Major gifts are the largest donations an organization receives. Depending on the organization a major gift might be $500 or $100,000. Typically 80% of donations come from 20% of donors, so identifying, cultivating and retaining major gift donors should be a priority for your organization.
Major gift prospects are people who are likely to support your organization either because they identify with your cause or know someone connected to you. They may be among your current donors. Canvass your staff and volunteers to see who they know. Use the internet to research potential major gift donors.
Cultivation is the process that leads up to the “ask” for a major gift. It’s an opportunity to introduce prospects to your organization and the work you do, and to learn about their specific areas of interest. Good cultivation involves opportunities for a prospect to engage with your organization whether through introductions to the leadership of your organization, invitations to events, or an opportunity to see your work in action. Remember you are in the hunt for a major gift so it’s time well invested.
Every “ask” will have a different strategy but the common elements are:
Charles Bronfman is the former co-chairman of Seagrams. As Chairman and majority owner of the Montreal Expos, he brought Major League Baseball to Canada. Until 2016, he chaired the Andrea & Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, which oversaw groundbreaking work in Canada, Israel and the United States. Among his signature philanthropic achievements are Heritage Minutes (Historica Canada) and Birthright Israel.
In October 2016, Alison Faulknor, Director of New Initiatives at National Trust for Canada had the opportunity to sit down with Charles and learn about his experience as a donor.
(CB) What motivates me, and I think others, is giving a damn, really caring. And if you care about something and if enough of us care about enough things, we’re going to be an okay society.
(CB) I like that question very much because I think that is lesson number one in philanthropy. If it isn’t in your gut, it isn’t. It has to be something about which you’re passionate. I was passionate about [Canada’s history], I’ve been passionate about a few other things, so I pursued them with colleagues and had a formula, and our formula was to do something on a pilot basis. If it worked, then we could go out and find other people to try this. So we put in the first capital as it were, and then other people, if we were successful, which fortunately we were most of the time, would come and join us and then over time we gradually decrease our involvement.
(CB) Yeah and I think what you folks are doing is terrific because if we’re not going to have preservation of our important iconic buildings, then what do we have? You know you go to Europe, you go to Asia, you go to Africa and see all these great things. Well, had somebody not decided to preserve them, they wouldn’t have been saved.
(CB)I think that what you have to do is maybe have a meeting, and see if there are people at the meeting who really are reverberating or throwing enthusiasm, and then try to start something going.
(CB) I think it’s going to be more private philanthropy than there ever has been. In Canada we’ve been slow to have private philanthropy; everything has gone to these major organizations, whether it’s United Way, or the Red Cross. Companies and people are now starting to do much more, the kind of thing that we did in our foundation, is to start saying well what really interests us, what can we do to make our society better? I remember years ago I suggested one time that we show everybody where our money goes, and everybody went to sleep. They didn’t give a damn, because it was peer pressure that was making them give, not the cause. Then, all of a sudden, life changed, and today, we can’t give through an amorphous organization without showing where it’s going and you have, Charity Navigator, that shows the various philanthropic institutions and what goes where, and they rate them: how much overhead they have, what their marketing expenses are and so on. I think that’s what will be going on more and more.
(CB) I think that’s better for our future. People are going to look, because we now have the information: how much the administration is, how much the administration overhead, where the money does wind up going. And that’s going to, in this current age, at least, determine a lot of the funding, whether or not the particular charity is doing a great job.
(CB) That’s who we are. That’s our heritage if you’ll pardon the expression. That’s everything about us. If those things disappear, the history, the story of the country disappears. I think if people get a silly view of history, a lot people find it boring etc., but it’s really our story. The story part of history is where it’s so important, and that’s why we did our Heritage Minutes [at Historica]. To show in one minute the Underground Railroad, for instance, when we brought American slaves into Canada, or many of the others, this is who we are. If we don’t preserve who we are, what are our kids going to think about who we are? I think it’s right.
A donor appeal is a renewal appeal targeted at existing donors and solid prospects. It is often in the form of an annual appeal or an appeal to support a specific project or urgent need.
Everyone loves a story – and heritage places have stories to tell. The story of your heritage place is a crucial piece of your fundraising plan. It will carry over to all your materials [flyers, website, e-mails, and donor appeals]. Telling it in a compelling, emotional, engaging and inspiring way will win you donors.