Kathie Kramer Ryan packed this training with both an overall system for organizing your major gift fundraising and super-specific tips to making it more efficient. She talks about:
- how to get more done in less time
- why spending the majority of your time with the minority of your donors makes sense
- how to use a gift chart without it becoming a straight jacket
- and even a detailed 7-step outline for the actual donor conversation
You're doing to want to listen to this recording again and again!
Additional Materials for Don't Wing It!
Download the audio here: Don't Wing It! Avoiding Major Gift Mistakes MP3
Download the slides here: Don't Wing It! Avoiding Major Gift Mistakes PDF
Transcript of the Training
Marc Pitman: Well, I was going to say, "Good afternoon everyone," but for everyone it's not afternoon. So good day, everyone. This is Marc Pitman. I'm your host for our next installment of The Nonprofit Academy Presents. We are thrilled today to have Kathie Kramer Ryan from Arroyo Fundraising with us.
I love her title, or the second part of her title, "Major Gift Funding Mistakes That Even Smart Fundraisers Make." I'm really looking forward to finding out how I can avoid some of the ones I might be making, too.
Kathie has been in this field for over 15 years. She's raised over $40 million. She's done everything from small, one-person shops to larger established museums and everything in between, too. She definitely knows what she's talking about, and I know she knows particularly what she's talking about, because in her bio, as you can see at The Nonprofit Academy site and on Arroyo Fundraising, she says that she's really about connecting donors with causes that they care about, and that is important, because as you develop as a fundraiser, I firmly believe that good fundraising training is really good donor protection. When we hear about donor fatigue, it's not necessarily because of good fundraisers. It's because of a lot of bad fundraising inflicted on donors.
So I'm intrigued. I don't know if, Kathie, you'll tell us about this, but there is also a bit -- she's been interviewed twice by Katie Couric. I'd be intrigued by that, but I want to make sure before we get started that everybody goes to, either now or at the end of this training, goes to -- or when you're listening to this training -- goes to ArroyoFundraising.com/gift. She's offering, as a special gift for attending this webinar, a free step-by-step guide on taking the fear out of asking.
So without any further ado, Kathie, take it away.
Kathie Kramer Ryan: Thank you so much, Marc, for that great introduction. I really appreciate it. I'm so happy to be here, and thanks to The Nonprofit Academy, of course, for hosting, and to everybody on the webinar, thank you for taking the time to be here with us. I'm truly thrilled to be able to share this time with you.
Knowing how busy you are as fundraising professionals, I planned this webinar with you in mind, and to make it as helpful as possible for you. So we're packing in lots of good info today. You're going to learn about mistakes around major gift work, but more importantly, you walk away with solid steps on how to build a successful major gifts program for your organization.
So I'm going to talk a little bit more about me. Thanks, Marc for the intro, and as Marc said, I have worked as staff person for about 11 years before I started my coaching and consulting business. So I've been in the business, overall, for about 15 years, and I am fortunate to have had a wide range of experiences. I was a one-person development shop for several organizations, but I've also worked for larger organizations like the Denver Art Museum, which is a pretty large cultural institution in Denver, which is where I am based.
And I have done everything that there is to do, pretty much. I've done capital campaigns, running events, writing grants, building annual funds, and of course, I've done a lot of major gifts work. So I've been where you are. I've learned about major gifts by doing this work myself day in and day out.
Marc Pitman: Kathie, I want to make sure that everybody else knows, too, that this is interactive. There's a little question and answer box on the side of your screen, as you're watching this. Please feel free to type in questions as they come up. As Kathie goes through her presentation, please also feel free to tweet with the hashtag "NPA Presents," and I'll be monitoring that too, and we'll leave some time at the end to go over those questions. Thanks.
Kathie Kramer Ryan: Thanks so much for that reminder. Yeah, I definitely want people to ask questions as they have them, and you see my website address is on every slide. So that is where you can go to get that gift that Marc mentioned at the beginning, and I'm going to mention that again at the end.
I call this "Don't Wing It," and I'm going to talk about that in a minute, but today's webinar is about mistakes fundraisers make when it comes to major gift fundraising, but rather than focusing on mistakes, I'm going to try to focus on how to avoid these mistakes, in other words, the steps you can take to do major gifts work in the right way.
This is actually not related fundraising, but it shows about making mistakes. When I was learning how to mountain bike -- I used to live in Winter Park, Colorado; it's a big mountain biking community -- when I was first learning, I would often hit a rock and lose my balance. So I would drive right into the rock. I would be so nervous about hitting a rock that I would always hit a rock.
So someone coached me, telling me that I should always look next to the rock, just look at this ground next to the rock, instead of looking right at the rock, and the reasoning is, if you focus on the rock, you're going to hit the rock, and I did find that that helped me quite a bit.
I believe this reasoning applies to a lot of things, including fundraising. So if we focus on mistakes, we're going to make mistakes. Whereas, if we focus on success in fundraising, and we take the necessary steps to get there, then we're going to have success. So I call this presentation "Don't Wing It," because I believe some of the biggest mistakes folks make when it comes to major gifts is to not prepare, not have a plan, or not be systematic about this work, or maybe [inaudible 00:05:56]
Marc Pitman: Kathie, I'm not seeing the slides go.
Kathie Kramer Ryan: Oh.
Marc Pitman: Are you moving them forward?
