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By DonorSearch

In the first place, planning and pulling off a successful fundraising event is challenging for all nonprofits, regardless of size or status. But for those nonprofits who are looking to procure major gifts from their event attendees and volunteers, the process can be even more involved. That’s precisely why we’ve compiled 8 of the top strategies for identifying prospects and cultivating major gifts from your event attendees. If you’re curious about the specific tactics we’ll be exploring, you can go ahead and check out this short table of contents: #1. Segment Your Donor Database #2. Use Mobile to Collect New Data #3. Employ Fundraising Software #4. Conduct Prospect Research #5. Determine Giving Levels #6. Make the Ask! #7. Acknowledge Every Donor #8. Don’t Forget Donation Receipts

#1. Segment Your Donor Database

Segment your donor database to find major donors. A critical piece of the major gift puzzle is having a clean and organized donor database. What this means for your organization depends on the current state of your existing database. If you’ve recently updated your contacts and segmented your database, then no need to worry. A database doesn’t have to be perfect; it just has to be functional and helpful. That being said, if you haven’t updated your contacts in a while, now may be the time to look into renewing your database. The process is actually quite simple. There are three primary steps:
  1. Segment your donors by giving frequency.
  2. Further segment them by average gift size.
  3. Identify prospects who have given consistently for 3 years or more.
Now that we’ve identified those three steps, let’s take a deeper dive into how to accomplish each one:

#1. Segment your donors by giving frequency.

The first step in cleaning your donor database is to sort your donors out by giving frequency. The more frequently a volunteer or event attendee has given, the more likely they are to give major gifts in the future. Feel free to eliminate donors who haven’t given in over 2 years.

#2. Further segment donors by average gift size.

Once you’ve narrowed your database down to your most frequent and involved contributors, you can start sorting by gift size. When you’re on the lookout for major gift donors, the greater the contribution, the better. Sort out smaller contributions, but don’t eliminate them from your database entirely.

#3. Identify prospects who have given for 3 years or longer.

Major gift donors will be most likely to have given over a longer period of time. Organize your database accordingly. Look for donors who have given for at least 3 years, as these prospects will be the most probable major gift candidates. Again, you won’t want to eliminate those who’ve given for fewer than 3 years, but for the purposes of this exercise, you can push them aside. With a fresh, squeaky clean donor database, your organization will have a clearer idea of the prospects you’ll need to focus your efforts on. Takeaway: You can narrow your organization’s list of major gift prospects by narrowing your candidate pool in 3 easy steps.

#2. Use Mobile to Collect New Data

Use mobile to collect new data to find major donors. Speaking of databases, did you know that mobile giving provides nonprofits with easily exportable data? It’s true! With industry-leading mobile fundraising technology, your nonprofit has access to a bevy of donor information, such as:
  • Name,
  • Phone number,
  • Address,
  • Email,
  • Donation amount,
  • Time of donation,
  • Donation frequency,
  • Donation type,
  • And more!
And it’s all automatically captured each time that a donor gives through one of your mobile giving avenues, from text-to-give to mobile email and more. How does this help you with converting volunteers and event attendees into major donors? It’s quite simple. Because it’s so easy to do, mobile giving increases the number of contributors to your nonprofit. Donors can give in just a few steps. Plus, there are many providers that offer other features that make the process even more intuitive. For instance, some providers have incorporated different forms of account verification so that no password is required for donors to access their accounts to donate. Essentially, donors can use their emails to verify their gifts when they give via text message, a mobile-friendly donation page, etc. Passwordless authentication helps make the donation process more seamless and secure, thus encouraging more of your volunteers and event attendees to contribute. Organizations can easily promote mobile giving at fundraising events and gain useful information on guests and volunteers. As a result, you can put that captured data to use by performing prospect research to whittle your list down to the top candidates. You may be thinking, “But don’t mobile donors typically only donate a few dollars?” True. The average text-to-give donation is $107, BUT that doesn’t mean that a donor who gave on the go wouldn’t be amenable to giving more. You just might be surprised to find out that your smaller gift donors are actually capable of so much more. Takeaway: Your nonprofit can use mobile fundraising technology to gather more data about your event participants to find out who among them is a possible major gift donor.

