Wouldn’t it be great if major gifts would just come in without any cultivation or effort, and you could just let the donors do all the work?
We all know that, unfortunately, bringing in major gifts isn’t that easy.
A donor generally doesn’t make a major gift unless the organisation takes specific action to ensure that the contribution will significantly impact the donor’s specific area of interest within the nonprofit’s mission.
Often, it requires more than just “selling the project.”
Donors today want and need to be personally involved in some way before making a significant gift. That’s why having a prospect management system in place is so critical — it can help ensure that appropriate actions and engagements are thoughtfully planned and executed in a timely manner so you can secure those major gifts!
Prospect management is the planning, recording, and reporting of significant moments which lead toward a gift in the relationship between prospective donors and the nonprofit organisation.
Although the principles of prospect management can be applied to gift expectancies of any size, a system like this is usually created to help coordinate the major gift effort.
- It has a large number of new major gift prospects identified through screening and needs to make
- sure that they receive the attention they deserve at the right time
- Staff can’t make accurate forecasts of gift income
- It’s unclear which development officer is working with which prospects
- Prospects are confused about who they should contact
The basics of prospect management
Before going any further, we must acknowledge one fundamental fact about any prospect management system: having one requires additional work from the entire fundraising staff. Allowing a prospect to drift aimlessly toward a gift may not be very efficient, but at least it doesn’t require a lot of data recording.
Intentional prospect management, however, cannot happen without reports that show progress towards a goal. And those reports will be meaningless unless the development staff takes the time to record their actions.
The steps you take to acquire donors and gifts — such as when you visit prospects, make for a gift, and cultivate donor relationships — are known as moves.
With a moves management plan, your organisation uses a set system of policies, procedures, and practices to help guide these steps and increase the success rate of your fundraising efforts. An effective cultivation plan and moves management process transitions prospects through a series of milestones (each one known as a "move") as they transition to engaged donors and helps improve your overall constituent relationships, solicitation strategy, and goal analysis.
As you determine your organisation's moves management process, we recommend you consider these best practices.
To help motivate fundraisers and track their progress, focus on defining a series of short, intermediate, and long-term benchmarks for your moves management process.
Determine what you're trying to accomplish with moves management — such as total dollars raised or the total number of moves per person within the year — and set measurable, quantifiable goals to track their progress and verify completion.
Plan which information to track
After you set benchmarks and define your objectives, determine whether the information your development officers currently track helps achieve those goals and whether additional details would help cultivate relationships with major donors and prospects.
And donor cultivation is important: for more personal relationships with a major donor, consider a constituent's biographical information, hobbies and interests, relationships, and giving history with your cause. With these details, you can personalise interactions and tailor moves to each prospect or donor, even if it's a first-time donor interaction.
You can view and track a constituent's personal details and donor information on their record. For more information, see Constituent Records.
Track actions taken
In addition to retrieving personal information from prospects and donors, we recommend you track the actions a fundraiser takes to cultivate the relationship, such as phone calls and correspondence, personal meetings, and any tasks performed.
These details help provide an overview and potential of the constituent's relationship with your organisation and can help plan and personalise their next moves. On a constituent's record, you can view and manage their related tasks and interactions as actions.
For more information, see Actions.
Establish your moves management process
After you determine which information to track, implement procedures to ensure its accuracy. Design a policy to save all constituent interactions and moves, and ensure everyone knows what to track.
To help create an accurate, comprehensive view of your constituents, consolidate external information — such as spreadsheets of last year's donors and who attended the gala event — into your database, where everyone can access and share.
Once you implement a policy to track accurate information, the first step is to build on that foundation for a full moves management process and repeatable cycle.
Follow these 6 moves management process steps:
After managing a portfolio of over fifty major donors in a previous role, it was clear to me: there’s a science to fundraising. The moves management process was central to more accurately forecasting my prospect pipeline. Here are the 6 stages – or cycles – a major gift officer follows to convert a prospect into a major giver.
The first stage to major giving is finding potential donors. This stage is important because the quality of your prospect list will determine the effectiveness of your subsequent fundraising efforts. Usually, this starts with looking for anyone who has made a significant gift in the past. Using this data, you can identify prospect activity and any opportunities for securing a significant gift in the future.
The research stage is where biographical information comes into play. To know that your proposal will be successful, you need to know as much as you can about the prospect, including their relationships, their work history, their religious and community involvement, their education, and giving history. For this stage it is critical to have a data management system that can capture a robust set of useful information.
Once you’ve done the groundwork, assign a prospect manager (it may be you) to take things over from here. This is the stage where we determine the major giver’s current and future position to give, including their funding purpose, the expected amount and date you should ask for the gift. Your strategy will involve planning 5-7 actions designed to guide the prospect towards giving.
Cultivation is all about communication, refining your strategy and digging deep into your data. At this stage, the fundraising team may be involved in reporting and adding to the major donor’s profile. This is where all the data you collected in your research pays off, as you will use it to tailor and personalise interactions. Any interaction that you have with the potential major donor, such as a supporter engagement event, phone call, email or a meeting, should be entered on that donor’s record. From here, you can update where the donor is in the giving cycle (and whether they will move on to the next stage).
In planning your strategy, you worked out how you would make the ask – now it’s time. Once your prospect has passed through the cycle and reached the Solicitation stage, arrange a meeting to ask the donor to invest in your organisation’s mission. If the proposal is successful, you will need to create a gift record which can be linked to the proposal.
Your prospect is now a Major Giver! Create a stewardship plan of actions linked to the proposal, starting with a recognition for the gift (e.g. a thank you letter, a call from the CEO). Formalise how the major giver would like to be contacted in the future about how their major gift is being used for good within the organisation. Make sure to update them on projects, invite them to events and build a solid relationship in the hope your major giver can pass through the prospecting cycle time and time again!
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For more information on donor management, long term donor relationship management, donor retention, creating meaningful communication and relationships through fundraising, download Powerful Relationships Through Meaningful Moments now!