Kathie Kramer Ryan: I am. Can you see that?
Marc Pitman: I cannot.
Kathie Kramer Ryan: I just move the slide. Okay. So let me ... How can we fix that? Should I reboot, maybe?
Marc Pitman: Do you want me to just do it?
Kathie Kramer Ryan: Sure. That's fine. Yep. So I'm on Slide 4, which is the "Don't Wing It" slide.
And we'll be going through a step-by-step plan as part of this webinar so you can be prepared to do your very best work.
So the next slide is Slide 5, Marc. I like to say that the skies the limit when it comes to major gifts, because of the passion and capacity of people in your community. I believe that if you have a system for raising major gifts, and you're putting in the work, you can start raising more money for your organization than you may have thought possible.
So this quote from Tony Robbins is a great quote, and I love it. I actually have this hanging in my office. I love it because it talks about what is in our hands. So the only limit to your impact is your imagination and commitment. So I challenge you to apply this quote to your work with major gifts and think about the fact that you have a lot to do and you have a lot of control over the outcome here.
So the next slide shows two statistics that I believe speak to the unlimited possibilities of major gift fundraising. The first stat, which you've likely seen before, is that 87% of philanthropic dollars in the U.S. are donated by individuals. This stat is from Giving USA, and it varies a little bit, year-to-year, a percent or so. Generally 87 to 80% of giving comes from individuals. So a lot of times folks who don't know about fundraising think all the money comes from foundations or corporations, because those gifts sometimes make it into the media, but this is clearly not the case.
The second statistic speaks specifically to major gifts, in that 80% of funding comes from 20% of donors. This is true for a lot of organizations. I wonder if you've done this calculation for your own organization and you know what that percentages. Actually, with some organizations we're seeing more like a 90/10 breakdown, meaning 90% of funding is coming from 10% of donors.
So I mention these statistics because I encourage you to put your time and energy where it will have the biggest payoff. I know how busy you are, and of course you want to be as efficient as possible. So it would make sense that you spend 80 to 90% of your time working with 10 to 20% of your donors, because these donors are going to have the biggest impact on your work and your mission. So in other words, just spent time where you going to have the greatest return on investment.
Now the next slide is an overview of a seven-step system that we're going to talk about today to help you to raise major gifts. So one of the mistakes that I see happening is that folks don't have a system for major gifts fundraising. They don't have a system in general for fundraising, and specifically for major gifts.
So you want to be systematic about this work. You want to have a plan. For those of you who are natural planners and naturally systematic, I think you have maybe a little bit of an advantage here, but these skills can be learned, and so everyone can be successful. The seven steps in the system are easy to learn and easy to follow. So if you know and follow the steps you'll see results in major gifts for your organization.
So just a quick overview of the steps, and then we'll jump into them specifically. So the first is we're going to assess where you are. Number two is make a plan. By "prospect" I mean we're going to create a prospect list for your organization. Four is "Cultivating those Prospects." Five is "Preparing to Make an Ask." Six is actually "Asking for a Gift," and then seven is "Thanking and Stewarding Your Donors."
So before we really get into it, I want to talk to just a little bit about what is a major gift? So you probably know that a major gift is not the same for every organization. So I can't just say, "Okay. It's $1000," or, "It's $5000," or, "$50,000." It really varies with your organization.
So I have this next slide, is a chart of trends in major gifts for different size organizations. So your total fundraising income is on one side, and then total giving per donor is on the other side. So for example, if your total fundraising income, which could be your budget. If you don't have any earned income, then your budget is the same as your total fundraising income. So say it's under $1 million. A major gift for you might be $5000 and above.
In fact it was true for me in my very first nonprofit Jeff. I worked for Denver's Rape Crisis Center, which is a very small, grassroots organization. Our budget was $1.3 million and $5000 was definitely a major gift. In fact, I remember one time we received a check for $10,000, and it was a little bit unexpected to get that $10,000 gift. In fact, the Director and I were literally jumping up and down with happiness, in her office, at getting a check.
So from that job, I went to the Denver Art Museum, which I mentioned before, where $5000 was a pretty common gift. I mean don't get me wrong, still appreciated it and recognized it, but no one was jumping up and down at the Denver Art Museum when they got a $5000 gift, not even for a $10,000 gift. So at the Museum their budget was well over $10 million, and a major gift was $100,000 and above. So this is just a frame to sort of get your head in the game. What's important is what is a major gift for your organization.
So the next slide just tells you that you can use your donor database, and what you want to do is you can run a report that shows all the donations to your organization in the last several years, say the last three years. Then you can sort these gifts by amount, from largest to smallest, and looking at the largest gifts, you'll probably see a grouping of large gifts at the top, say the top 10 gifts or 30 gifts. Depending on how many gifts you have, they're going to kind of clumped together at the top.
You don't want it to be your top one or two gifts; you want it to be a little bit bigger number than that. Whatever that is, that clump of gifts at the top, that's a major gift for your organization, and that can change. It's not set in stone, but that's just a good place to start.
So now we're going to jump into the next step, which is -- we're on Slide 11. So this step, I could've broken it up into five parts. It's all about having the basics in place. So I believe that these elements are pretty important for all fundraising, but gets really critical when you're talking about major gifts.
So we're going to talk about a case for support, gift acceptance policy, a donor tracking system or database, a process to acknowledge your donors, and then the right people. So we'll get into these one by one.
