Dani Robbins

Posts Tagged ‘donor stewardship’

The Case for Major Donor Cultivation Plans

In Leadership, Organizational Development, Resource Development on June 15, 2016 at 1:35 pm

The Giving USA 2015 numbers are out! $373.3 billion was given to charities in 2015, up 4% from last year. 80 percent of that money was given by individuals or individuals who recently died by way of their bequests. That percentage hasn’t changed as long as I’ve been paying attention to this statistic. “Individual gifts and bequests, on average, equal slightly more than 80% of the charitable donations given in this country each year. Just less than 20% is given by corporations and foundations.

Do organizations take advantage of that knowledge? Some do better than others.” Culture of Philanthropy or Fund Raising

If you do not currently have a robust individual giving program, I hope you will consider these statistics and introduce one. A robust giving program includes an intentional plan to develop donors at all levels of giving. Perhaps you are currently doing an annual appeal letter. If so, consider adding in person asks of your top donors and calls to your mid level donors. Perhaps you accept donations but aren’t sure how to solicit them. Perhaps you do not currently have 100% Board giving. Perhaps you have some large donors but aren’t sure how to engage them. If any of these apply to your organization, opportunity is knocking!

Major gifts are defined as the top 10% of gifts to an organization and often include gifts from several if not all Board members. It doesn’t matter if your top 10% give $50 or $50,000. If you are a 501 (c) 3 and would like to increase the charitable gifts you receive, a major donor cultivation plan for each of your major donors and every Board member could help. Please click over to read more about how to move a prospect to a donor and how to steward that donor.

Please also note that it is very hard to raise money in any community without the financial support of 100% of the Board. If you do not currently have 100% Board giving, that is the place to start. It is critical to your success. Board members should be cultivated and stewarded like the donors they are, or should be.

Major gifts (from major donors) are one part of a robust resource development planning process.  Resource Development, as a term, is a bit broader than fund raising as it encompasses fund raising, plus friend raising, plus in-kind gifts and the need for each of us to have ambassadors in the community helping us move forward our missions.

Your resource development plan may include events, grants (government, corporate and foundation – remember the latter two are only 20% of national giving), planned as well individual giving in all its forms, including annual campaigns in the form of letters, calls and in person asks of Major Donors, Board and Staff.

I recommend a plan for each Major Donor. I like plans. They allow us to do the work, rather than think about the work. So, write a plan for each of your major donors that maps out your giving request for the year. You don’t want to go to them five times to ask for different stuff, or if you do, you want them to know you’re coming. This is most easily accomplished by asking for what you want on whatever schedule is most comfortable for them, which is likely to be (but may not be) an ask meeting once annually and periodic stewardship check in meetings or calls throughout the year. Donorcentric is the goal. It may not be what is most comfortable for you. (If it was, we’d all get all our money in January and then focus on other things all year, but alas……)

Putting together a major donor cultivation plan will, of course, require you to know your donors, their family, history of giving to your agency and possibly other agencies if you can find it; what they’re passionate about; and your aspirations for their giving, which should be based on their level of engagement and capacity as well as who the right person is to send to ask. In other words, just because someone can give you $50,000, if they have a history of giving you $100, it’s unlikely they’re going to give you $50,000 – unless you greatly increase their level of engagement. That’s not to say that it doesn’t happen because of course it does. It’s the difference between a wish and a plan. Both are useful but the latter is more actionable. Bring people into your community, engage them in your work, involve them on a committee, invite them to volunteer in a program: build your relationships! Build a plan for each of them too. Consider this template:


Name:  Dani Robbins

Spouse/partners and children’s name and salient details:  Dani elected not to share this publicly.

Occupation and passions: Consultant with the goal of making nonprofits stronger; passionate about women and kids, the disadvantaged, diversity, inclusion and parity, and all underdogs, everywhere.

Giving History: increasing mid-level donations of $100-200 annually for the past three years; occasional attendance at events; also supports the Boys & Girls Clubs, Local Matters, City Year, Dress for Success, and other social service/social justice agencies.

Recent Touch Points: coffee March 2016, call November 2015, lunch July 2015.

Remainder of 2016 plan to check in: weekly e-blasts, lunch in summer, fall coffee, Thanksgiving card, invitation to Holiday (no ask) VIP party

Communication and ask preferences: Dani prefers to be asked for her gifts once a year and likes quarterly check ins and to receive our mailings.  She also follows us on Twitter, can be counted upon to share our news with her network and is connected to several of our staff and Board on LinkedIn.

2016-2017 Engagement Plan: We are planning to ask Dani to teach one of our team members how to write a grant. We also occasionally call her for advice and may ask if she’d like to serve on a committee.

2017 Gift Request: We plan to ask Dani for $250 as follows:  $125 as a year-end gift for general operating, $125 to support summer programming.

