Ryan McCarvillBy Ryan McCarvill, Content Manager, iWave

Congratulations!  You secured another $10,000 gift from longtime donor, Jane Smith.  Years ago, you worked hard to solicit Jane’s first major gift to your organization.  And now it only takes a few touchpoints during the year to secure the same gift amount year over year.  In fact, when you met Jane for lunch last week she already had a signed check in her hand.  Easy, right?

Hold on just one second!  Your research team discovered via Jane’s charitable giving history that she’s giving $25,000 gifts to other organizations in your region.

Now you’re wondering if you’re doing something wrong.  How could Jane give larger gifts to other nonprofits when she seems to love your organization’s cause so much?  It’s time to get to the bottom of this mystery.

Mary Richter, a New York fundraising consultant, wrote on the iWave blog: “Data analysis and prospect research are vital to the growth of an annual fund.  A typical annual fund maxes out at $5 million.  However, most organizations operate annual funds under $3 million.  This means minor increases in giving make a huge difference in your overall growth.”

Bottom line? If your nonprofit’s annual fund isn’t growing, it’s shrinking.  Here are three strategies you can use to encourage current donors to give more year over year.

Show Appreciation and Gift Impact

Philanthropists like Jane have no interest in simply giving their money away.  Jane sees her donations as impact investments she hopes will effect positive changes with causes aligning with her passion.  If Jane starts to doubt the impact of her donation, she will be far less likely to give at the same level (or give at all) the next time you touch base.

While it may sound like a simple or even trivial measure, saying “thank you” is a powerful method of recognizing the donor and highlighting the importance of their contribution.  Educate donors on the great strides your organization is making thanks to those critical fundraising dollars.  Where are those dollars allocated?  Can you share any stories of people your organization has helped or milestones you have achieved?  Transparency and sincerity are key.

We all love a good story, especially in the current news climate.  Share news about your wins from last year: relationships with new or top donors, fundraising milestones, and successful events.  Most importantly, think how your mission has impacted your community.

Quantify your organization’s contribution measured against donation dollars.  Combine this with a qualitative approach: interview donors, board members, volunteers, and everyone impacted by your mission.  Then, create a story (or several stories) using all this information.  You might tell your organization’s story as a written case study, email newsletter, infographic, social media posts, or a video.  Telling your story is a great way to thank donors, boost morale among staff and volunteers, and inspire others to give.

Ask For Help (Not Just Money)

Let’s step back for a moment.  Jane could have completely valid reasons for not increasing her gift over time.  In your conversations with Jane, she has always shown great interest in your organization and its mission.  Maybe other opportunities exist for Jane to contribute that don’t involve dollars and cents.  After all, many wealthy individuals consider time more valuable than money.

Maybe Jane would make a great volunteer or board member.  Your research team is busy building profiles on other donors, so it’s up to you to collect some fundraising intelligence on Jane.

Fundraising intelligence is critical when considering new board members.  You may learn that Jane has no board experience or interest in taking on any leadership roles.  Thankfully, you learn she has served on the boards of three other nonprofits, not to mention on the board of her own company.  Clearly she has nonprofit knowledge and leadership expertise.

Remember to keep Jane’s core competencies in mind.  As an investment firm manager, maybe she could help elevate your donor advised funds efforts.  Her experience at other organizations could bring fresh ideas to how your nonprofit works towards its goals.  Every board should be a group of like-minded people who bring individual perspectives and unique skills to the table. Consider this article on how to build a strong board of directors for your nonprofit.

Generate a New Prospect Score

So far, two of the three strategies involve elements of fundraising intelligence.  The third strategy is to consider Jane Smith’s donor potential with fresh eyes.  Specifically, this means collecting and synthesizing new information about Jane’s wealth and philanthropic activity.

You soon learn there hasn’t been a deep dive into Jane’s donor profile in over two years.  Considering Jane is contributing larger gifts elsewhere, maybe you can learn why by refreshing the ratings attached to her profile.

Several ways exist  to find new information about current donors.  You might start from scratch and search for your donor across your fundraising intelligence platform to see what new records you can find.

An easier (and recommended) method is to simply check your prospect rating settings and refresh the prospect score.  Refreshing the score triggers the system to search for any new records related to Jane’s name and profile.  Maybe she divested a large amount of stock in the last two years, which means she’s now able to contribute larger gifts.  Or maybe she’s choosing  to contribute larger gifts to fewer organizations.  You won’t know until you score!

Another method to consider is a wealth screen.  Jane might be one of fifty or five hundred annual donors who could use some updated profiles.  Try running a wealth screen that also searches for philanthropic indicators like propensity to give and affinity to your cause.  As well, look for a wealth screen solution that includes an RFM (recency-frequency-monetary) score that analyzes and ranks a donor’s giving to your organization.

Inspire Growth by Inviting Donors to Join Your Mission

Jane is contributing larger gifts to other organizations, but that doesn’t necessarily mean your relationship with her is on the rocks.  It does warrant research, consideration, and outreach though. Maybe there’s a way to further involve Jane with your organization?   After all, fundraising isn’t just about soliciting one major gift after another.  It’s about fostering a sense of community and common purpose among donors and all stakeholders.

Remember to take the time to proactively understand Jane’s personal circumstances and philanthropic goals year over year, rather than whenever you receive concerning news.    In this way, you may inspire her to increase her donation.  It may be a small increase, though small increases add up over time. After all, it’s these increases which take donors and your organization’s annual fund to the next level.

By Ryan McCarvill, Content Manager, iWave
[email protected]