So the next slide is a case for support? A case for support is telling you prospects and donors why they should donate to your organization. Why are you so great? Why is your mission so critical to your community?
So you want to start off with a compelling big-picture view, and then supported with some facts and statistics, although I always caution not too many facts and statistics, because these can get a little dry. So you want to have an emotional pull as well, something that grabs your prospector donor emotionally, such as a client's story, a client that has been impact by your mission. You also want to include your vision and how their gift, the gift of your donor, is going to help you reach that vision.
So if you don't have a formal case for support, I suspect you already have bits and pieces of it already written, especially if you've been writing grants, because grants often will ask for some of the basic components of a case for support, such as your history, your impact, the results in your community, etc. So you can pull pieces and put that all together in your case for support. So if you don't have one, I recommend that you get one drafted, edited, approved by your board, whatever has to happen, and get that ready to go.
The next thing we're going to talk about is a gift acceptance policy. So a gift acceptance policy outlines the types of gifts that your organization is equipped to accept. Some nonprofits say, "Well, we'll take anything. We're a nonprofit. We mean anything." Well, think about things like cars, boats, land, art. Are these things that you really want to accept? Because then what you do with those things?
So big cars, those are actually pretty common to get donated. If it's a car, are you going to sell it and keep the money? Are you going to use it as transportation for your clients, or maybe you can use it as transportation for your staff? Whatever it is you want to do with that asset, you want your donors to understand your plans for that gifts, if they decide to give you a car.
So I worked for the Denver Art Museum, you can imagine, there were a lot of different art wanting to give, right? We would get these calls, "I found this painting in my grandmother's attic. It's fabulous. It's beautiful. I really want the Denver Art Museum to have it."
So the Denver Art Museum have a pretty elaborate and detailed policy about appraising art. Curators kind of look at it. They have the system that they had to go through to accept art, because they didn't want to take art that either wasn't of value or didn't fit into their collection. So they had to be very careful about that.
But you likely will not need a system that elaborates just for art, unless you're a Museum of course, or an art center. This all depends on your organization, but it's just one example of something to think about.
Another example, I worked with an organization who received a donation of a timeshare, a one-week timeshare for a condo in Hawaii, which is great, but what you do with that? So they decided they would use it as, I think, a live auction item in their gala every year. So that's working out fine, and that's what that donor [inaudible 00:16:17] a board member, he's happy with it, and so it all worked out great.
You don't need to think about every single possibility of what you might be given, but I think it's good just to sort of do the exercise. You can do it with your board. Think about some things that you might be given and then address those in a written policy.
So the next thing we're going to talk about is a donor tracking system. That is a database, of course, hopefully a database. I mean, some of you may not have one, but it's super important for major gifts, because there's a lot to track.
So if you don't have one, think about investing in one, or if the one you have is inadequate, think about upgrading to what you really need. I believe the investment is worth it, because your donor database can do so much to move your major gifts programs forward.
Of course your database can help you track donations, but it can do a lot more than that. You can store information about your donors: "What are their interests in general? What are the programs they're most likely to support? Do they like events?" all types of information like this.
You can also upload pledge forms, email changes with your donors. You can walk phone calls. All of this information can go into your database, and it's so helpful to have everything in one place that all of your development staff can access.
As long as you can all access the database, you're all going to be on the same page, in terms of donor relations, for each donor you're working with, and you may even give access to some of your key board members, if they're involved with fundraising a lot. They can look at these records for your donors, as well.
It also really helps your fundraising when someone on the team leaves your organization, which we know happens. Folks move from place to place, to different fundraising jobs. So instead of taking all of their donor knowledge with them, they're going to leave it with your organization, where it really belongs, because these relationships, as you know, are with the organizations and not with the individual fundraiser. So if you haven't yet invested in a donor database, now might be a good time to really look at it.
So the next slide is about a process to acknowledge donors. So for major gifts, you don't want to be just sending the same form letter, time and time again, to everyone who sent you a check. The donor acknowledgment system should specify not only how soon a donor gets a letter, but also who's going to sign that letter. Is the letter a form letter or is it personalized? Also, does the donor get a phone call? If so, who's going to make that phone call? These are all things you want to think about and document.
So one organization I know, it's an afterschool program for low-income kids. They send a framed photo of this year's class of students to donors of $25,000 and above. Other donors to this organization receive a handwritten thank-you note from a student. So think about what special things you might be able to do for your highest donors that make sense for your organization, your culture and your clients.
Next we're going to talk about the right people. So you want to have the right people on board. You can't do this work on your own. Major gift fundraising takes a lot of time and a lot of brain power. So the best thing you can do is to pull together some key volunteers, including some of your board members, and create a major gifts committee.
You can certainly use your development committee instead, but I like to have [inaudible 00:19:40] focus major gifts committee, if your time allows, to manage under committee of volunteers. This committee can be super helpful if you engage them in the right ways, and I'm going to talk about ways to engage them, as we keep going along.
So just to review, Slide 17 just looks at those five things that we talked about in Step 1, which is a case for support, gift acceptance policies, database, process to acknowledge your donors and the right people. Now, not having one or more of these elements in place certainly isn't going to kill your fundraising program completely, but it's going to impact your efficiency, because these are all tools that can allow you to get more done in less time, and we all want that, right? We all want to be more efficient.
