Did I ever tell you one about the $75 donation that turned into a six-figure gift?
The donor was unassuming – let’s call her Sally, as she prefers to keep her donations anonymous.
Sally was a long-time donor, quietly responding to our annual campaign each year with a modest gift.
One day, she came out to a low-key donor event and struck up a conversation with a board member about making a bigger contribution to our work.
Over the course of more than a year, we got to know her better, on her terms – we met regularly, we listened deeply, and found out more about her philanthropic priorities, and the values that she held dear.
When we were able to match her up with a giving opportunity that aligned perfectly with the change she wanted to achieve in the world, the major gift magic happened!
Success stories like these don’t happen overnight – they are the result of persistence, hard work, and a serious investment in building meaningful relationships with all your donors.
But if you’re ready to make that commitment, here are three secrets you need to know to turn a modest annual donation into a potential transformational gift.
Someone like Sally is already in your database
I’ve said this before, and I will say it again – if you want to grow your major gift program, you must start with those donors who have already made a commitment to your organization.
Too often, I see organizations exerting all their energy trying to figure out how to reach the mega-donor who just named a wing of a hospital.
They daydream about the high profile, ultra high net worth donors who have no connection to or interest in their cause – and overlook those who have already said yes to supporting them.
Over the course of getting to know Sally better, she revealed to us that she was giving to more than 10 different charities with similar missions to ours.
We were simply the only ones who actually engaged with her beyond a direct mail solicitation.
They are often testing you with a modest gift
I recently heard a very similar story to Sally’s from one of the most successful major gift officers I know.
In her case, a donor who had started out giving a monthly gift to their organization eventually committed to a seven-figure donation.
That’s right – from a modest monthly gift to multi-million dollar donation.
Donors with significant major gift capacity will often test your organization with a smaller gift to see how you treat them.
Are you responding quickly with a heartfelt thank you? Are you reporting back on how you are putting their gift to work? Are you taking the time you need to bond with your new and existing donors?
They need to be meaningfully engaged
One of the first questions I hear when I talk about donors like Sally is: how do we find them when we have hundreds or thousands of donors giving at a similar level?
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you may already now that I’m not a huge fan of our sector’s over reliance on fundraising events – however, small donor engagement events can be a great way to meet supporters who want to get more involved in your work.
Think low key gatherings for your most committed donors (think long-time, monthly, and mid-level givers) where they can meet your leadership, hear fascinating stories from front line program folks or beneficiaries, and have a nice, light bite to eat.
98% of your donors will appreciate the invite - and they won’t show up. That doesn’t matter! It’s a great way to express gratitude to all of your donors – and if you get the chance to meet just one donor like Sally then you’ve done your job well.
Do you have a great story like Sally’s – a modest donor who turned into a major donor when you took the time to build a more meaningful relationship on her terms? I’d love to hear about it! Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a comment below.
Emma Lewzey, CFRE is an award-winning fundraiser who has been helping great causes like yours build and grow successful fundraising programs since 1995. She’s the President-Elect of the world’s largest Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Chapter in Toronto, and the National Chair of AFP’s Fellowship in Inclusion and Philanthropy. Contact Emma to book your free discovery session, and find out how you can work together to strategically focus your precious resources on the fundraising initiatives that truly work.