Your Guide to Capital Campaigns

Looking for new ways to change up your major donor fundraising strategy? What worked for you in the past may no longer be the best course of action today, as your nonprofit has grown and evolved. A changing economic climate may call for big shifts in fundraising methods, too.

The ability to continually adapt and overcome is a strong indicator of how sustainable and successful your nonprofit will be moving forward. By incorporating some best practices for major donor fundraising throughout your day-to-day routine, you can greatly amplify your impact.

iWave is here to grow alongside you and help you make the strategy changes your campaigns need to get that extra boost, too. With our customizable nonprofit fundraising solutions, you’ll be able to quickly identify prospects and turn them into major donors. To learn more, schedule a free demo or assessment with us today!

The Basics: A Refresher

Thinking long term, one of the most economical and valuable things your nonprofit can do is focus your time, energy, and resources on retaining and cultivating major donor relationships. Since your major donors may contribute the majority of your funds, are dedicated to your cause, and often maintain a connection for many years, they are one of your greatest assets.

You want your fundraising efforts to be as successful as possible, so let’s take you through a quick refresher to make sure you’re fully prepared to launch a new strategy.

Identify Your Major Donors

It’s estimated that around 88 percent of gifts are received from just 12 percent of donors, so identifying your major donors is a crucial first step.

When starting out, you probably established a donation amount that signified major-donor status–but when was the last time you revisited this number?

Have your team sit down and go over the numbers to learn what the top tier of donation has been. Continue moving down from the largest donation, until you have about three-fourths of your total necessary funds. This number is bound to change over the years as your organization grows and changes. Return to it periodically to ensure it aligns with your current situation.

If your major donor list appears too long, readjust your major donation amount and start from there. Another way to pare down a more defined major donor list is to consider how long each of your top donors has been contributing, as well as how frequently they donate.

Details like these will give you further insights into who cares the most about your mission, enabling you to tailor more of your efforts to your top major donors.

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Focus on Building Stronger Major Donor Relationships

Your nonprofit would likely have trouble functioning without the help of your major donors. The foundation of any major donor fundraising campaign is the quality of your major donor relationships.

Developing these connections takes significant time and effort. Furthermore, they are a perpetual work in progress that requires continual attention and thoughtful engagement in order to maintain them.

Even when a donor isn’t actively making major gift donations, demonstrate a keen interest in their life, apart from simply their capacity to give. This means initiating some communication that isn’t centered around donation requests. It’s also a good idea to provide supportive resources to your donors in your communications to establish more of a two-way relationship.

To sum things up, it pays to invest in your current major donor relationships rather than seeking new ones—especially during times of change or uncertainty.

Use Our Nonprofit Fundraising Solutions to Your Advantage

One of the most important tools at your disposal will be accurate prospect data. By regularly performing wealth screenings, you’ll have the necessary information to make the right asks to the right prospects at the right times. No money needs to be left on the table.

Some of the indicators you’ll want to focus on include:

  • Property and stock ownership.
  • Corporate connections.
  • History of giving to your nonprofit and other organizations.

Other factors may include a prospect’s educational background, current professional role, age, and more. With this information, as well as details about each prospect’s capacity and affinity to give, you’ll be ready to reach out.

iWave combines key indicators like these into a single prospect score for quick and easy prospect ranking. We also show unique insights that can guide you toward viable donors you might otherwise overlook.

Reevaluate Your Team

As part of a nonprofit, you know the value of crafting the right team. If your employees have been working hard, resulting in great outcomes, you may have been comfortable with the team as is. However, some additions or modifications may be needed as you continue to develop.

Talk to your team about areas where you have had the most success. For example, if your marketing campaigns have yielded great results, you may want to expand your efforts in this area and bring on more marketing experts to join you.

Along with that, if you don’t already have one and resources allow, create a role like a major gift officer (MGO) or even a full team dedicated to requesting major gifts.

Depending on the size of your nonprofit, major gift solicitation may fall under the responsibilities of executive directors or other leaders. Once those in charge of prospect research have identified and ranked major donor prospects, the person or people assigned to the MGO duties will make the major gift requests, as well as:

  • Continually nurture strong major donor relationships.
  • Maintain accurate major donor records.
  • Develop major gift marketing materials and coordinate with the marketing team.
  • Determine the ideal who, when, and how to make new major donor requests.
  • Communicate with pertinent team or board members to find more prospects.

On the other hand, team growth is only useful if you have the proper resources. In speaking with your team, you may also learn where you can consolidate roles or change roles you no longer need. Reevaluate your team on a regular basis to ensure every department is running as efficiently and effectively as possible. Bigger isn’t always the best option in this sense.

Switch Up Your Fundraising Strategies

  1. Donor Recognition Wall

A donor recognition wall is a great way to highlight the key donors for your cause. This should be a physical wall that visitors can see when stopping by your headquarters as well as a virtual wall existing on your webpage.

Donors want to see themselves getting the recognition and thanks they deserve. This tangible acknowledgement will help them feel valued, leading to continued support throughout the years. Additionally, some new prospects may view the wall and feel inspired to support you as well.