So once these five things are in place, we can move on to Step number two. Step 2 is to make a plan. So I have these two graphics here to represent what I think are the most important things about a plan. What is your goal? Of course, that's probably arguably the most important thing, and then the calendar signifies a timeline, and I'm going to talk about the goal first.
So how much do you want to raise? That's the big question. Now, there's a whole process around how to set a fundraising goal, but I'm going to just assume that we already have that done. So let's say we have a goal of $200,000. So let's start talking about $200,000. The next slide is a gift chart for $200,000. So there are gift charts calculators online. That's where I got this one. I just put in 200, and it spit out all this information. So whatever your goal is, whether it's $20,000 or $2 million, you can figure it out. You can create a gift chart for that goal.
So a few things to say about a gift chart. First of all, a gift chart is just a place to start. You're going to want to tweak this for your own organization. You need to think about the capacity of your own donors and prospects to be sure that these gift levels make sense for your organization.
The second thing is, you definitely want your largest gift to be at least 10% of your overall goal, and something closer to 25% is probably better. So in this case, 10% of $200,000 is $20,000, which is what they gave us in the calculator, but if you can get a gift for $50,000, which would be 25%, that would be even better.
The third thing to look at is this third column here, the number of prospects required. So you need more prospects than gifts, because not everyone is going to say yes, right? It's generally accepted that you should have four prospects for everyone gift. Some people say three is okay, and it is in certain situations, but I like to have four, just to be conservative.
And the last thing is, don't get too caught up in a gift chart. It's really just a tool to get you thinking about different levels and different prospects. I think I can safely say, and I suspect Marc would agree with me, that giving campaigns never fit these parameters exactly. You're not going to get one gift at 20. You're not going to get one gift at 15. Different levels might pop in that you don't have on this chart, and different amounts.
So the trick is to just be flexible on that, and don't get to caught up in every single detail of the gift chart, because they can change, and you can change it as you go along and you see kind of how the gifts come in.
So here's a question I've been asked: "Do I really need these big gifts? Can't I just raise $200,000 from getting a bunch of smaller gifts, say $100 gifts?" This is a good question, right, because of course it's a lot easier to get a $100 gift than it is to get, say, a $20,000 gift or a $50,000 gift.
So I learned about how all this works in my very first fundraising job at the Rape Crisis Center. So I mentioned it before. I was planning our annual fundraising luncheon, my first big project, and our fundraising goal was something like $30,000.
So I said to my boss, the Executive Director, "Well then it's going to be easy. We'll just send out a bunch of tickets to the luncheon. I'm going to write the best solicitation letter ever, and lots of people are going to want to attend our luncheon."
Well, my Executive Director was very kind, and she did not laugh at me, but she did say, "Let's get the sponsorship package put together and get that sent out," because she knew that $50 a ticket, which is what the luncheon tickets were, we we're going to have to sell 600 tickets to raise $30,000, which meant I would need to send about 2400 letters, because it's a 4 to 1 ratio, prospects to gifts, asking someone to buy a $50 ticket.
Then of course, if you've done a lot of fundraising with letters, then you know that you have to do a lot of follow-up calls. So I was probably going to have to make hundreds a follow-up calls to raise that $30,000 by selling tickets alone.
So in the end, we did raise the $30,000, but it came from selling 300 tickets, which is $15,000, and then another $15,000 in sponsorships, and which is when I learned a lesson about where fundraising dollars come from [inaudible 00:24:54] that the big money comes from sponsorships and not from ticket sales, and it's really the same with major gifts. You need big gifts in order to raise big goals.
So we talked a lot about your fundraising goal and your gift chart. The other part of your plan that's critical is the timeline. So you want to have some parameters in place before you get started, because otherwise these things tend to drag on for years.
So at the very minimum you should have a start date and an end date. Are you going to do this fundraising for a year? Are you going to do it for three years? Where is a milestone? When do you hope that you're going to secure your lead gift? Noting the milestones you're trying to reach is going to help you to backup from there all the steps needed to reach that milestone.
Great. So the next slide is Slide 20, and it's about Step 3, which is identifying and qualifying prospects. So you need a prospect list in order to get going. So the way to start is to go to your database, and you're going to write a report of your highest donors and your most loyal donors.
Loyal donors are those who have been donating to your organization for a long time. Their gifts may not be large, but they've been giving for 10 years, 20 years, maybe longer. These folks are super-invested in your mission. So you definitely want to have them on your major gifts prospect list.
Then of course your highest donors. Because they have some capacity, they should be on your donors list as well, and that's where you're going to start, with your highest donors and your most loyal donors.
Now, the next step is to qualify your prospects, and this is a step that I think gets missed sometimes, and qualifying prospects is going to give you the information that you need to use your time wisely and where you're going to have the best chances to raise the most money, which I hope sounds good to you.
As I mentioned, it is a mistake that I think is fairly common. So fundraisers don't take the time to qualify prospects, and what ends up happening, as you're trying to focus on too many prospects and spreading yourself too thin, and then prospects and donors may be getting a little attention, but nobody's really giving them enough attention to make an impact. So that's why think that qualifying prospects is super-important.
Now to do this work, this is a great place to engage your major gifts committee, and you're also going to want to think about linkage, interest and ability. I have these on the slide. And you may have heard this term "LIA." That's what it refers to, "Linkage, interest and ability."
