A basic maxim of the work you do is that fundraising is about more than getting a gift. It’s really all about building relationships with individuals. Let’s be clear: it’s not about being best friends with every donor.
Successful development programs are not built off of one-time transactions, but rather by long-term relationships. These relationships are important not only when seeking major gifts, planned giving, or even the smallest annual gifts from individual donors. they also have a sort of ripple effect in the pursuit of corporate and foundation support.
You see? No matter what fundraising challenge you’re facing, it’s people who decide whether or not to support your organization. Sounds kind of obvious, doesn’t it? However, as the fundraising profession becomes more and more data and technology driven, it can be easy to lose sight of the need to create personal connections and lasting relationships. And we know that people give more generously to those they know and trust and with whom they share a common interest or vision.
In a comprehensive development program, there is no ore area of focus more crucial than individual giving. This is where building and nurturing relationships and creating a shared vision is what it’s all about.
Have you ever been in the situation where a CEO or board member is surprised that, year after year, in both good and bad economic times, the overwhelming majority of private giving in the U.S. is from individual donors? Individuals have always been the foundation. This has always been the case and there are no signs of it changing in the future, no matter what the economic condition is at the time.
Major gifts are a key focus of individual giving. The components of most successful major gifts programs, include a strong pipeline of donors and prospects, donor and prospect research, donor management, and donor acknowledgement and stewardship.
Individual Donor Motivations
The motivations of individuals to give to nonprofits can vary greatly, especially at the major gift level, but they almost always have a personal connection with the organization and share its interest or vision. Donors don’t usually respond when an organization says, “We need this.” They do respond when presented with what matches their values and furthers something they are passionate about.
When there is a match, the donor gets a sense of personal satisfaction, joy fulfillment, and, often, the greater the match, the more generous the gift. The good feeling the donor gets from giving can also be motivation in itself, particularly with repeat donors-reinforcing another fundraising truism, “Your best donors are your past donors.”
When you are trying to determine what resources individual giving should have in your organization, it’s important to recognize that the benefits of a gift-focused individual giving effort extend beyond financial contributions. Is the money important? By all means, however, individuals who are engaged with your nonprofit and share your vision can contribute creative talents, insights, and ideas that will more effectively advance your cause. They can also extend the reach of your organization, resulting in more supporters; they can make new friends and create trusted advisors and build the next generation of philanthropic supporters.
Takeaway: put the relationship with your donor before your desire for their gift and create a compelling shared vision. That’s when you’ll be well on your way to both meeting your fundraising goals and building a sustainable long-term program.