The bottom line: Do this one thing consistently and well, and you will be almost guaranteed to dramatically increase major giving at your nonprofit.
I’ve never met a nonprofit leader who isn’t interested in increasing major giving. Most also understand that major gift fundraising is not easy. There is no magic bullet or easy solution available to help you raise more major gifts. Or is there?
What if I told you that – contrary to what most people think – there is one thing you can do that is almost guaranteed to help you dramatically increase major giving at your nonprofit organization? And that this one thing is so simple and easy, almost anyone can do it? Would you believe me? I hope so… because it’s true!
From time to time I am asked to speak about fundraising, typically at conferences or client training events. One way I get audiences involved in these presentations is by walking them through an exercise I call “The Anatomy of a Major Gift”. I usually start by asking someone from the audience to share a story about a major gift their organization received. Then I start to ask questions about the gift. Through these questions, we are usually able to dissect many of the steps that led up to the donor’s decision to give this major gift.
Major gifts don’t usually materialize surreptitiously. Most involve a chain of activities or donor touches – a value chain, in a manner of speaking. The more of these major gifts I “dissect”, the more I understand that almost each and every major gift value chain includes one common link. This one thing happens in almost EVERY case during the time leading up to the major gift.
Doing this one thing will help increase major giving more than almost anything else.
What is that one thing? You’d probably never guess – it’s almost certainly not what you think. It’s so basic, it’s almost embarrassing. The answer is simply this: a phone call.
I challenge you to do the same exercise. Dissect any number of major gifts your organization has ever received. I promise you, you will discover that somewhere along the “value chain” of activities leading up to almost each and every major gift, someone picked up the phone and started a conversation.
So, there you have it. Turns out, there is a magic bullet to increase major giving!
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been doing this long enough to know there’s much more to raising major gifts than simply making phone calls. And I’m not encouraging you to just start “phoning it in” with your donors. A phone call is still no substitute for face to face visits and experiences. But even before you have your first face to face visit with a donor, you usually need to make a phone call to get the appointment.
The plain fact is, more often than not, when you look back and analyze everything that went into securing a major gift, it is usually a simple phone call that set things in motion.
Which leads to an obvious question. How much time are you spending making phone calls to donors? If you are like most, probably not nearly enough.
Phone work is not fun. You often need to make ten calls to reach one person. And making phone calls is usually not one of the more urgent items on your calendar. Even if you are setting time aside for it, phone time is easily pushed aside for more pressing priorities. But just because something is more “pressing” does not make it more important.
If you want to raise more major gifts, few things are more important than picking up the phone and making calls. If you are responsible for overseeing others on your team who raise major gifts, one of the best ways you can increase major giving outcomes for your entire team is to track how many phone calls your major gift team members make in a typical week. There is an old saying that “what gets measured gets done”. Most organizations track down-stream metrics like how many visits their major gift team members make, or how many proposals get presented. They often overlook the more mundane up-stream activities (such as phone calls) that set things in motion. This would be a mistake. Few things are more important. Want your team to get out there seeing more donors? Then hold them accountable to making phone calls. Phone calls lead to appointments, appointments lead to meetings, and meetings lead to opportunities, which often result in major gifts.
What are you waiting for? Grab your phone, call a donor, and start a conversation. Knowing what you know now, I encourage you to discipline yourself to make phone work a regular work habit. If you do it consistently and well, you are almost guaranteed to see an increase in major giving as a result.