#3. Employ Fundraising Software

Employ fundraising software to find major donors. Fundraising software can help your nonprofit accomplish all sorts of goals, including (but certainly not limited to):
  • Learning more about your volunteers and donors.
  • Targeting major gift donors through their preferred communication channels.
  • Making donation processing easier, so donors can give however they’d like.
  • Tracking donor interactions to sharpen your nonprofit’s strategy.
  • Retaining contributors through expedient correspondence.
Of course, each organization will use fundraising software differently (and will likely use different types of fundraising software). Some organizations will choose to employ peer-to-peer fundraising software, which is perfect for widening your nonprofit’s reach and engaging with your donors on a meaningful level. Still, others will take a vested interest in online advocacy software. And just about every nonprofit should be using some kind of constituent management software. As we mentioned earlier, a clean and organized donor database is your organization’s best friend. When you’re looking to convert volunteers and event attendees into major gift donors, it’s vital to utilize fundraising software to the fullest. Make sure that you’ve explored all of the capabilities of your platform. You just might stumble upon a new way to target and engage with your volunteers and event participants in a way that encourages larger contributions. By inviting your volunteers to join a peer-to-peer campaign, you’re giving them another way to support your cause that doesn’t involve donating money. Since volunteers donate time to your cause already, donating more time to reach out to their peers and solicit donations isn’t a stretch. Additionally, you can encourage volunteers to participate by connecting your fundraiser to their interests and hobbies. You can use your donor database to learn more about your donors and what strengths they can bring to your peer-to-peer campaign. For instance, you might have a volunteer that writes a cooking blog. That volunteer might be the perfect person to spread the words about your fundraiser through her blog. Her blog comes plenty of viewers that might be interested in supporting a cause that she is passionate about. But if you don’t update your CRM to include that info or keep a record of your volunteers, you won’t know what they can bring to the table. Because, let’s be honest, your organization may have dozens of potential major gift prospects. What will convince those potential prospects that you’re worth investing in? Investing in them and knowing what makes them tick. To learn more about fundraising software and how it can take your nonprofit to the next level, check out this excellent guide: Takeaway: You can use all sorts of fundraising software to learn more about your volunteers and event attendees in order to better identify and target major gift donors.

#4. Conduct Prospect Research

Conduct prospect research to find major donors. Few tasks will give your organization more insight into its volunteers and event attendees than prospect research. A major gift donor, ripe and ready to contribute to your capital campaign, might be hiding right under your nose. Or, more likely, sitting in the center aisle at your last benefit concert. They have the passion for your cause, the wealth to spare, and they’ve given to other organizations in your field. By every measure, they are an ideal candidate to give a major gift to your nonprofit. But you would never know any of that unless you’d conducted a screening on your benefit concert’s attendees. That one participant might have remained nameless and gone on to contribute millions to the nonprofit next door. Don’t let that happen to your organization. Don’t lose out to another nonprofit whose staff has taken the time and care to screen their event attendees. If you do take this route and decide to conduct screenings, make sure that you’re looking at both factors that determine a solid major gift candidate: philanthropic indicators and wealth markers. Some examples of philanthropic indicators include:
  • Previous donations to your nonprofit.
  • Donations to other nonprofits.
  • Personal information, like volunteering habits.
  • Nonprofit involvement, like board membership.
Examples of typical wealth markers:
  • Real estate ownership.
  • Business affiliations.
  • Political giving.
  • SEC transactions (stock holdings and such).
Alone, these factors don’t mean much. But when you fit them all together, the puzzle becomes less puzzling, and you have a complete picture of a major gift donor–all from a little information you gleaned during a brief interaction! Takeaway: Conducting prospect research is a surefire way to discern who among your volunteers is an actual major gift candidate.

#5. Determine Giving Levels

Determine giving levels to find major donors. Giving levels across your donors will naturally vary, from extremely substantial gifts to everyday contributions. But when you’re after major gifts in particular, you want to be sure that the giving levels that you’re seeking are within reason. To be fair, “major” will mean different things to every organization. Some nonprofits consider anything over $2,000 dollars to be a major gift. Others only count anything in the $100,000 and above range. Before you can move on, you must first decide, definitively, what a major gift looks like for your organization. It’s entirely possible you already know. But in case you don’t, make deciding what constitutes a major gift a priority. All of that being said, the true focus of this strategy is determining giving levels for potential major gift donors. Prospect research is one of the best ways to determine these levels. Within prospect research, you’ll be conducting wealth screenings, and those screenings will be able to give your organization greater insight into a volunteer’s capacity to donate. For instance, if you find out that a volunteer or event attendee owns over $2 million in real estate, you’ll know that they are 17 times more likely than their peers to donate a major gift. Combined with other factors, this knowledge can help you figure out just how much to ask for. You don’t want to make the mistake of asking for too much, thereby scaring off or offending a potential contributor. Then again, you don’t want to make the opposite mistake of asking for too little and missing out on thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars that your organization could use to help your cause. The key is to find that sweet spot: right where your potential donors feel comfortable, but where they’re also giving everything they’re capable of. Takeaway: Several factors go into determining how much to ask for when seeking a major gift. Make sure you’ve done your homework before you make the ask.

#6. Make the Ask!

