I had the opportunity recently to meet with 3 mega donors at a conference for one of our providers of food that we send to starving children in around 20 countries. These major donors independently offered great insight into their thinking about giving and what information they rely upon before making a gift.
First and foremost, they never referred to themselves as major donors or providers of major gifts. Those are words that we fundraisers use to describe them, but it is not how they view themselves. Each and every time the donor referred to themselves as an “investor”.
One mega-supporter said it this way, “I don’t give money away. I make investments. Before providing support to anyone I measure impact, I want to see how many lives my investment will touch. I will often compare the impact of the amount I am asked for with what kind of impact I am having somewhere else.”
This donor confirmed what we development directors fear… “that they support charities other than mine.” Major donors are often what we call in the industry “multis” or “multi-donors”. They invest in multiple charities and causes. Russ Reid, a fundraising agency, conducted a major study called, Heart of the Donor, that included more than 2,000 donors nationwide and found that the average donor gave to 6.3 charities.
Major donors are looking for increased Returns-On-Investment. ROI is critical to them. They want to see the maximum number of lives impacted for every dollar invested and, as importantly, they want to see improved ROI from one year to the next for your charity. Rest assured of one thing, major donors have money because they know how to maximize every penny.
The other thing that surprised me was that all three major donors said that they did not begin to make significant investments until after they had volunteered at the charity. This concept runs contrary to what I was taught about major gift development working for political candidates. I remember in the early 1980s setting in class at the Republican Campaign Academy and hearing Lee Atwater say in his southern drawl that “volunteers volunteer and donors do one thing: write checks… don’t waste your time tryin’ to get donors to volunteer and volunteers to give money”.
There is no doubt that volunteerism is critical to good stewardship and an important step in upgrading giving.
So whether you are trying to get volunteers to to take short term missions trips with you or getting them to feed the poor at your food bank here at home, get your major donors involved! Create activities that they can take part in the connect them to your ministry and service. It will ultimately impact their giving.