Writing the Strategy for a Major Donor

A strategy is simply your plan to get you where you want to go using the resources you have available.  To have a strategy for each of your qualified donors is important.  I am often asked ‘How can I write the strategy when I don’t know enough about the potential donor?  How can I look into the future? How do I know whether they will give or how much they will give or when they will give?’

These are valid questions.  However it is crucial to have a plan.  Without one you are shooting in the dark and will always be behind yourself and not moving the relationship forward.  It is hard to describe but you have to be in the driving seat knowing where you want to go if you are to be successful.  This doesn’t mean that you don’t listen to the donor and don’t allow them the freedom to find their own way in the relationship with you and your organisation.  We must listen to their needs and the values they want to fulfill.  But we need to stay one step ahead and this requires a strategy.

The first meeting (see blog dated 14th March 2014) is very crucial to finding out all you can about the person.  Keep asking questions and add ‘why’ after they have given you an answer.  This will drive you deeper into understanding what makes them tick.

After meeting a potential donor and qualifying them on to your caseload your next step is to write your plan for the next 12 months.  The sooner you write the plan the sooner you will have a sense of direction and the more successful you will be in developing the relationship with them.

Read back all they said to you during your meeting with them.  I am assuming that as soon as you left the meeting you wrote down all the detail as this is the bedrock for your strategy.  (Some clever programmes will allow you to dictate it and have it delivered straight to your database as a document.  I prefer writing it down on my laptop/tablet as it consolidates all that I have learned).

Below is a simple example of information that could be ascertained in the first meeting if you have followed the active listening 2/3 and speaking 1/3 rule by asking lots of key questions.  Some of this information is discerned by you from the comments made. The assumption here is that this is a prospect that you found on your database through the wealth overlay.  They may have only given a first small gift or not at all and are probably lapsed.  Example:

Information learned from asking questionsYour question
Owns so much and wants to give back to societyHow did you hear about our organisation in the first instance?  Why did you give your first gift/first ask to receive our information?
Feels disorganised in givingAre you involved with other charities?  Which ones?  In what way?
Wants to include family in the decision and see the difference made to beneficiariesAre your family involved in any of these organisations?
Travels to East Africa and Portugal in global portfolioDo you travel with your job?
Wants to help childrenDo you have children?
Interested in a particular aspect of your work (insert your specific project here)When succinctly describing your charity give examples and follow the clues, ‘that’s great that you find it interesting, why is that?’

It can help to prepare a simple chart of the key factors learned.  I have completed this below with a fictitious character as hopefully it brings the theory to life.  You can add in a lot more detail when doing it yourself.  It gives you clarity of thought and your strategy begins to evolve.

NameSummary of MotivationFrom (where they are now)To (where you want them to be)TacticsProject
Fred GranthamIs looking for more fulfillment in a philanthropic relationshipDisorganised in giving, confused about organisations, detail person, interested in finances, family not involvedClear information, understanding how my charity can fulfil his need, all finance questions answered, brought close to a specific projectIntroduce to Director of Finance, meet his wife and children, give child friendly information, meet Project Manager, visit the project, meet CEO, meet a philanthropist who has already been on this journey and givenFind the right project, give full details, drip feed the need over a few months, test out interest

The above example shows how even after a first meeting your strategy is beginning to unfold.  A first draft 12 month plan becomes easy to achieve.

I would advising using a *Relationship Chart, which is an excel spreadsheet to develop the strategy, although this can also be done directly on to a database.  Across the spreadsheet show the next 12 months and what you have planned for each month starting with the timing for the Ask.  As I write this blog it is June 2014.  The earliest time for an Ask would be February next year to allow for at least 9 months of touch points.  You make that judgement regarding the person as some may be enthusiastic and ready to give sooner, others might take longer.  Then plot all your steps leading to the Ask, and your stewardship plan following the Ask in each of the months using the information completed on the chart above.

At any time during the coming year you can adjust the plan as you learn more about the person adding in detail or changing the strategy.

It is amazing how much your conversation with the potential philanthropist today can be influenced by what you have planned in three month’s time.  You have direction, you have purpose in everything you are doing.  You will feel more confident and you have a strategy.  It is very freeing.  You are going to be successful.

Please contact me and share your experiences or ask a question here

*I first came across a version of this chart from Richard Perry of the Veritus Group who I worked with for 5 years, who calls it an MIC (Marketing Impact Chart)

Ruth is the principal and founder of Ascent Philanthropy, author of two books and passionate about helping non-profits with their major gift programmes by offering advice for introducing a new major gift programme or enhancing the productivity of the philanthropy team

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.