Major Gift Fundraising is Like Dating – 4 Steps to Success

By Kathie Kramer Ryan – Arroyo Fundraising

Would you ask someone to marry you on your first date? Chances are, no way! It’s just as unlikely that you—as a development professional—would ask a prospect to make a major gift to your organization during your first meeting.

If you are planning or implementing a major gifts program, it’s a great time to review these 4 Steps to Fundraising Success.

Step #1: Identify

First, you’ll want to identify prospects who have the potential to become donors to your organization. Prospects may include friends and colleagues of your current donors, board members, committee members and other stakeholders. Consider former board members, event attendees and (if applicable) site-visit participants.

If you work for a school, consider your students’ families, or your alumni. If your organization is a hospital, consider your patients’ families or former patients.

Step #2: Cultivate

You want to cultivate interest in your organization and its mission while building relationships with individual prospects. In our dating/marriage proposal analogy, Cultivation is the dating phase. Cultivation – or relationship-building – occurs anytime you “touch” or communicate with a prospect.

The most effective relationship-building consists of touches that are tailored to your prospect’s interests.

Step #3: Solicit

Next you will solicit a gift. While there are no set rules about how long Cultivation should last before Solicitation begins, you’ll generally spend more time cultivating for a larger ask and less time for a smaller ask.

There are many ways to ask for support, including by email, letter, phone call, or a face-to-face meeting. As a general rule, the larger the gift you are asking for, the more personal your approach should be. In other words, when you ask for a major gift, do it in person. Just like asking someone to marry you!

Step #4: Steward

Finally, steward your donors. Stewardship is thanking your donors and showing them the impact of their gifts, and it’s critical to ensuring this first gift is not the last gift. Effective Stewardship continues to build the relationship between your donor and your organization.

Be sure to join us for our next free webinar “ 7 Steps for Getting Started in Major Gifts (Even in Small Shops).” See you then!

About the Author

Kathie Kramer Ryan, founder of Arroyo Fundraising, has excelled in development and leadership positions in the nonprofit sector for 17 years. Kathie raised over $40 million as a frontline fundraiser and has helped raise millions more as a fundraising coach and consultant. A national expert on donor cultivation and major gift fundraising, Kathie serves thousands of nonprofit professionals annually as a fundraising blogger, speaker and trainer.