So at your major gifts committee, you poll the committee together. You want to have a copy of your prospect list for everyone that's there. Then after each prospect's name on the list, you have three columns. You have linkage, interest and ability, and as a group, you're going to be going through the names, and you're going to be rating each prospect for these three qualities. So you can use a scale from 0 to 5, where 0 is no connection, five is the best connection. 0 to 10, whatever makes sense.
So start with linkage. Linkage is an indication of your organization's relationship, at this point, with this prospect or donor. So for example, if you're prospect A, let's call him "Bob," and Bob is best friends with your Board Chair, Sally. Bob's [inaudible 00:28:15] linkage might be a 5, because you have a way to reach this person. Sally and Bob are connected. Sally can introduce Bob to the organization. She gets a 5.
After linkage, you go on to interests. So say your prospect Bob is well-known in the community as a patron of the arts, but you work for a public school. If Bob doesn't generally support education causes, it may not matter how good a friend Sally and Bob are, because Bob doesn't support education. So his interest score might be a 0 or a 1.
Then you go to ability. If Bob has high-capacity, give him a 4 or 5 for ability. There's also a place you can check your database for clues, especially if this person is a current owner. So you can look at what they've given in the past, what their interests are, and all that. That may help inform your scores on this.
Then after you've done this exercise for all your prospects, you can total the scores, and the prospect with the highest score should be your initial target for major gift fundraising.
So I hope you see why it's important to have all three qualities present for somebody to be a good major gift prospect. It doesn't really matter how much money someone has if they don't have an interest in your mission, or if you don't have a way to gain an introduction to this person.
So for example, I suspect that there are folks in your community that are always being suggested as a potential donor. I know that there are a few folks in Denver that are like this, and other communities where I work.
So if there's anyone on the webinar from Seattle, I always use Bill Gates as an example, because we all know who Bill Gates is. So in Seattle, you're Board might say, and others might say, "Hey, let's ask Bill Gates for a gift. He's got money."
Well, just because Bill Gates and his wife have capacity and they're philanthropic, doesn't mean they're interested in supporting your mission. We know in the US that the Gates fund mostly education and access to information technology.
So even if you're in the education sector, you'll still need a connection to gain access to Bill Gates, and I suspect he's probably pretty tough to track down. So if someone in your organization does have a connection to Bill Gates or Melinda Gates, that's fabulous, and maybe they can connect them with your work.
So just going back to those three qualities, linkage, interest and ability, you need to have all three in order for to make sense to have a prospect on your list, or at least on that top 20 list that you're trying to identify when you're doing this qualifying work.
So before we go on, the next slide just looks again at the plan that we talked about, or the prospects that we talked about at the beginning of these seven steps. So just looking at what we've done so far, we've assessed were you are; we've made a plan, and we have created a prospect list.
So the next step is cultivation, and moving on to cultivation, this is essentially building a relationship with your prospects and helping them to learn about your work and mission. So for each of your top prospects you want to create an individualized cultivation plan that's based on your prospects' interests.
This is a pretty important step, and it's a great place to get help from your major gifts committee, because they probably know some of your prospects, and they can help inform the steps that you might want to take with each prospect. You want to be thoughtful about each step in the process and who is the right staff person or volunteer to complete each step.
So the next slide, we're on 24, is a sample cultivation plan, and I know that there's a lot of information on this slide. You're going to be getting the recording of this, so you can look at it later, and yours is going to look a lot different. This is just an example of a place to get you started.
So this is a sample cultivation plan for Jane Symons [SP], I made her up, for an Arroyo Afterschool Program. So for each cultivation or catch point I've created some goal for that interaction. I have a little agenda and goals, and then as well as the day that you want to collect it and put it into your database.
I really want to stress that it's important to track these things, however you do it, because we kind of forget we talked about with people and when we talked about it, and so as much record-keeping as you can keep is really helpful with major gift work.
So this is not set in stone. In fact, as we learn about Jane and things that she's interested in, we might tweak some of these steps. You want to be flexible with it. Don't feel like you can't change it once you have a written down. So here we have things like coffee meetings, site visits," everything leading up to ask at the bottom.
So just kind of looking at some things specifically, a coffee meeting with Jane, to get us started. So I have on the agenda, "Ask questions about Jane's interests, other organizations she supports. See if she's interested in a facilities tour." Then I log these things into a database.
Then I send her a thank-you email, and I like to get thank-you emails out as soon as possible, the same day if possible, and the next day is fine, but just try to get that as soon as possible. Thanking her for taking the time to meet with you. Jane's interested in a tour, so if I can get that scheduled right away, then I'll do that as well.
So then a tour comes a few weeks later, and then my goal ... So this is an afterschool program. So I want to make sure I have some students there that can talk about the program and can answer Jane's questions, and I want to put in the database, "We learned that Jane is interested in the math program." That's great. Put that info in the database. Then you have a phone call thanking her for a visit. Keep going down the list.
One thing I just want to say about this launch meeting, "asking Jane's advice." Asking donors' advice or prospects' advice is a great way to get a meeting, because folks love being asked for advice, right? So it's a great way to get a ... But you don't want to make something up, but if you truly have something that they can weigh in on, that's great. That's a great way to get them really involved and to continue to cultivate them.