Make the ask to steward major donors. Now that you’ve (hopefully) done your homework, you’re ready to make the all-important ask. Whether or not it’s your designated major gift officer doing the actual asking, the key to making this step of the process go as smoothly as possible is to be as prepared as you can be. The donor database cleaning, mobile donor info gathering, and prospect screening that you’ve done will have brought you to this point. And if you’ve followed these strategies to the letter, you should have absolutely no problem making the ask when the time comes. At this point, you’ve made the initial connection with your prospects; they’ve attended one of your nonprofit’s events, or they’ve spent their time volunteering with you. You’ve broken the ice. After the ice has been broken, you’ll need to warm that prospect up a little more. You can’t dive right into the ask. Because you’ll be asking for such a large sum, you’ll want to be as personal as possible with your cultivation approach. Court your potential donors in a way that makes them feel valued and important. There’s no set formula for cultivating and stewarding a major gift donor. You’ll have to try it out on a case-by-case basis to determine what works best for you. Over time, you’ll learn to streamline the process. You’ll discover what works well and what’s a waste of effort. Ultimately, the moment of truth will be when you make the ask. You can make it in person or over the phone. It’s entirely dependent on what you feel is appropriate for the situation. Although, truth be told, most major gifts should not be asked for over the phone. Regardless of the medium, you’ll want to go into your direct ask with a well-rehearsed script and a good sense of improvisation. Be prepared for any eventuality and know exactly how much you’re looking to walk away with. Takeaway: Making the ask is the most difficult part of any major gift strategy, but it’s made easier when you have a plan and you’ve done your due diligence.

#7. Acknowledge Every Donor

Acknowledge your donors to identify major donors. Not every prospect will end up being a major gift donor. And that’s okay. Even if you put in the effort and the time and the resources, some people just won’t be receptive to donating a large amount of money. But that doesn’t mean you’ve lost. It doesn’t even mean that you should give up on that prospect as a potential donor. They might not feel comfortable contributing that much at the moment. But maybe, beneath that cold “No” is a “Maybe next year.” That’s why it’s important to: A) Have a backup plan, and B) Acknowledge anyway. When a donor rejects your direct ask, it can be tempting to give up on them completely. It’s understandable. But in order to be successful in the long run, you can’t relent. Fall back on your backup plan. Ask your donors to get involved in other ways. If they’ve volunteered with you, provide them with more, unique opportunities to give back (that aren’t monetary). Seeing that you’re not solely after their money should convince them that you truly care. And getting more in-touch with the day-to-day work that you do for your cause will show them how instrumental their donations could be. Even if they still don’t end up giving, it’s important to acknowledge and thank them regardless. Their time is important, and they’ve given it freely to your organization. Plus, you never know when they might change their mind. Thank them in any case, just in case. Takeaway: Whether or not your major gift prospect ends up donating, it’s important to thank them, acknowledge their other contributions, and have a backup plan for encouraging future considerations.

#8. Don’t Forget Donation Receipts

Dont forget donation receipts in the process of finding major donors. In every instance where money is exchanged, receipts are crucial. They’re important for record-keeping purposes on your nonprofit’s end. But they’re also incredibly essential for your donors’ taxes. Any way you slice it, donation receipts are a necessary part of the major gift process. In fact, they’re legally required for any donation that’s over $250. But they’re especially significant when it comes to donations of a given level. The larger the donation, the greater the bearing that a receipt has on a donor’s decision to continue contributing. Not thanking your major gift donors is one thing, but it’s another thing entirely to forget to provide a receipt for a substantial contribution. So maybe you wouldn’t forget to provide a receipt. Maybe you’d just push off writing the receipt til a couple of weeks later. That’s just as ill-advised! Receipts and thank-yous need to be sent out no later than 48 hours after a donation has been made. Donors who have been properly stewarded–and that includes receiving an on-time receipt–are far more likely to give again than those who waited or never got them at all. If you’re looking for great concrete advice on donation receipts, take a look at Qgiv’s comprehensive guide on the subject. Takeaway: Donation receipts are not only necessary, they’re also a vital part of the stewardship process for converting volunteers and event attendees into major gift donors.  
There you have it: all 8 strategies for procuring major gifts from volunteers and event participants! From beginning to end, you read about:
  • How organizing your database can get you started off on the right foot,
  • How mobile giving technology can bring you all sorts of new data,
  • How prospect research can help you sort that data,
  • And finally, how you can use all of that info to cultivate and steward potential donors.
The hope is that with this information, you’ll be well-equipped to convert volunteers and others involved with your organization, both directly and indirectly, into major gift contributors. For more fundraising tips, read these additional resources:
  • Prospect Research Guide. Prospect research can help you learn more about your volunteers and donors to creative even better fundraising strategies. Learn what your organization needs to conduct prospect research.
  • Online Giving Tools. No peer-to-peer campaign is complete without power online donation tools to make it easy and convenient for donors to give. In this article, get 11 top performing fundraising tools.
  • Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Tips. For more ways to amp up your peer-to-peer campaign, check out these 3 expert tips.
  Major Gift Whitepaper
Turning Events Attendees and Volunteers into Major Donors: 8 Strategies