A Conversation With Your Future Major Donor

You walk into the coffee shop and scan the crowd. She waves at you from the table in the back. You grab a cup of java and swing over to the table. As the two of you talk, you take a few mental notes: Your gal is probably in her mid-to-late fifties, likes but is skeptical of big ideas and (most importantly) considers herself a generous person.

She’s your future major donor.

Except one difference: she’s just here to tell you all about herself. What motivates her to give. What her giving plans are for the next three years. The most common ways charities frustrate her. No games, no small talk, no holds barred.

At the AFP International Conference 2013, I attended an insightful presentation by Gail Perry and Dawn Price on what motivates major donors today. Imagine this synopsis as an opportunity to sit down with the major donor you’ll be courting a few months from now. Here’s your chance to figure her out, now–before you’re actually sitting across from her.

Are Wealthy Donors Planning to Give More or Less in the Next 3-5 Years?

“I’m going to keep my contributions the same or increase my giving in the next few years.”

High-net worth donors are going to be giving the same amount–or more. In this 2012 study of High Net Worth Philanthropy, a whole 76% of wealthy donors “planned to give as much as or more during the next three to five years (through 2016)” than they have in the past, and “just nine percent plan to give less.” As Perry says, fundraisers need to embrace an abundance mentality. There is plenty of money left on the table.

What’s the Biggest Giving Trigger for Major Donors?

“I give because I am moved at how my gift can make a difference.”

74% of wealthy donors give most when they’re “being moved by how a gift can make a difference.” First, donors want to understand the value of a donation and the impact it will make. But note your future donor isn’t moved by how your nonprofit can make a difference. The focus is on their gift. Be donor-centric in all your fundraising communications. Imagine your conversations. How much do you use the word ‘we’–and can you reframe your conversations so the focus is on the donor?

Do Charitable Deductions Influence Major Donors’ Giving?

“I’d maintain my current charitable giving level if tax deductions for donations were reduced.”

Surprisingly, less than a third of wealthy donors are motivated to give chiefly because of tax incentives. A full 50% of high net worth donors reported they’d maintain their giving levels even if income tax deductions were eliminated entirely. In other words, donor loyalty is far more dependent on intrinsic motivations than extrinsic among major donors. Focus on donor satisfaction, a factor that Adrian Sargeant suggests may be “the single biggest measure of donor loyalty.”

Connect with tomorrow’s major donors by applying these ideas today.

P.s. To check out more tips on giving triggers for high net worth donors, visit Gail Perry’s blog!


Marc Koenig

Marc Koenig is a regular contributor of Nonprofit Hub. Marc believes smart, ethical marketing can make the world a better place, and strives to create content that helps nonprofits tell better stories, push their organizations to excel and do work that matters. You'll find him writing Nonprofit Hub featured posts, brainstorming infographics and tweeting up a storm at @npmarc - follow him and say hi!

April 24, 2013

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