Major Donors – Who Needs The Headache?

You have to ask yourself if you really want to be on the major gifts highway because it isn’t an easy road. It’s not just about larger gifts. Success requires an institutional commitment and it must be supported differently than other strategies.

According to Schuyler Lehman, founder and CEO at MissionAdvancement.com in McKinney, Texas, you also have to determine how a particular major donor views the nonprofit world. Lehman laid out ideas earlier this year during a session at the annual Association of Fundraising Professionals’ international conference in San Antonio, Texas.

Donors should be treated as separate, equal and valued customers, Lehman told attendees. Organizations are not entitled to their support and they are critical to the mission. You have to create an experience for donors that fosters loyalty.

When thinking of your donor as a customer, you need to know:

  • How many times are they asked to give every year?
  • Do they hear from you when you are not asking?
  • Do they know how you use their giving?
  • Do they understand how your organization is unique?
  • Do you understand their needs?
  • Do they know how much of their giving goes to the mission?
  • Do they feel like a partner in your mission?

Lehman reminded the fundraisers that it is not intuitive to give away money. People save for retirement, lifestyle, vacation. Donors get identification fraud insurance and take every tax deduction to protect what they have worked to acquire.

Here are 5 things Lehman said fundraisers need to remember:

  • Donors see your nonprofit differently than you do;
  • Every donor gives for some reason;
  • Every donor has unique needs;
  • Major donors want to solve a problem; and,
  • Most major donors are underwhelmed.

Most people split the dinner check to keep relationships in balance. So, you need to creating a donor plan starting with picking a goal. Ask yourself what wouldn’t you do for $1 million. Focus on the cerebral case: Do donors understand the logic? You need to cultivate care and concern and inspire by addressing their needs.