Greetings! We’re going to talk about major gifts this week.
Because let’s face it: Big gifts move the needle.
Direct mail is fine, and, yes, every gift is meaningful. But think about truly advancing the mission of your organization. Do $100 checks have the power to take you to a new, better place?
How much time and money do you spend pursuing $100 checks? And are you as intentional and systematic when it comes to your major gifts program?
You can be.
Yes, we’re going to talk about getting you more big gifts. In particular, I want to make sure you’ve set up the systems that form the foundation of any strong major gifts operation.
Because it’s one thing to get a major gift from time-to-time. It’s another thing entirely to strategically organize your activity so that you receive a steady stream of major gifts over the long haul.
I want to talk about your pipeline.
How can you be confident that you’ll get big gifts now and in the future?
You have to invest in your pipeline.
How do you know if you are? We’ll get there.
Here’s how you know if you’re not:
3 Signs Your Major Gifts Pipeline is Broken
- You can’t say for certain whether your organization will receive a major gift in the next six months.
- Your President complains about seeing the same people at your events. “There isn’t any ‘new blood’ in the organization!”
- You’re not entirely sure what your gift officers do all day. Why are they in the office so much?
So what do I mean by “pipeline” anyway? Is it just a buzzword fundraisers use to sound smart?
It doesn’t have to be.
If managed properly, a major gifts pipeline can be a powerful framework that will give you a systematic and visual approach to your fundraising. One that keeps you and your team on track, and gives you the ability to project major gift activity forward.
The pipeline framework is based on the fundraising cycle. Take a look:
The output you’re hoping for is, of course, major gifts.
The input is prospects.
And in the middle: relationship-building—where a person’s passion aligns with your organization’s mission.
It’s a vital process. How well is it working at your organization?
3 Keys to a Healthy Major Gifts Pipeline
1. You understand your pipeline
Pretty simple and straightforward, right? High on the list of famous Drucker-isms is, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”
A major gifts operation can be tricky to manage. It isn’t as process driven as annual giving.
Understanding your pipeline simply means knowing how many prospects you have at each stage of the cycle.
Many organizations track this in their donor database. When’s the last time you updated these “stages” and took a look at the whole picture?
It’s a simple exercise that will show you where the clogs are (to continue with the pipe metaphor). And it can prescribe action.
For example, if you have 1,000 prospects in “qualification” and only 10 in “cultivation,” you need to get out of the office and get to know people better.
If you have 1,000 prospects in “cultivation” and only a handful in “solicitation,” you’re clearly not doing enough asking.
2. You feed your pipeline
If there’s nothing going into your pipeline, eventually there will be nothing coming out.
To keep your pipeline healthy, you need to feed it with new prospects—constantly. And then you need to systematically qualify those new prospects.
Large non-profits have research teams dedicated to identifying new prospects. And they tend to have a bevy of junior gift officers, or folks in “leadership annual giving,” who go out and qualify new people.
All organizations, regardless of their size, need new relationships.
So, if you’re a one-person shop, simplify, simplify, simplify. Find a scaled down discovery and qualification process that works for you—something you can do in a few hours a week. But don’t neglect this! Remember, major gifts move the needle. Starve your pipeline and you can forget about major gifts.
3. You move prospects through your pipeline
A major gifts pipeline is only effective if prospects are moving through it and becoming major donors. Otherwise, why bother!?
Moving prospects through requires investment at every stage. Use the pipeline framework to reveal where groups of prospects may be getting stuck and where staff need to pay more attention.
Take a look, for example, at the people who you would describe as being in “cultivation” stage. Are they truly moving toward solicitation? Has anyone been in “cultivation” for two years or more? If so, reevaluate how your organization is transitioning prospects from cultivation to solicitation.
So, what shape is your pipeline in?
Click on the icon below to download a simple Pipeline Assessment tool that will give you a sense for your organization’s health in this area.
I’d love to hear what you think! Better yet, take the Assessment and let me know you your pipeline is looking. You can leave a comment below.
More good stuff is headed your way. Today, we focused on understanding your pipeline. Tomorrow, I’m going to share a tried-and-true strategy for getting more out of your pipeline. Should be fun. I’ll see you again soon.