Early in my career, I noticed something the best fundraisers had in common. They all had extensive knowledge about their organization’s mission, strategic plan, strategies, financials, and programs. They were almost an extension of the CEO/Executive Director and knew the organization forwards and backwards.
This observation has grown into what I now consider a necessity to be successful in raising money, especially major gifts.
WHY is this important?
I’ve heard many donors in feasibility studies say,
“I love what they do and it’s very important. That’s why I support their mission. This project makes sense. I just don’t know enough about what they’ve been doing and how successful they’ve been to understand the importance of these plans.”
These are often people who have been faithful donors for years!
Donors are inclined to give more when they believe in the mission, are stewarded properly, AND have high confidence in the organization. This means having conversations with your donors that go deeper than what your annual report says.
You want build personal relationships with your donors. You don’t, however, want to spend all your time talking about their favorite lunch spot and their cat Phoebe.
Donors want to know more about the organization’s impact, the vision and strategic plan for the future, and the thought process behind those strategies.
These are conversations you should be having with your donors regularly. Don’t wait until you want to ask them for a major gift to share these details with them.
Executive Directors: Set an expectation that the development team obtains a deep and comprehensive knowledge of the organization and support them in doing so. Invite them to attend leadership meetings, review and discuss the financials and strategic plan, and encourage them to develop realtionships with programmatic staff.
Development Directors: Don’t build a fundraising silo around yourself. Study the strategic plan, budget, data (internal and external), and programs. Ask questions!
All the best,
Kenny Sigler, CFRE