By including a virtual wall on your website, you create an opportunity to spread such inspiration to even more prospects and donors. Though they may not be able to visit due to distance or travel limitations, they can view the virtual wall from the comfort of home.

If resources allow, consider hiring outside help to make your donor recognition wall truly pop, too. Appearances aren’t everything, but eye-catching visuals can make a positive difference.

When creating your donor recognition wall, whether in person, online, or both, be sure to incorporate your nonprofit’s unique brand and style. This is a way to exemplify what makes your community special to pique interest and draw more people in. For many people, creative expression like this also engenders a deeper emotional connection to the big picture.

  1. Planned Giving Program

Has your fundraising team looked into planned giving yet? Planned giving is a unique type of giving since there is no set time when the funds will be received. Instead, the gift is usually left in a will or trust. It is not uncommon that planned gifts are some of the biggest your nonprofit can receive. 

There are many different legal factors that go into this type of giving, so make sure you’re expanding your team as needed. Planned giving is also a delicate manner, since you’ll be cultivating donors making end-of-life plans. Make sure to approach this type of giving with sensitivity and respect.

Handled with care, however, a planned giving program will enable you to receive more major gifts overall. This is because the nature of planned gifts enables more people, regardless of wealth, to make major donations, expanding your reach.

  1. Major Donor Society

How do you currently reward your major donors? A great way to acknowledge and thank your biggest supporters is through a major donor society. To increase opportunities, you might consider offering different perks at distinct giving levels along the way to ultimately guide donors towards making a major gift.

Some of the most common perks of a major donor society include:

  • Exclusivity: Supporters enjoy feeling like they are a part of something unique and just for them—and they will be!
  • Encourages Donations: Match up your major donor standards with those of your major donor society requirements. If you have a specific gift amount for inclusion in this club, then you might encourage mid-tier donors to become major donors, so they can become a part of the program.
  • Opportunities for Stewardship: This club will have a specific mailing list and email chain, so you’ll be able to reach your target audience easily to host exclusive events, appreciation luncheons, and giveaways.
  1. Major Donor Acquisition Events

Events catered towards major donors typically yield great results since they gather likeminded people together to learn more about your nonprofit and have a good time together. When major donors engage with one another, they feel more connected to a community based around your cause, increasing the likelihood of them making future major gift donations.

These events are usually live auctions or galas and can be held in person or online. Online events are a great way to reach people across the country or even abroad and make your event even more successful by being more accessible.

To make sure your event is as successful as possible, and to help make future events run more smoothly, make sure you have the following items:

  • Registration and RSVPs.
  • Speakers.
  • Vendors and venues, if held in person.
  • Event marketing materials.
  • Date tracking and reports.
  • Follow up thank you letters/emails.

These types of events give you the opportunity to get to know your donors and prospects better, so you can more accurately identify your top major donors. While events focused on major donors are helpful, focusing efforts on lower tiers can also help your nonprofit.

  1. Consider More Inclusivity, Too

When launching a new fundraising strategy, you’ll want to have a good mix of major donor events as well as efforts open to the public. Text campaigns and other mass-level fundraising can reach out to a larger audience and drive even more funding than a major donor event.

In the past, you may have made your events too exclusive, so look into more wide-reaching events for low- to mid-level donors. Text campaigns are some of the easiest to host in the modern day. Nonprofits reach out via text, and donors reply to the message to make their donation.

Links are also extremely easy to share for social or text campaigns. With the proper marketing behind them, you can inspire and encourage people to spread the word about your organization with very minimal effort on their part—or yours.

  1. Board Connections

You know how valuable your board is to your mission, so it’s important to reach out to them on a regular basis to leverage their connections. Ask them if they know anyone with the means and inclination to support your mission.

If they know someone, you will want to have the board member personally introduce you. This will help to build and develop a stronger connection with the prospect, increasing your chances of them becoming a major donor in the future.

Consider asking a board member to work alongside your team during the entire major donor acquisition process as well!

  1. Share Results

Transparency is key when it comes to fundraising. Your donors want to know how successful your program has been. Such successes are the perfect demonstration of their donations in action. It makes their personal impacts more apparent.

Have you updated your supporters lately? If not, consider new ways to get the word out. Whether it’s a monthly email or posts on your social media, you want to inform your audience of the impacts of their support, which will ultimately draw in more donors.

In a monthly or bi-monthly newsletter, you can highlight your organization’s ongoing achievements. Some of the things you may want to include are:

  • Testimonials from people benefiting from your programs or services.
  • Concrete numbers and statistics that demonstrate continued growth.
  • What specific major gifts enabled your organization to do.
  • Videos and images to complement your written content and allow prospects and donors to consume information in different ways.

Finally, you might include major donor spotlights with details about a different donor and how their gift is being used. This can also serve to motivate mid-level donors to make a major gift donation. Recognition and appreciation go a long way, especially for dedicated donors who feel passionately about your cause.

  1. Engage Major Donors

As a nonprofit, you know the importance of volunteer work. Nothing better shows supporters how important the mission is than allowing them to get their hands dirty themselves. Consider engaging major donors by inviting them to come volunteer with your team!

