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Warm Up Potential Major Donors Via Digital

Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of philanthropic giving comes from individuals and donor pyramids continue to grow steeper to the point that, today, as much as 95 percent of dollars into organizations via individual giving are given by 5 percent of supporters. Even if you aren’t a math expert, it’s clear that keeping supporters engaged is as important as ever.

During their presentation, “Fast Forward: Defining the Future Intersection of Major Gifts and Digital” at the 2017 Bridge to Integrated Marketing and Fundraising Conference in National Harbor, Md., Cathy Sterling; vice president of Schultz & Williams; Adva Priso, associate vice president of Anne Lewis Strategies, LLC; and Jeff Muller, director of donor communications and stewardship for World Wildlife Fund (WWF) discussed the importance of engaging and stewarding major-gift donors.

Following an introduction on major gifts by Sterling, Priso shared strategies to “warm up” prospective donors before solicitation. Digital can help nip typical responses such as “I get too many calls,” “I’ll send you something, but not what you’re asking for,” or a lack of knowledge about an organization before they happen, she said.

Introducing the organization to the individual before a call is invaluable. Emails and surveys asking potential prospects issues they are interested in and their preferred contacts can help with introductions. Then, emails addresses can be uploaded into Facebook to keep the organization top of mind in the interim period, Priso said. If prospects see your organization’s name frequently, they gain the perception that it is out there and involved and worth knowing about.

Once a call is made and a gift is successfully received, the next phase is stewardship, Muller said, as it is seven times more expensive to acquire a new donor than keep an existing one. Prompt acknowledgment is a must, but so is providing accountability, education, and involvement messaging and opportunities — checking in with how donors feel at each point.

    Additional digital stewardship strategies shared during the session included:

  • Personalized experiences. The University of Washington and University of Maryland, for instance, have created donor portals to provide real-time videos and reporting based on individual gifts;
  • Email. When donors say that they get tired of emails, that tends to mean that they are tired of solicitations, not information, Muller said. Consider signing emails from the organization’s CEO and, in case donors really aren’t fond of the communications, provide an unsubscribe option;
  • Webinars. WWF hosts annual webcasts that are recorded and posted for later viewing. The method both gives supporters access to organizational direction and, in some cases, triples viewership by allowing individuals to tune in at their own convenience;
  • Video. Consider making “thank you” emails personalized and post them on Vimeo as opposed to Youtube. Major-gifts donors tend to prefer platforms like Vimeo because they allow for privacy restrictions while YouTube is available to the general public; and,
  • Social media. Find creative ways to add a personal touch to social media interactions. The University of Rochester created a Facebook group for disadvantaged students benefitting from a particular scholarship. It then invited the donor into the group to see how the beneficiary students were adjusting to collegiate life in real time.

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