How Long Does It Take to Start a Major Gift Program?

Came across the following on veritusgroup.com and thought was worth sharing, some great insights/pointers.

It’s a serious dilemma.

The organization needs the money; they have the donors to deliver the money, but there is no major gift strategy in place to secure the money. This confluence of need, opportunity and planning usually results in a lot of impatient leaders.

Just last week I sat in a meeting where a manager was visibly upset at the slow pace of revenue generation. When I tried to explain that relationships take time, she brushed me aside and said: “Look, all you have to do is ask.”

And therein lies the organizational problem for many major gift programs. Management needs the money, and major gift people are told they need to deliver it “right now!”

This is a path to certain failure because the MGO, in this type of hostile and urgent environment, will focus on the money rather than helping a donor fulfill her passions and interests. And we all know that a focus on the money is a sure way to alienate a donor.

Reasonable managers and leaders know that good relationships take time – that you don’t just pounce on a donor and squeeze the money out of him. But these same managers often ask Jeff and me how long it should take to gain traction in a major gift program. “How long,” they ask, “does it take to have a fully functional program in place?”

We think it takes a minimum of 18-24 months to start a major gift program and have it become fully functional. Why so long? There are several reasons:

  1. The organization needs to hire the right MGO. This could take six months when you consider the time it takes to agree on the job description, get the proper authorizations, search for candidates, interview and vet the candidates and then finally hire them. I haven’t seen this process take less than four months. So let’s say it takes four months –although many times it takes longer.
  2. The MGO needs to qualify donors for a caseload. Why? Because only 1 in 3 donors who meet the major gift criteria will actually want to talk to the MGO. So the MGO has to go through a labor-intensive process to find 150 donors who will relate to him. This step alone will take 6-8 months. Let’s say six, even though that is being generous.
  3. Relationship building takes time. While the MGO will qualify donors early in her tenure with the organization, 8 to 10 months will have passed before she actually starts engaging seriously with donors. And building relationships (as you know) takes time – more time than most managers think it will take.

Keep reading full article here

Donor Remorse

Your income isn’t where it was this time last year, you check donations, look at your donor database and see that you have a number of donors who haven’t given in the latest round of fundraising. Why?

It could be that you have several donors suffering donors remorse. Yes, this is a real thing, it’s akin to buyers remorse; something you’re probably personally aware of (did you really need that new pair of shoes, that new suit or that splurge on single malt whiskey?)

Donors give for a variety of reasons, and they stop giving for a variety of reasons; one reason some stop giving – is – donors remorse; yes it is a real thing.

Maybe you’ve experienced it on a personal level when you have given something, and almost as soon as you have dropped the donation in the bucket or envelope you have a pang of regret – remorse, and question why you did it.

There’s a few reasons for donors remorse, some people experience it after being prompted by a friend to support a cause, a relative was assisted by an organisation and asked you to make a contribution or, perhaps someone you know had a child selling something to raise funds for a school trip.

Donors remorse is a real thing, it’s something though that organisation probably don’t plan for but they should have some way to factor this into their planning. If someone gives today and later “regrets” it; the chances of them staying around and supporting in the future is very unlikely, yet they’ll still expected to by the organisation, the organisation will likely add them to the database, they’ll receive mailers etc – all at an expense to the organisation, with a very very low probability of a second or subsequent donation being made.

Quite likely the amount given initially will be less than what the organisation will expend to get subsequent donations.

Organisations spend considerable time (and money) on donor retention, but when a donor has remorse this expense is wasted. So a way has to be found to make sure the level of donor remorse is minimised.

Don’t be airy fairy in what the donors support will mean, give real examples of how it will make a difference, personalise how their giving will make a difference. If needed and you’re able to use real pictures and real names – “Lucy will have a better chance … “

When people are asked to support a real need has to be given, a picture painted; something that will stick with the donor – you want them to stick with you, so make sure the image you paint sticks with them.

All the training in the world won’t make a difference to how much you can raise – and maintain, if those making the ask are confident, competent and above all using all the tools you have given them.  Monitoring who information is used isn’t prying, it’s an investment, don’t be afraid to use “secret shoppers” – you’ll get real world feedback, not only on how your campaign is going but on how effective those making the ask are doing it and coping.

Are you going to let donor remorse hit your bottom line and impact on year on year giving?

See also Breaking the Silence Around Donor’s Remorse