Volunteering their time will help them:

  • Learn more about the specific work your organization is doing.
  • Gain a better understanding of your mission.
  • Meet more of your important staff members.
  • See the ground-level impact of their funding.

You can invite major donors to volunteer their time in person, virtually, or both. Either way, working alongside your team will bring them closer to your cause and may also give them a greater appreciation for the work you do. This translates to extra support in the moment and a potential for more major gifts in the future.

  1. Returns on Investment

Like being transparent about results, you want to show your donors their returns on investment. Sit down with your past supporters and show them how much their gifts have accomplished. This helps donors understand what changes they have personally affected, encouraging them to continue supporting your mission.

Additionally, show your prospects exactly what you need, what each gift amount does for your organization, and how much of an impact the end result will make in as much detail as possible. This will help guide them as they consider making a major gift donation.

  1. Performance Metrics

Have you been tracking your performance metrics? If not, this is a great way to restart fundraising efforts and craft a new strategy. Track the following data points:

  • Gift asks made.
  • Gifts secured.
  • Average donation size.
  • Major donor retention rate.

With these numbers in hand, you’ll gain a better idea of where you need to focus your efforts and what strategies are currently working and which need to be improved. Using your performance metrics to course correct as you go will ensure your nonprofit stays on track and continues to perform at its best.

  1. Matching Gifts

It’s estimated that about $4 to $7 billion in matching gift funds go unclaimed every year. If your organization hasn’t been utilizing matching gifts, then there’s clearly a large untapped market waiting for you.

Matching gifts are when a prospect’s company pledges to donate the same amount or match the gift. Fundraising can automatically double if done correctly. Use wealth screenings to learn what potential donors look for in organizations that offer matching gifts, and then reach out with an ask.

Adding a matching gift employer link to your donation page will help increase visibility and make it very simple for donors to increase their impact. Along with dedicating a section of your website to explaining what matching gifts are, be sure to incorporate matching gifts into your other marketing materials.

If a donation is made, you’ll want to make sure the matching gift program is mentioned since there are a few extra steps your nonprofit and the donor will need to go through to secure the gift. Be sure to follow up about matching gifts. Even ones that are only a fraction of the total major gift will incrementally increase your funds.

Learn how you can raise more major gifts with iWave’s integrations

Best Practices for Online Fundraising

If you’re looking to shake up your fundraising efforts, the best way is to head online. By fundraising online, you’ll be able to reach a larger audience rather than just local supporters. On top of that, more people may attend when they know they can do so from their living room couch.

Another benefit is that you can save time and resources when it comes to both planning and executing an online fundraising event. In order to put you in the best position during your online efforts, make sure you’re taking the right steps.

Increase Non-Fundraising Communication

Since the main goal is raising major gifts to support your cause, your inclination may be to focus all your attention on communicating about fundraising. However, it’s a good idea to encourage communication of all types with your supporters.

Provide consistent updates about the progress of your organization either through email or social media posts. Educational posts and blogs are also a good idea to help increase awareness and encourage interaction. You don’t want all posts to be serious, though. Mix in posts about upcoming holidays, seasonal activities, or exciting world events.

Get personal with your audience, so they can better understand your nonprofit. Some donors may be on the fence about whether they want to support you or not, and creating a personal connection can help them decide.

Offer Virtual Meetings

If you’re trying to cultivate an out-of-town donor, you may be wondering how you can still meet with them face to face. While in-person contact has been the traditional go-to, in times when this isn’t possible, you should still set up virtual meetings.

Getting to put a face to the mission helps supporters connect with you and establish a more personal relationship. When it comes to cultivating a major donor, nothing is more important than a strong relationship, so take the time to schedule these critical meetings. When a donor receives one-on-one attention, they feel valued and invested, making them more likely to donate more major gifts over time.

Increase Giving Channels

How are you currently receiving donations? Do you have a donate button on your website and links on your social media pages? If not, you’ll want to add this immediately. You never know when a casual observer could turn into a donor—even a major one—so have multiple online avenues set up for quick and simple donations.

In addition to having a donate button that stands out, always include a clear call to action on all your webpages and marketing materials. This will guide readers to the next step, which may yield a higher number of donations overall.

Increase Donor Appreciation

There are many ways you can virtually show appreciation to new and existing donors. Always send a handwritten letter to major donors with specific details. These letters should be personable and even mention details you discussed in your one-on-one meeting.

Personalized thank you letters are a must, too. Gratitude always feels more genuine and endearing when it comes with a personal touch.

Download our complimentary eBook: Major Gifts From Major Donors

Come See How iWave Can Help You Craft Fundraising Strategies!

iWave pledges to be by your side every single step of the way during your fundraising journey. If your organization needs to change things up, reach out to a member of our team to learn how our next-generation platform can take you to the next level of fundraising.

iWave draws from billions of data points to quickly give you accurate information you can translate into substantial growth. We also offer a personalized onboarding process and unlimited support, so every member of your team will feel empowered to take advantage of all the best fundraising tools.

New to iWave? Then, give us a call to set up a free demo and fundraising assessment to learn more about what our software can do to empower your nonprofit!