Who is the right person to ask Dani (regardless of ego, you always send the person who will get a yes):  Dani is very close to our CEO and Board Members Q, N and R. Any two are likely to be well received.

Future engagement opportunities: We may ascertain Dani’s interest in Board service, once our current Board governance person rolls off. She is also a prospect for our capital campaign and possibly for a planned gift.  As she continues as a donor we hope to grow her gift as she grows her practice, possibly to a legacy society level.


This template is one option among many. I made this up. Use mine. Make up your own. There is no right template. There is only right for you.

Whether you’re a seasoned fund raiser or a new Executive Director, creating plans for your donors is a great way to put all the information in one spot, put the plan in the hands of your development staff or volunteers and get to it!

What’s your experience with major donor cultivation plans? Do you have a template you like and can share?  As always, I welcome your insight, feedback and experience.  Please share your ideas or suggestions for blog topics and consider hitting the follow button to enter your email.  A rising tide raises all boats.

I am a Philanthropist; You May Be Too

In Leadership, Resource Development on May 14, 2015 at 6:51 am

I am a philanthropist. I’m a small fry philanthropist but I’m still a philanthropist! If you’ve ever given a gift to a charity, you are too.

Not counting the hundreds of written solicitations I have received, twice in my life I’ve been formally asked for a gift. The first time was when the Women’s Endowment Fund in Akron, Ohio was trying to get the fund to a million dollars. One of their board members, Janet Kendall White, asked me to lunch. She told me that I didn’t have to be a large donor to be a philanthropist; that each of us could be one. She explained that I could be a thousand dollar donor by giving $62.50 a quarter for four years. Well, I could do that! Poof, I became a philanthropist!

The second time I was formally asked for a gift was by Michelle Moskowitz Brown of Local Matters. Local Matters is one of my clients and I’ve been working with them so long that several of their leaders, including Michele, are now also my friends. I consistently support them. They consistently support me. It’s a lovely symbiotic relationship. It’s also the kind of relationship that an agency might take for granted, but they never do.

I get formally solicited. I receive a variety of written communication. I get update calls from Michelle. I get invited to events. I’m not one of their bigger donors, but that doesn’t stop them from treating me like I am. That kind of treatment makes me want to support them even more!

The topic of this month’s nonprofit blog carnival is “You are The Future of Philanthropy.” You are, and the decisions you make as to how to cultivate, engage and steward your donors will separate the good from the great, the funded from the struggling and the successful from the not so much.

You are the future of philanthropy because our field’s success is up to you, and also to me, and to Michelle and to our Boards, our leaders and all of us, individually and collectively.

I facilitated a Resource Development training last week and was struck once again by a statistic I was taught about donor preference when working with Boys & Girls Clubs of America: “65% said exposure, interaction, and face time mattered the most.” 65% of donors when asked about their preferences didn’t mention the mission, the program, or its impact; they mentioned three words that are all synonyms for engagement.

Who ensures engagement? You do. Who is the Future of Philanthropy? You are.

There are millions of nonprofits. There are millions more donors that support them. There is increased competition for donations, staff and resources and also increased needs in our communities. There are increased opportunities for engagement.

There is also cool new technology, spawning new ideas to encourage millions of donors to give millions of dollars. The Columbus Foundation just finished The Big Give, which raised just over $15 Million in 24 hours. If you’re not familiar with this “philanthropic phenomenon,” the Foundation’s donors and partners put up a $1.4 million bonus pool, the community donates and each donation received during The Big Give was “eligible for bonus pool funds on a pro rata basis, giving everyone who participated the opportunity to have their donation(s) amplified. In addition, all credit card fees were covered by The Columbus Foundation, so 100 percent of donations went directly to the nonprofits.” It’s awesome!

Before the internet there was no system on earth that, in 24 hours, could have processed $15 million of gifts from 19,902 individuals from each of the 50 states to support 587 Central Ohio agencies. Technology made it possible; a different kind of thinking made it happen.

How did agencies use the Big Give to build engagement? Many of them sent emails. I got dozens. I also got one request – from Local Matters – to be a twitter ambassador. Michelle then called me and formally asked for my support.

Did I give an additional gift through the Big Give to Local Matters? Of course I did! I also gave gifts to a few of my other favorite charities. And I tweeted about all of it. Why? Because I was asked to! When I was taught that statistic by BGCA, I was also taught another: people give because they’re asked. It’s so obvious and so simple. Engage. Ask. Receive. Thank. Repeat.

I’m the future of philanthropy. You are the future of philanthropy. We have the internet and brilliant minds around our tables. Let’s raise some money! Let’s change the world!

Does your community do something similar to the Big Give? Have you introduced a new fund raising idea that exceeded your wildest expectations? As always, I welcome your insight, feedback and experience. Please offer your ideas or suggestions for blog topics and consider hitting the follow button to enter your email. A rising tide raises all boats.

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