So all of this leads up to the time when we make an ask. So fundraisers often ask me, "How long should we cultivate the donor before we ask for a gift?" and this is such a good question, but unfortunately there's not a great answer, because there's no hard and fast rules about this. It really depends on a number of things, including how much you're asking for, how well you know the donor, and the donor's wishes.
So some donors don't really like to be cultivated. They're very busy people. They don't, frankly, want to spend time having coffee and making small talk. So hopefully this is something that you learn on and early cultivation visit with this person. If they just are ready for you to make an ask, great, you can just make an ask.
So this example shows, what, about four and a half months of cultivation. So for asking for a substantial gift or for people who are really busy and it's hard to schedule time with them, it may take a lot longer.
So one example of, I worked as a development director for a charter school network here in Denver, and we were introduced to a person with significant capacity, who we eventually asked for a $7 million gift, but it took a full two years, actually a little bit longer than that, but from the time that we met him until the day that we asked $7 million, and then really, even after we asked for the gift, he asked a lot of questions. He asked us to submit a written proposal, which we did do. So that took another few weeks. So the whole process takes time.
I guess that's my point, is that major gift works takes time. You probably are not going to want to ask for seven-figure gifts just a few weeks or even months after you've met the donor.
So after sufficient cultivation, we're going to move on to Step 5. Now Step 5 is "preparing for the ask," and that's the next slide. So I have this as a separate step because I think it's a super-important step and a place where mistakes can be made if you don't put in the time to do the prep work that's needed. And I have a few little bullet points here, four things to think about when you're doing the preparing.
The first thing is you want to make sure your donor knows why you're meeting. So this is pretty basic, right? Going back to Jane Symons. So I'm calling her to set up a meeting or a visit, where I want to ask her for a gift. I want to make sure she knows that I'm going to ask for a gift.
So you don't want to do what I call "a bait and switch," which is where you tell your donor you're just meeting about something and then you are meeting about something completely different. You want to be really upfront about what you're meeting about, because not being upfront is going to get things off on the wrong foot. You definitely want to be super-transparent about that.
The second thing is figuring out who's going to be at this ask visit. Is it going to be you, with your C.E.O., or you with a board member? Maybe in this case, because Jane loves the math program, maybe it will be the director of the math program. So think about who that should be. I do recommend that it's two people, by the way.
So figure out who has the best connections to your prospect, and then think about, also, who your prospect is going to have the hardest time saying no to. So that might play into your decision about who should be part of that visit with Jane.
So if it's going to be you and another person, who's going to say what? Figuring that out ahead of time really makes a lot of sense, so you're not stumbling over each other's talking points, and I like to do some role-playing here, as well, especially if you're doing the visit with a volunteer, because volunteers aren't living and breathing this stuff like you are every day, talking about your organization and your mission. They probably need a little bit of coaching about what to say and how to say it. So role-playing can always be a good idea, especially for volunteers.
So next, think about the questions that your prospect or your donor are going to ask when you ask them for gift. So I found some may want a lot of answers when you ask them to contribute to your organization.
So they might ask questions like, "How much money are you trying to raise? What are you going to be using the money for, specifically? How many students are you going to be helping? Or dogs? Or clients? Or wetlands?" Whatever your mission is addressing, they want to know, quantitatively, how many will be impacted by their gift.
They may also ask, "When do you need this money?" and many of these questions you may have already answered. You probably have already answered them in your case for support and as you were explaining the opportunity, but donors don't always hear everything you say. So just be prepared to answer these questions.
Then the last thing is, of course, how much are you going to ask for? This is not something you want to figure out while you're in front of the donor. You want to figure this out ahead of time. So the first step in doing that is to look at your donor's giving history, if they're in your database. If they're not, then there's other ways to figure this out.
But let's go back to Jane Symons. If Jane's been giving, say, $2500 in the past, you can consider asking her for a gift of $5000, but I also suggest doing some outside research, not just relying on your database. So see what Jane's giving to other organizations. If he's giving, say, 10 or $20,000 to another organization, well then you might think about bumping up your ask a little bit.
Now, this is a place for you definitely want to consult with your major gifts committee to see what they think. Two reasons for this. One is you want to have a lot of brains on it. See your major gift committee are volunteers that are out in the community, so they may have some intel about Jane and what she's giving to other organizations. They may see her at an event, selling an auction item, or something like this, and they might have some information about that.
The other reason to get your major gifts committee involved is that you don't want to make this decision on your own, right? You don't want to ask for, say, $500 when you should have asked for $1000 or $2000. So you want to make sure that everybody's in agreement on what the asks should be, so that someone's not coming back to you and saying, "You should've asked for more." So just make sure everyone's on the same page to start.
So the next slide is "asking for a gift." So this is what all of the work and all of the preparation has led you to. So fundraisers and [inaudible 00:40:30] major gifts often ask, "What do I say? How do I ask for this big chunk of money?"
So I'm going to get into that in a second, but my biggest advice is just to relax. Right? This is just a conversation. You've already had a bunch of conversations with this person, if you’ve been doing the cultivation, so you know this prospect.
You've also let your prospect know that your visit is to discuss support for your organization. So he or she is not going to be caught off guard. She is expecting you to ask for a gift, and she's ready for you to ask for a gift.
You know, the great thing about presenting your prospect with this opportunity is there going to be able to make an impact in this world, which is the same for all fundraising, right? In Jane Symon's case Jane is going to be able to help more kids access the afterschool math program that she believes is important for their education.
