DonorSearch aims to provide the best content available regarding prospect research and its surrounding topics. In an effort to ensure that our readers have access to as much valuable information as possible, we feature content from guest authors from time to time. This week, we’ve reached out to Marcella Vitulli of EveryAction for her insights regarding major gifts.
You’ll find Vitulli’s article posted below.
8 Things to Remember When Creating a Major Gifts Campaign
Many nonprofits still rely heavily on collecting major gifts to reach their fundraising goals. Major gifts are a great way for many to take care of big chunks of their budget in one (or several) fell swoops. A single major gift could fund an entire program, a few staff salaries, and give your organization stability and certainty.
Sounds good right? However, a successful major gift campaign requires a strategic approach to prospect nurturing and engagement. You need to build a strong relationship with your prospects over a long period of time before, ultimately, making the ask for a major gift if you want them to give. This kind of approach requires you to play the long game, with incredible amounts of focus and planning needed to meet your goals.
But fear not! Read on, and become a master in the art of major gifts.
Establish Goals and Objectives
Establishing objectives for your campaign is hugely important as they will guide all communications and outreach, and will serve as a baseline for measuring your success.
When setting them, remember to make them SMART, as in: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.
Target Prospect List
If you want all that planning and effort to count, you’ll want to focus it in the right places. Your prospects for a major gifts campaign aren’t going to be part of the general public – instead, identify people with the inclination and means to help you out.
The next step is a description for each of your targets. You should create a profile of each target, complete with a picture. You’ll need to know these people better than your best friend.
Here are some questions to ask yourself about each persona:
- What are the demographics of this person? (Age, education, location, etc.)
- What goals might this person have?
- What are their biggest challenges and how do they work to overcome them
- How does this person find, consume, and share content?
- What sort of views and concerns do they have?
You should strategically develop language that speaks to these people. Use the information you’ve uncovered to discover how to motivate them, reassure them, and convince them.
Craft Key Messaging
Deciding on a single, focused message that you want to convey is crucial to campaign success. Variations on the main message (or “sub messages”) should also be developed in order to communicate in different ways.
Having clear understanding of your prospects and their motivators will guide your campaign in the right direction from the outset, allowing you to use your testing to fine tune rather than radically transform your message.
The most important thing to remember is that messaging should be re-evaluated throughout your campaign for effectiveness. For major gifts especially, your approach and presentation to each prospect should be defined and refined in order to better prepare you for your next ask.
Of course with a small list of prospects, A/B testing and the like can be difficult. Make sure to conduct post mortems on failed pitches, and analyses on successful asks. The more you learn, the more success you’ll have.
You need to understand the key motivators that get your prospects to take action. What do they care about and how can you align your campaign goals to these motivators?
Make sure to revisit your personas, as having a clear picture of them in your mind will make understanding their motivations and crafting appropriate messaging that much clearer.
Create Inspiring Calls-to-Action
So, now that you’ve got information about your campaign out there, what do you want your prospects to do with it?
Specific calls-to-action should be developed, or key actions that you’d like potential donors to take, like:
- Donating to your campaign
- Signing a petition
- Learning more about your campaign
- Signing up for updates
Know Your Media Channels
When communicating with your prospects, there’s a mix of media types to consider: owned media, shared media, earned media, and paid media.
Owned media strategies use the channels that your brand controls, such as your website, microsite, blog, YouTube channel, newsletter, or any other assets that you maintain.
Owned media is a great way to help you create long-term relationships with existing contacts, especially through content marketing. It’s often the most cost effective strategy because you can control the efforts over a long period of time, however these channels usually take the longest to scale.
All social channels like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. fall under shared media because, while you can control what you say, the channels are really a two-way conversation. You are “sharing” the media with those that choose to engage with you.
Shared media is vital to your campaign, as it creates a conversation around your message – if people are talking about it, it’ll be much easier to get earned media.
Earned media transforms your audience into the channel for your message. Traditional PR practices, hype-building, word of mouth promotion, and influencer outreach all fall into this category.
Earned media efforts are often the hardest to measure because you have little control. However, they can be highly valuable because external individuals or organizations are essentially endorsing your campaign.
Earned media often develops from having easily sharable content and putting that content into influencers’ hands. Create influencer target lists and an outreach plan to get your campaign in front of the right people.
Paid media strategies involve just that: paying to use a channel. The most effective paid media strategies drive your target audience towards owned media in order to generate earned and shared media.
If you’ve never run a paid ad campaign, we recommend focusing on social media like Facebook or Twitter promoted posts, and remarketing towards audiences you know unless you have experience with Google Adwords and other forms of display ads.
Set Your Unique Timeline
Your timeline is unique to your campaign, organization, and prospects. Especially when targeting for major gifts campaigns, things to consider include funding calendars, application processes and deadlines, and conflicting or coinciding campaign efforts that will require you to share or reallocate resources.
To keep things simple, split your campaign into two parts: setup and implementation. It’s important to choose an end date for your campaign so that you can revisit goals along the way and keep things on track according to your campaign objectives. For the timeline, focus on creating a high-level overview of what will be happening when.
Gather Your Resources
You’ll need to present a resource plan that highlights the team who’ll be involved, how much time they will be spending on this campaign, any tools you require, and a proposed budget (if you’re spending money). This will help you organize all the resources you’re going to need, and define everyone’s roles and responsibilities for the duration of the campaign!
With all of these crucial elements organized and understood, your major gifts campaign will be on the right track toward relationship-building and fundraising success!
If you’re interested in learning more about major gifts then you’d likely enjoy DonorSearch’s Guide to Major Gifts. Click here to see the guide which discusses many of the topics covered in this article in more detail.
Marcella Vitulli is the Marketing Associate for NGP VAN and EveryAction. She is passionate about progressive issues, especially creating opportunities for women and girls in STEM education. Marcella graduated from Arizona State University with degrees in Political Science and Italian, and studied art history in Florence, Italy.