Going on a First Date Doesn’t Mean They Want to Marry You

I’ve been reading a bunch of blogs out there about how donors don’t really want relationships with non-profits. Richard and I are also getting some comments on our own blog about the idea that perhaps all this donor-relationship, donor-centric stuff is overblown.

In fact, we received a comment the other day from someone with very strong opinions who believes that folks with money are not stupid enough to think a non-profit really desires to be their buddy.

A few bloggers are saying that some donors just want to be left alone…that all this thinking that everyone wants a deeper relationship is just not true.

For the most part, they are right.  In fact, we find that only 1/3 of the donors we contact actually want a deeper relationship with a non-profit and are willing to get to know someone from that organization at a deeper level.

Let’s make sure you really get this right.

Richard and I have been advocating that before you run off and start a major gift program or put together a caseload, you figure out which donors actually want that type of relationship.

The problem I’m seeing with non-profits is that they are so eager to build their major gift program they only use one or maybe two criteria to determine who should be considered a major donor.

Their first criterion is usually, did they hit a certain revenue figure. (Which could be $1,000 cume up to $5 or $10,000 cume in a year, depending on the non-profit) and secondly, do they have a high wealth screening number.

Sorry, but that ‘s not going to cut it.

Even worse, there are some non-profits out there who have hundreds of thousands of donors for whom they design data models, use four or five different overlays and, through the magic of these models, think they can spit out a caseload of donors.

That’s like going out on a blind date, hitting it off and, before you say goodnight, you get down on your knee and ask your date to marry you.

It just doesn’t happen that way.

There is a courting process that needs to happen.  That courting process could look like a mid-level donor program and/or it could be designing a step-by- step qualification process, which we have designed and talked about many times already.

Now, I’m not against modeling of donor data or wealth overlays.  They are great tools to identify what we call “Caseload Pools.”  But this is just the beginning of the process…or, going back to my dating analogy, this is just the first date.

In order to make a good “marriage” between the organization and the donor, you have to get to know each other, make sure you are compatible, that your goals are aligned and that you have a common vision.

That takes time.

However, when done right, a true partnership between the donor and organization can be a powerful expression for good in the world. And, like a great marriage, it can be a partnership that mutually benefits the other.

I know you want to grow your major gift program.  There is pressure on you to ramp things up very quickly.  You could be tempted to do that.


Do this right.  Rushing off to get hitched too quickly often results in failure.  Of course, it might work once or twice, but it’s not a long-term solution for the majority of donors and organizations.

Identify…Qualify…Court…Qualify….Court…Qualify…..You get the idea.

Only then will you have the right donors in your major gift program.



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 Development Directors, Donor-Centered, Major Gifts, Non-Profits, Philanthopy and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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