Major Donor Game Plan: Recruitment

The Toughest Test with your Donors
I’ve heard it. You’ve heard it. We all have heard it. Donors say, “I have more money than I have time.” “I’m happy to write a check or give through my DAF. But please, please don’t ask me to volunteer, be a friend raiser, or serve on a committee or board. I just don’t have the time.” People have the time—they just don’t want to invest it in your ministry. How can you encourage your donors to give their talent, treasure, and time? Here are some keys to unlocking this valuable commodity.

How have you done with the first 4 R’s of major donor engagement? (1) Research (2) Relationship (3) Request (4) Recognition. Did your donors feel loved and confirmed? Did their confidence in you and your organization grow during these steps? Remember, fundraising is based on relationships. If you simply “grab the money and run,” your relationships will suffer. You build trust by doing what you said you would do with their hard-earned money. You also build trust by spending time as friends doing life together. Not every visit or phone call is asking for money. People will only introduce you to their friends when they have complete trust and confidence that you will treat their friends with love and respect.

The NCAA men’s basketball “Road to the Final Four” has proven that sometimes it is not about the best team with the best players, but the team with the best chemistry. You need to build a major donor recruitment team who will help you open doors to new donor relationships. Be proactive. Donors usually don’t say, “WOW, that was so much fun giving big money to your organization, I may know 4 or 5 friends who might like to do the same!” The number one reason why people give is because of who asks. Help your key donors encourage their friends to join them in your project. Develop a donor recruitment strategy that clearly defines some simple steps your friends can take to engage their friends.

Your recruitment/donor acquisition strategy must be S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound). It must fit the culture of your organization and the culture of the major donors helping you. Donor acquisition by direct mail is expensive and not as effective these days (before, during, and after COVID). Won by one is the best donor acquisition/recruitment strategy. Your key donors prove they love and trust you by their generous giving. Asking them to network to their friends on your behalf will reveal how much they really love you. Major donors know other major donors. They live in the same gated communities, play golf at the same country clubs, and may have second homes in the same winter destination. If you can tap into the major donor networks within your existing constituency you will never run out of contacts. Why? Because every new and existing donor becomes a center of influence.

Multi-Faceted Offense
Good teams have a variety of offensive plays to advance their efforts.  You need to do the same:

• Personalized Mail. Assist your donor with an effective mail presentation package. Include a handwritten note.

• Phone Call. Ask your friend to ask their friend to meet in person or by zoom to hear more about your ministry. Encourage them to share why they find joy in supporting you.

• Zoom Call. One of the blessings of the pandemic is that people are more comfortable with technology. Use video calls to give your prospective donors a tour of your facilities or introduce them to various staff members.

• Donor Gatherings. Encourage your key donors to host a small group event in their home to introduce their friends to your ministry. It doesn’t have to be a formal dinner; coffee and dessert are fine. Your event should include an exciting testimonial from your host couple, 30-45 minutes of presentation by a ministry representative, Q & A, and a response card to schedule a follow up visit. Don’t ask for money that evening. You may embarrass the host couple or even worse, you may get tipped. Donors might write a small check as a favor to their friends, but not make a true prayed-through stewardship gift.

Final Thoughts

1. Use your time wisely. Invest in your donors and ask them to invest in you by giving and recruiting. Cultivating major donors is a life-long pursuit.

2. Your close ratio is very high when a major donor agrees to lead you to a friend.

3. Small group events are still a great major donor recruitment strategy.

4. Face-to-face. All the direct mail and large events in the world will not compare to what a personal face-to-face meeting with a friend or colleague can accomplish.

A Success Story
Rob, the new headmaster, was looking for ways to connect with the school’s donors and asked board members and faculty for help. Joe, a long-time faculty member, wasn’t convinced Rob was the right choice and was reluctant to introduce him to anyone. A former faculty member passed away and Rob decided to attend her funeral. He stopped at the receptionist to ask for directions. Joe was also there asking for directions. He was surprised that Rob would take the time and offered to give him a ride. Rob’s willingness to go to a funeral of someone he never met to comfort the family on behalf of the school broke the ice with Joe. When he drove Rob back to the school, Joe said, “You need to meet Bill. I’ll call and introduce you.”

Rob met Bill for breakfast. Bill was a former board member, major donor, and community leader. He was a wealth of information and helped Rob better grasp the school’s history. At the end of breakfast Bill said, “If I can help you in any way. Please let me know.” Rob responded, “There is one thing you can do. I don’t know anybody. Could you introduce me to the people I need to know?” Bill replied, “If you’re serious, I will connect you with all the former board chairs.” And he did. Joe opened the door to Bill and Bill opened the door to twenty-eight key stakeholders.

Recruitment is the toughest test for your donors, board members, or even faculty. Don’t give up if someone is reluctant to connect you to key donors. Keep asking. God can lead you to the right person who can unlock incredible relationships.

Have fun it works!

About the Author: Pat McLaughlin President/Founder – Pat started The Timothy Group in 1990 to serve Christian ministries as they raise money to advance their missions. TTG has assisted more 1,800 Christian organizations around the world with capital, annual, and endowment campaigns. More than 25,000 of Pat’s books, Major Donor Game Plan, The C Factor: The Common Cure for your Capital Campaign Conundrums, and Haggai & Friends have helped fundraisers understand the art and science of major donor engagement. Pat makes more than one hundred major donor visits annually and provides counsel to multiple capital campaigns.

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