Does your organization need big, transformative gifts to achieve mission success? If yes, then what will that take? Focus on both the art and the science of high-touch fundraising. High-touch fundraising creates development approaches and cultivation activities specifically customized and personalized to maximize fundraising results for each qualified individual major donor, corporation or foundation.
Personable and engaging executive directors and major gift officers who adeptly interact with major donor prospects and make the big asks are frequently celebrated for their art of high-touch fundraising. The results-delivering story of the proven science underpinning their artistry is much less well-known.
The most successful nonprofit organizations effectively use the power of science and structured processes for individual major giving, corporate giving and foundation giving programs. Deploying a well-defined, collaborative, team approach with clearly documented business processes has been proven to strengthen major donor relationships and create the fertile ground needed to get big, transformative gifts. Frequently, organizations simply assign major donor prospects to a major gift officer and don’t provide the explicit team structure and roles definition needed to enlist the active support of executives, board members and program staff in the cultivation of the donor and stewardship of their gifts.
Nonprofits raising the most money consistently adopt a moves management approach to high-touch fundraising. Think of moves management as a framework with stages focused on moving the relationship forward toward greater value. They almost always include these five key stages:
While there are proven practices in every stage, let’s focus on how to supercharge high-touch fundraising in the cultivation stage:
Success is built on teamwork. High-touch fundraising is a team sport built as broad and deep as necessary. You want to honor and nurture the fact that some of your most valuable donors and prospects have multiple relationships with your organization.
Gather those team members to develop a cultivation strategy which outlines the planned, strategic interactions to be taken to advance the relationship, knowing full well that these are not the only interactions that occur with a prospect. There are also passive and unplanned interactions initiated by your organization’s staff, as well as prospect-initiated interactions. On a weekly or a bi-weekly basis, hold 1- to 2-hour pipeline review meetings. Assign those team members clear roles and responsibilities that enables everyone to play an important role in cultivating that donor.
Prioritize prospects based their capacity, inclination, and readiness to give. It is critical for staff to have all prospect information recorded in the fundraising/CRM system, so the appropriate reports can be generated and distributed in advance of each meeting.
Document what you know and what you do so your work lives on. Having a single repository of information about prospects/donors is a critical success factor for high-touch fundraising. The more you know about a prospect/donor, the more you can personalize their experience with your organization. Use research tools to gather data, and capture the personal details living in staff members’ heads – names of pets or family members, personal interests, life events to be recognized (e.g., birthdays, weddings), board member, staff, and other constituent relationships, even information shared in confidence. Then there is a record of staff work which remains as staff transition in and out of your organization.
Organizations that take the time to thoughtfully develop and deploy a common framework for pulling together cultivation teams, developing and documenting specific cultivation strategies for top prospects, and aligning their processes and systems to support these cultivation strategies are the ones who secure the transformative gifts needed to fund their ambitious programmatic goals.
Doug Barker, a co-founder and principal in Barker & Scott Consulting, will be speaking on Designing a Major Gift Cultivation Team, Strategy and Plan that Delivers Results at the Annual Bridge to Integrated Marketing & Fundraising Conference, July 31-Aug. 2, Gaylord National Hotel & Conference Center, National Harbor, MD, (adjacent to Washington, DC). Doug assists leading regional, national, and international nonprofit organizations with leveraging the power of information technology for organizational advancement and mission success. His expertise includes high touch fundraising, change management and constituent relationship management strategy and implementation.
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