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06/02/2011 - A Successful Major Donor Program Has Its Rewards
It’s February, and before you know it you’ll be preparing your Tax Appeals. For many charities Tax Appeals are the highest income generators - so it’s important to give it your best shot.
So what’s a Major Donor Program got to do with all this? Well, quite a lot actually.
Major Donors bring you major dollars. Cold facts, but the reality. Beneath all this, when you shed the layers, it’s about the donors – acknowledging their generous contributions and giving them special recognition. Why treat someone who donates substantial amounts of money to your cause each year, the same as someone who gives you very little?
It just doesn’t make sense.
Yes, granted some people don’t want special treatment, that’s fine – but at least give them the option!
There are numerous steps involved in a successful Major Donor Program. For the purposes of this Forum, I’ll highlight the major ones.
Oh, by the way, in case you were wondering what a Major Donor Program is, well it’s a specifically developed program designed to recognise the leadership and financial contributions individuals make to your cause. It offers them certain privileges and opportunities made available only to them. The materials and communications are packaged in a particular way.
And just quickly – why have a Major Donor Program (MDP)? For one reason it ensures the continued support of your most generous donors and secondly, you can substantially increase the income from these donors.
1. Identifying Your Major Donors – Who Are They?
This relates back to the 80/20 rule of marketing whereby 80% of your income comes from 20% of your customers. In the case of fundraising you may find that 70% of your income comes from 12% of your donors. In any case, whatever the ratio for your particular organisation, an analysis of your database will identify those donors who in the last 12 months have given substantial amounts of income.
2. What Now?
Develop a Major Donor Club. Skyhooks hit song “Ego is not a dirty word..” Sings true, if you pardon the pun. A Major Donor Program works because it plays on people’s egos..special treatment, status and exclusivity etc. Be warned, for such a program to be successful it requires a great deal of passion and commitment from those who’ll be instrumental in managing the program – most likely YOU .
The elements of a Major Donor Club include things as:
Name of the Club
A Possible Patron – someone these donors will feel proud to be associated with
Levels within the Club – a top, middle and lower level, depending on how much the donor gave in the last 12 months would depend on which level they achieved.
Privileges specific for each level
The Communication – the look and feel of the communication needs to reflect the image you wish to portray. Aspects such as the font used, paper stock, presentation etc
3. And its Relevance to Tax Appeals?
The first wave of the Tax Appeal is the best time to launch this program to your major donors (and prospective major donors).
The covering letter is a highly personalised note of appreciation by a senior member of your organisation ie the CEO, welcoming them as a distinguished supporter of your cause, espousing the privileges they are now entitled to.
As part of the appeal pack, they will be invited to support a very unique and special project that is not available to other donors. The project needs to be cutting edge, unique, highly specialised. You will share with them inside information not generally known, they are part of the inner circle – the idea is that the major donor feels special and privileged to be given this information. The appeal pack in itself looks very different in its design treatment than any other appeal pack they receive throughout the year. Major donors will also be invited to attend a special talk to learn more about this special project by prominent professionals. For instance if its highly specialised surgical equipment, there could be a talk by a senior medical professional as well as perhaps a patient whose been the beneficiary of such equipment.
Because of the uniqueness of the ask, the sophistication of the medical equipment the $ask is set at an appropriate high level.
This type of special ask is only given once a year – and the best time is tax time to take advantage of the June 30 deadlines.
4. The Results
They speak for themselves. This strategy has been used by a number of our clients, and have proven to generate greater returns than if these Major Donors receive the same treatment as your regular donors. Give it a go, you’ll be delighted with the results.
1. Know who your Major Donors Are
2. Challenge your donors to increase their financial support
3. Establish a Club with three membership levels so donors see the progression in size of gifts – and can upgrade their contributions
4. Select a name for the club
5. Determine donor privileges within each membership level
6. Prepare the promotional material that reflects the image you wish to portray and communicates the donor benefits
7. Promote the program within your database
By Megan McQuitty