After Identifying a Major Donor Prospect, What Comes Next?

Guest post by Doron Barbalat of Causeview.

Fortunately, in this day and age, there are many ways to identify a major donor prospect. Donor intelligence solutions can help us analyze our supporters and suggest the best candidates. Alternatively, donors can self-identify as major gift prospects several ways, through their actions online or at our events.

Spending the time stewarding the right donors is vital for nonprofits and higher education institutions. Staff sizes can be limited, and making the right use of a supporter’s time is important for keeping them engaged.

So after identifying a major donor prospect, what are the key first steps to take? We have four suggestions that should be on every development officer’s to-do list.

Put together a complete profile

A successful stewardship strategy begins with a good understanding of the supporter. Centralizing the information you have about them will help you in a variety of ways. The profile you create will ensure you’re prepared and knowledgeable for upcoming conversations with the prospect. It will also show any gaps that you still need to learn to perfect your future proposals.

Building out this profile will also help ensure that the supporter is a quality fit to be targeted for a major donation. Hosting in a central, cloud-based donor management system like Causeview will let anyone in your organization who interacts with or learns about the supporter to contribute.

The profile should include basic demographic information like age, city, and occupation.  Also include data on their history with your organization, like gifts made, events attended, and previous volunteer roles.

Start building a relationship

The next important step to take after identifying a major gift prospect can vary, but the general goal is the same.  You want to start to engage on a closer, higher level with your supporter.

A best practice is to begin with a phone call to your supporter. You should always thank them for any support they’ve given in the past, and then can proceed to give a high-level mention of your upcoming plans and projects. A priority should be placed on making this supporter feel like they stand out. You can invite them to your office for a meeting with key executives, or even for a lunch or dinner discussion.

For the best results, there should be a balance between personal and business talk. You want to ensure that the supporter grows not only more interested in your initiatives, but also trusting of you and your organization.

Prepare and present a variety of options

After building out your donor profile and getting to know them better, you should have the basics in place to work on securing a major gift.

Your supporter will know that you are ultimately seeking a large contribution.  If they have engaged with you to this point, they are likely open to it as well. What remains unknown is the specific type of gift they would give, the timing, and whether you can secure their commitment.

A best practice is to put some gift options on the table early. Doing so establishes the supporter’s intent, and can give them some real opportunities to think about. You should keep this conversation somewhat open-ended by sharing the different ways someone can give a major gift. It could be a long-term pledge, an ongoing recurring gift, or a large one-time contribution. These gifts can come in a variety of forms as well, such as cash, credit card, stock or property donations.

You don’t need your supporter to decide at this point, but sharing the options with them will go a long way to moving your major gift discussion forward. Using a pledge management tool in your donor management software lets you track these gift proposals. Then, it’s simple to pick up in future conversations and make adjustments based on your supporter’s feedback.

Schedule some follow-up

A major gift stewardship process can often be lengthy. It’s not uncommon for it to take months, or even years to secure a sizable donation. What’s important, especially early in the solicitation, is to be proactive and ensure that the discussions don’t fizzle out before your supporter’s interest has been piqued.

After you have had a phone chat, in-person meeting and shared some giving options, it’s natural for your prospect to want to take time to think it over. But you should be sure that a follow-up talk or meeting is set up. Not only should you agree on with your supporter, but it should be recorded in your donor management system. This will ensure follow-up even far down the road.

If the next check-in is far away, don’t be afraid to periodically communicate by email. Provide some updates about your organization’s latest projects.

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About the author: Causeview’s Doron Barbalat. Causeview’s donor and donation management apps for Salesforce help nonprofits and higher education institutions track supporters, seamlessly process gifts, manage events and automate administrative tasks on the world’s leading CRM. If you’re interested in seeing how it works, schedule some time with our team here.

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