So major gifts are very fulfilling for donors. When they can make an impact on a program they care about, this makes them really happy, and you are helping your donor to feel that happiness, by connecting them to the cause that they care about.
When that happens, and the connection is made, that's when the magic really happens, and like Marc said, that is what I'm really passionate about, is connecting donors with the causes that the care about. That's really what it's all about.
So the next slide is Slide 27. This is the ask conversation. Because I didn't want to be super-vague; I want to be specific about how this can go down, and there's a lot of -- I mean, there's variations of this of course, so this is just kind of a starting point.
So you want to start out with some small talk, right? You're not just going to launch right into, "Will you give us $10,000?" You want to have some small talk, just like you would if you were having coffee with a friend or a colleague: "How are your kids? How are your grandkids?" whatever makes sense for this donor. You've spent time with them, so you know what their interests are. Just to spend a minute or two making some small talk and warming up a little bit.
Then the next thing, I love to be able to thank them. So if it's a donor, then of course thank them for their past support. If it's a prospect, thank them for their interest in your organization; thank them for taking the time to meet with you. Try to find some things that you can thank them for.
Then you're going to present the opportunity. So the opportunity includes explaining how gifts like theirs have helped your organization in the past. So you can share a story about someone who's benefited from your services. You can also share this year's goals or the goals of the campaign in general and how the gifts are going to help the cause, moving forward.
Be sure to involve your prospect in the conversation as much as possible. So I actually call this out as a separate little bullet point, because I feel like this is a mistake that sometimes happens, where we get so caught up in our mission, we're so excited about the great work that we're doing, that we forget to involve the prospect.
So we do all the talking, and they don't get to do any talking at all. So you want to make sure that you're engaging the prospect, answering of course any questions that they have. You can also ask them some open-ended questions to get them to talk, such as, "What are your thoughts about our plan for next year?" just to make sure they're involved in the conversation.
So after you've explained the opportunity, you want to do the ask. So if you're doing the visit with two people, which I mentioned I think is a good way to go, one person would generally do the opportunity part, and a second person would generally do the ask part.
So we talked earlier about how to determine how much to ask for, and I forgot to mention that a donor [inaudible 00:44:03] asking for a range, such as $1000-$2000, because inevitably the donor will go for the smaller amount. So if you want $2000, and you believe they have the capacity for $2000, then by all means ask for $2000 or $10,000 or $20,000, whatever the high level of your range would be.
So after you've asked, it's super important to not say anything else. So I have this as a separate step as well, because I feel like especially for folks that are new to this work, they get really nervous at this point. So you might be thinking, "Oh my goodness, I just asked this person for $50,000," or "$5000," or whatever the number is, "Maybe I need to say something more. Maybe I didn't explain it as well as I could have. I need to say something else. The silence is super-uncomfortable."
I strongly recommend that you don't say anything else. You need to give the prospect time to think about what you just asked. If you start talking again, they're going to lose their train of thought. Plus, it makes you look unsure. You want to appear confident and comfortable, asking this person to support the work and the mission that you both care so much about.
So just let the ask sink in and wait for reply. If the donor says yes, fantastic. Say thank you. Maybe you fill out a press form together. That's great. If the donor hedges and says something like, "I'd like to check with my financial planner," or, "with my husband," or something or somebody else, you say, "I completely understand. May I call you next week to follow up?"
You definitely want to have that next step finalized before you leave the meeting. Be sure to make that call. So put a reminder in your calendar. Put it in your database, whatever you need, to remind yourself to make that follow-up call to the prospect. Before you leave the meeting you want to be clear on whatever the next steps are going to be. Okay great. So that is the ask.
The next slide is "thinking and stewarding." That's Step 7. So of course, after you've received a pledge or gift, you want to thank you donor. You want to get that initial thank you letter or phone call out the door as soon as possible. Within three days is considered best practices for letters. I like to shoot for 24 hours, but I know that that sometimes is not possible.
Now if it's truly a major give for your organization, then you probably want your C.E.O. or your Board Chair to make a thank-you call within hours of receiving the pledge.
So whatever your stewardship plan is for your donor, be sure to note in your calendar and your database that you're not losing track. I know that The Nonprofit Academy is doing a stewardship webinar next month. I think it's September 3rd, so that might be a good thing to check out, with some good ideas on stewardship, because we do know that stewardship is a place where we fall short as fundraisers.
We're so excited to get the gift. We do a great job of getting gifts, and then we don't take care of our donors afterwards, and our donor retention is not good. So I encourage you to focus on stewardship, and that webinar next month might be a great place to start.
So the next Slide, 29, is just a recap of that seven step system. I'm not going to go through all the steps again, but I think you know them by now, but the great thing I just want say about this system is that you can just keep repeating it for continued major gift results and success.
So after you've thanked your donors, you're going to go back to Step 1, and you want to reassess everything in that Step 1. So look at your case for support. Does it still make sense for where your organization is right now and the work that you doing?
Look at your acknowledgment letters. Are those current? You don't want those things to get stale, especially for major donors. You want those things to be super-fresh. So that's it.
The last slide, my last slide, Marc, is Slide 30, and it's my gift to you, which is what Marc mentioned early on. You can go to my website ArroyoFundraising.com, which is at the bottom of all the slides, and then it's "/gifts." So I have to do is put in your email address and I'll send you that guide pronto, and then you'll be on my email list, which I send the newsletter every week. I don't bombard. It's just one weekly newsletter. So hopefully you can hop on, and I would love to stay connected with all of you.
