Are your donors QUALIFIED?

Here is something I see all the time in non-profit fundraising and it’s got to STOP now!!

A donor who has a fairly long history of giving, $50 here, $100 there in response to regular mail or e-appeals, suddenly gives a big check for $1,000, or $5,000.

That’s awesome right?

Wham!  Immediately, that donor is taken out of the regular donor communication stream and put into someone’s caseload as a major donor because they hit the almighty $$ CRITERIA.

The $$ CRITERA is someone’s idea that simply implies that because a donor used to give X and now gives Y they are now part of the major gift program.

When a donor is handled this way, in the majority of cases we’ve come across, that donor’s giving actually goes down.  Why?  For two reasons:  1) The donor who was getting 15-22 touches a year now gets 2 or 3, and 2) the person in charge of cultivating this “major donor” forgets about him because they are going after “bigger fish” on their file.

This is why Richard and I always advocate QUALIFYING a donor before introducing them to a major gift program.  Qualifying?  What do you mean, Jeff?

I mean actually asking the donor if they want to be part of a group of donors that receives personal attention from an individual.  (I will talk in depth in Monday’s blog on how this is accomplished.

The reason for qualifying a donor is that just because a donor meets a certain dollar figure or Wealth Engine indicator does NOT necessarily mean the donor wants to be part of a major gift program or relate on a personal basis.

In fact, our experience is that they DON’T want to be part of a major gift program…only 1 out of 3 donors that meet a major donor $$ criteria actually want to relate more personally.  This means that a majority of MGO caseloads have 50% or more donors on them that DON’T want to relate personally! What a waste!!

In this day in age of being “donor-centered” you would think qualifying a donor is a no-brainer for most non-profits, right?  Wrong.

Whenever Richard and I mention qualifying a donor, we get this really strange look on people’s faces.

“ What is that?  You mean, you want me to ask a donor if they want to have a more personal relationship?  That’s kinda weird.”

Actually, it’s not weird if done right.  But critical if you want passionate major gift donors supporting your mission.

The problem is that when you don’t correctly qualify a major gift donor you end up with a lot of donors on a caseload who actually stop giving, become C or D level donors, and are no longer engaged with your organization.

And, from some of the major gift files we have audited, I can tell you this is a major reason there is so much donor attrition from year to year…there is a bunch of donors who don’t want to be part of a caseload!

It’s really quite sad, yet so easy to remedy.

Now, when you do have a caseload of real, qualified donors you now have donors who want to be engaged with you.  They’re on board!  And, if done right, in the qualifying process you are going to learn a ton of information which will help you honor and serve them in future.

Believe me, when a donor feels like you are honoring their wishes, whether they want to be on a caseload or not, you create trust and mutuality with the relationship for you and your organization.

If you take anything away from what I’ve said today, please reconsider this almighty $$ CRITERIA thing.  Yes, reaching a certain dollar figure is one indicator of a potential major gift donor, but it’s NOT the only criteria.

On Monday, I’ll talk about how to do this qualifying thing.  Perhaps I’ll have a cool new chart to share!

Jeff Schreifels

Hey, follow me on Twitter  @jschreifels.  Thanks.

About Jeff Schreifels and Richard Perry

Jeff Schreifels and Richard Perry have over 55 years of experience fundraising for non-profits. Richard Perry was co-owner of Domain Group until 2005. Jeff Schreifels was a Senior Strategist for Domain Group for 12 years. They came together a few years ago to start Veritus Group, a full-service major gift fundraising agency. Veritus Group has a unique, data-driven approach unlike any agency focused on major gifts. Jeff and Richard are passionate about their work, passionate about life and hopes this blog will provide you with insights and tangible benefits for you and your work. Thank you for reading!
This entry was posted in Data, Development Directors, Donor-Centered, Major Gift Officers, Major Gifts, Non-Profits, Philanthopy and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Are your donors QUALIFIED?

  1. Orin Abrams says: has solutions to these and many other challenges around maximization of data analytics capabilities and applications. User friendly, highly customizable, wide ranging data analytics is the key to transforming data into an indispensible support tool. The larger the non-profit, the more vital such a tool becomes to efficient, effective resource allocation for maximized results. Results? Increasing donor (client) productivity through efficient sales targeting, as well as through effective, concise and clear communicating around the non-profits’ “effectiveness”……that is…..a measurable way of demonstrating to what extent the NPO is accomplishing its’ mission.

  2. Heather says:

    This makes so much sense, although I’d never thought of it. Definitely a donor-centered mentality, and an effective one, to ask if someone actually wants to be part of a major gift program. It seems like some fundraisers will talk to major gift prospects as if the org. doesn’t know the prospect has tons of money, not admitting that the prospect is part of a special cultivation group.

    Anyway, I really enjoy this blog as I’m new to the fundraising field and don’t know much about major gift programs. I learn a lot!

  3. Oh dear. I too have seen the donor happily giving sizeable gifts through the mail removed from said mail program and handed over to major donor officer and then promptly forgotten about. Very sad, isn’t it. Personally I advocate using a dollar criteria to alert the major donor officer but to enhance communications, not take them away. So the person continues to receive the same mail as below but at least gets a thank you call for the gift. I’m fortunate at the moment to work in an Organisation which doesn’t have a war between the major gift people and the mail people as there is only one income target. From what I’ve seen it’s often these separate income targets which cause people to do strange things – like suddenly drop the level of communication a donor receives.

    Looking forward to read part 2.

  4. Pingback: You Can’t Use the Economy as a Crutch | Passionate Giving

  5. Bill says:

    Another risk of putting a donor into a “major cultivation” group is making a donor who was happily keeping his distance, giving when he wanted to, feel that suddenly all this unwanted attention is being lavished when it is neither necessary nor welcome. The whole supposed “science” of fundraising, with words like “cultivation” and “touches” and “moves” is pretty off putting to the savvy donor. People aren’t stupid. Particularly people with money. Donors want to be kept informed, but usually have no interest in a close friendship with someone on the development staff. A donor with a normal social life isn’t going to give because you’ve been extraordinarily attentive or because you called on his birthday. How phony! What fundraising “experts” don’t tell people (because they don’t understand themselves) is that blatant schmoozing is seen as distasteful at best to most donors, obnoxious at worst.

    • Bill, thanks for your comments. You certainly have some strong opinions on major donors. Your opinions is another reason why QUALIFYING a donor is so important. A donor that doesn’t want a personal connection to the organization should never be on a caseload. However, there are many donors who do want a deeper relationship, love having a connection with an individual from that organization and even love getting birthday greetings. Why? Because it’s real, not fake. I agree with you that no one likes blatant schmoozing. If an MGO is someone that uses that as part of their strategy, they won’t last long in this business.

  6. Pingback: The 7 Pillars Of A Major Gift Program–Pillar #2: Make Sure You Have The Facts! | Passionate Giving

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