your services, waiting lists, and so on.

6. Begin to set visits or phone calls with those identified on your list. Most important in those meetings is to LISTEN to them. Learn more about them. Learn what it is about your work that gets them excited and feeling connected.

7. I’m a big fan of letting the person know that I’d like to ask them to increase their gift, but that I believe they are not ready to do that yet, so I’ll be asking them to do that later, when we’ve spent some time together and I’m certain they ARE ready.

8. Always, on each visit, phone call, email and thank you letter or note, let them know about the waiting list for your services or what you are not able to do today due to limited resources.

9. Keep in touch with these special people gently, so as not to annoy them. Have a board member put a personal note on their thank you letter for their next contribution. Have someone phone them personally to invite them to see the graduation ceremony of your students or volunteers. Expect that only 20-25% will ever attend such functions, but that the phone call alone is doing the work to keep this person connected and engaged.

10. When you KNOW for certain that this person really does love your organization and has the means to say yes to what you want them to do: ASK. But WHO asks is key. It must be the very person they can’t say no to. That could be a client, a former board member, a friend of theirs or you.

11. When they do say yes, for whatever amount they agree to, acknowledge them quickly and personally. AND keep in touch all year long after the gift is given. Don’t forget them and ignore their investment.

This is a short list with lots more I could share about moving people up the donor pyramid. Check out these books for more great tips and strategies about both retaining donors and inviting gifts:

Donor Centered Fundraising, Penelope Burk
Yours For the Asking, Reginald Levy
Asking: A 59 Minute Guide, Jerold Panas


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