So I want to thank Marc for hosting, and then Marc is going to help facilitate some questions and answers with the time that I have left.
Marc Pitman: Well, thank you so much. I warned you before we started I was going to put myself on mute, and everybody else is probably [inaudible 00:48:35] for that, because I was saying, "Mm-hmm," and laughing, and I was right with you. So many of these points are just really, really helpful, and there are about three areas where I could see that I could tighten up when I go about asking.
So I really appreciate your going over that, and even the breaking down of those seven steps of a [inaudible 00:48:55] meeting. I tend to get a little bit sloppy in my training there, because I haven't seen it laid out quite like that, and that was really helpful.
So we do have some questions. One of the questions I even blogged about it earlier this week or spent the last couple weeks kind of building on, so I'm glad it was asked. It's, "What if we don't have any donors yet?" So you talked about looking at your database. You talked about all these other places to find your major donors, or to define what a major gift is. What if you're just starting from scratch? What if you've got nobody?
Kathie Kramer Ryan: That is a great question.
Marc Pitman: How do you go about [inaudible 00:49:28]?
Kathie Kramer Ryan: Yep. That's a great question. So I have an exercise. Marc, you probably have something similar with boards. It's an exercise where you really kind of think about different folks in your life that you might be able to introduce to your organization. So your board can do this. Your staff can do this. You can do it if you're a development director or any development staff person.
So you kind of sit down and you say, "Okay. I have neighbors. I have people I go to church with. I have my book club. I have my bridge club, the people that I know from it kids school, my friends, my family." Kind of go through all those categories of people, and you start writing down names of folks that you think might be interested in the work that your organization is doing.
I mean, that's really it. That's kind of how you start, and it's a little bit more -- when I do it with the board, it's probably a little bit more formalized. I have a little graphic I show, and we kind of just do it together, but it's really a simple as that. It's really thinking about folks that you know or folks that your board knows, your staff.
Everybody can get involved in this -- volunteers, other advocates of your organization, and just really think about folks that you think will be interested in your work. I mean, that's the most important part, is you want them to be interested in the work that you're doing and invest in the work that you're doing.
Marc Pitman: That's a good to hear you say that, because that's basically the answer I give, and the answer that other people give. I did hear on a previous N.P.A. Presents, with Steve Shadrach, he called it "name storming," instead of "brainstorming," where every idea is a good idea. Just name storm first.
Every name is a good name. Walk through different stages of your life that you can talk to, and this is about raising your own support, but it was just kind of need to think about names that are [inaudible 00:51:15] ...
Kathie Kramer Ryan: Hello, Marc?
Marc Pitman: ... as that kind of thing. I guess you can't hear me? Are you not hearing me? Oh well.
Kathie Kramer Ryan: Marc?
Marc Pitman: I'm here. It looks like I'm here. Interesting. Well, Kathie, if you can't hear me, I guess you ...
Kathie Kramer Ryan: Hello, Marc. I can't hear you.
Marc Pitman: Anybody else it's on the phone, can you hear me? Could you just put something in the question-and-answer box, maybe, or star two, to raise your hand? I'm still talking. Can you not hear me, Kathie? Okay, well, it looks like Kathie -- we lost her.
I am really, really thrilled that we had this opportunity for The Nonprofit Academy to listen, learn from her. I'm so glad for members. If you aren't a member yet, you might want to consider becoming a member, because this recording is going to be something that is going to be on the online vault, and will be able to be reviewed.
I recommend working back through it and going each step by step and just pausing and seeing, with each of the seven steps, where you could learn from, what things you could do with your nonprofit and your organization.
We have a lot of upcoming events, as Kathie had mentioned, the Stewardship Seminar with Vanessa Chase and Shannon Doolittle is coming up in September. Every month are going to be having another training, just like it's been our record for the last couple of years.
We also will throw in other trainings, based on what members ask for. And also go to the upcoming events or the members dashboard, actually, to see when the next office hours are, where you just bring whatever your issues are, and you can come in and give us a call.
So until the next ...
Kathie Kramer Ryan: Marc? I'm back.
Marc Pitman: Oh, Kathie's back. Well, we're just wrapping it up and ...
Kathie Kramer Ryan: I'm so sorry.
Marc Pitman: ... everything. Well, we're wrapping up and saying how great it was, and I recommended that everybody take it and listen to the replay and stop at each of the seven steps that you shared on the way ...
Kathie Kramer Ryan: Right. Okay.
Marc Pitman: ... because there's really good tidbits and things that they can do to help fill in the gaps, or create a strong foundation. I mean, the best part is some of our members may not even have a major gifts program. So you're helping them over years of mistakes, and get it off to a really strong foundation. So thank you so much for being here, and I do recommend everybody ...
Kathie Kramer Ryan: Great.
Marc Pitman: ... go to ArroyoFundraising.com/gift to get that free, step-by-step guide to learning to take the fear out of asking, because people want to fund your cause, and our job is to help find -- your job. Our job is to help find those people who want to fund the cause, because that brings joy to donors, and it helps our mission get accomplished.
So until the next Nonprofit Academy Presents, this is Marc Pitman. It's been a pleasure to be your host.
Kathie Kramer Ryan: Thanks, Marc.