Major gifts are an important part of any nonprofit organization. While every organization has its own take on stewarding donors toward larger giving, successful major gift fundraising often relies on an effective moves management program—the system of processes and procedures used to nurture donor relationships and move them toward major gifts.
The first part of moves management is identifying the strongest prospects—those donors who are most likely to give a large gift and strengthen their relationship with your organization. These are the donors ready for the second part of moves management, the cultivation and solicitation process. Likewise, you need to identify those relationships that need to be further developed, so you can move them down your list to approach later.
Prioritizing your potential donors allows you to reach out to supporters and cultivate relationships in a timely and efficient manner. Here’s how you can qualify prospects for your moves management program.
The Three Prospect Attributes
Launching your moves management program requires you to first discover and identify potential prospects. By tapping your board, staff, and donors, as well as your constituent relationship management system (CRM), you’ll be able to capture a list of individuals that show giving potential for your program. You must then qualify these prospects so you know where to focus your efforts most effectively.
Your ideal donors will share three major attributes:
The chance of someone making a large gift depends heavily on their level of relationship with your nonprofit. How connected are they to your organization? The first thing you should do is check their giving history and ask the following questions:
- How involved are they in your campaigns and events?
- On top of donations, have they made any non-monetary gifts?
- Have they volunteered before?
- Have they attended any of your events?
But your research shouldn’t stop there. You should also collect any additional information about the donor—apart from their history with your nonprofit—that can help you develop a stronger connection with them. Do they support any other organizations? What types of initiatives do they give to? Were they ever personally affected by your cause?
For example, let’s say you were an organization working to cure breast cancer. A potential prospect hasn’t given to your nonprofit recently, but you might look into whether they support any other similar initiatives or have a personal connection to the cause. Do they donate to the American Cancer Society? Have they ever made a contribution to a hospital for an oncology award? Have any of their relatives been affected by cancer? Some extra research can expose an opportunity to make a connection with your prospect, improve the relationship, and potentially funnel them into your moves management cycle.
Your moves management program focuses on attaining large gifts, so your prospects need to be financially capable of making one in the first place.
In addition to the information provided by your CRM, many nonprofits purchase wealth-screening software to assess their donors’ giving capacity. You can also go online to research particular individuals. You might, for instance, find out whether the donor is able to make large gifts to other organizations. If someone has given significant contributions elsewhere, they could be listed in those organizations’ online annual reports or donor recognition walls.
Other indicators of a donor’s financial capacity include their age range, marital status, occupation, and whether they have children.
This is a critical element in deciding whether to pursue a prospective donor for your moves management program. Do you have access to this individual? This is where personal connections come in. Your ideal prospects will have some relationship with your board, staff, steering committee (a separate body that runs capital campaigns), or other members of your network, and these mutual contacts will hopefully be wiling to introduce you.
After pulling an initial list of potential donors, polish it before approaching your network. Let’s say you used your CRM to identify any donors who gave $25,000 individually within the last five years. You’d then refine it by taking off any individuals who have since deceased. Then, take this list to your board members or campaign steering committees and ask them who they know.
Also, don’t discount relationships that are less direct. Jim may not know Rachel, but he knows Sam who knows Rachel—this can still provide an opportunity for a future connection.
Prioritize Your Prospective Donors
After assessing prospects for your moves management program based on these traits, rank them into separate groups to determine which donors are most apt to give first, which ones are not quite ready to donate, and which ones you should reach out to further down the road. This will help you decide where to focus your time and energy.
Prioritize your prospective donors into the following categories:
- A Prospects: have all three attributes
- B Prospects: have two out of three attributes
- C Prospects: have one out of three attributes
“A” Prospects are your most promising prospects. They’re involved with your organization, are capable of larger giving, and share some connection with your nonprofit. Move them into your moves management process. “C” Prospects, on the other hand, are probably unlikely to make a large gift anytime soon, so you need to invest time into developing these relationships.
What Do I Do About “B” Prospects?
Then there are your “B” Prospects. With two out of three attributes, these donors could potentially be moved into your moves management program, but whether or not they’re ready depends on which element they’re missing.
If they’re missing “Affinity,” you can still do something to win these prospects over. For one, you can ask your mutual point of contact to introduce you so you can get to better know these people. Or, perhaps they’re unfamiliar with your nonprofit’s work, in which case you can deliver resources and educate them about your services. Because their level of commitment to your nonprofit is something you can influence, consider funneling these donors into your moves management program.
If your prospective donors are missing either “Ability” or “Access,” they may not be an appropriate fit for your program at this time. A donor might be deeply committed to your organization, but they just can’t make a large gift. In this case, they may be a better prospect for other fundraising campaigns. If a donor can give, but has no connection to your nonprofit, it will be difficult to win them over. Continue to invite them to events, seek connections, and employ your regular donor stewardship processes.
When first launching a major gift program, you can easily start off with a large, unrefined list of prospective donors. You need to qualify your prospects in order to identify who are most likely to become large donors to your organization, as well as continue to deepen their involvement.
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