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Fundraising 101: Understanding the Major Gift Solicitation Process

February 13, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 341

Normally, when an organization or an institution receives a significant donation from a donor, the internal response is usually one of elation. Receiving a major gift significantly impacts the organizational mission and also influences the strategic development planning and execution that are inherent to the solicitation process. A successful major gift solicitation is a "full contact" team sport that requires all hands on deck. Therefore, I believe that building donor relationships throughout the four critical stages of the major gift cycle is essential for a successful solicitation and requires the full participation of all development team members.

Universally, development professionals acknowledge that there are four primary stages in a major gift solicitation cycle; I categorize them as the following action verbs (1) identify (2) cultivate (3) solicit, and (4) steward. Throughout each of these stages, there are numerous opportunities for cross pollination from the annual giving, gift planning, alumni/donor relations and major gifts teams. Teamwork ensures there is consistent open communication between all teams such that everyone understands which "asks" are already in the pipeline and which ones are likely to be fulfilled (Blackbaud Tip Sheet by Kristen Fulks, November 2009). Joint team efforts ensure that donor messaging is consistent across the donor pipeline and that donors are cared for across the four stages of solicitation.

An efficient donor pipeline is simultaneously managed by several teams within the development division. In general, most development teams warehouse and manage donor information via databases. Analysis of donor information influences major gift donor solicitation strategy and shapes the overall donor messaging.

Upon successfully identifying donors for major gifts, the cultivation stage ensues and is critical to the entire lifecycle of building donor relationships buttressed by integrity. Donor cultivation is a highly personalized process in which the major gift team "gets to know" the prospect. There is a learning curve for both the prospect and solicitor during the cultivation stage. If the donor relationship is to be a stalwart long term connection, the team must take the time establishing the rapport necessary for a major gift solicitation.

The major gift solicitation is not a one time culminating conversation, instead it is a series of strategic presentations and informative discussions leading to the moment whereby the donor is sufficiently primed and the development team is adequately prepared. The solicitation moment must consider a total analysis of donor information gathered thus far including donor preferences, interests, historical giving trends, and donor-gift potential.

The final and arguably the most pertinent stage of major donor cycle is the stewardship process that occurs post-gift commitment. Donor stewardship is absolutely critical to the ongoing giving continuum. The stewardship stage is where the team fully commits to have those donors in their pipeline in perpetuity.

In summary, the nature of any full contact team sport is that everyone is fully vested in the processes and outcome. The best strategies are devised because diverse groups of professionals are willing to collaborate on ideas to actualize their organization's mission. The same is true for major gift teams that engage other development teams in their planning, execution and follow through processes. An "all hands on deck" team based approach at each of the four stages of the donor solicitation cycle will yield long term and sustainable fundraising results; not to mention that teamwork always presents incredible learning opportunities for all who fully participate.

Karen Owens is the CEO of Karen Renae Owens Consulting LLC, which is a professional consulting firm that focuses on providing intuitive advisory services to our clients that translate into increased effectiveness in their target market. Our clients are academic institutions, churches (and other faith-based organizations), government agencies, NGOs, nonprofits and small businesses that need targeted fundraising strategies, analytical business document creation, acute teambuilding skills, innovative leadership training and strategic business advice in order to grow their organization successfully. We also serve an elite group of philanthropists, who want to develop a specific giving model.

Source: EzineArticles
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