Jack made a big gift to his local theatre company.
They were building a new theater. Jack hadn’t been closely involved with the theater though he went to shows now and again. But he was convinced that the new, larger theater would be great for the community.
So, when they approached him, he agreed to serve on the campaign committee. He took his role seriously, not only lending his name and reputation to the campaign, but committing to one of the top gifts — $1,500,000 pledged over three years.
The campaign was successful. Construction progressed smoothly. And by most standards, all was well.
Except one thing.
When a Big Donor Feels Forgotten…
Outside of standard generic communications and an annual ‘bill,’ Jack never heard anything from the theater company. And little by little, he felt like he had been taken for granted.
By the third year, when he got ready to make his final pledge payment, his gift felt like an obligation rather than a pleasure.
Most large gifts to capital campaigns are pledged over a period of years. And Jack’s experience of feeling forgotten except for an occasional bill is all too common.
So when I read a recent post in the Veritus Group Passionate Giving Blog about the subject of taking care of people who make pledges, I jumped at the chance to adapt their strategies to capital campaigns.
8 Ways to Cultivate a Multi-Year Pledge Donor
What follows is adapted (with permission) from my friend and colleague Jeff Schreifels’ post in the Passionate Giving Blog.
1. Celebrate the pledge properly.
Make sure that you have a proper thank you planned. Perhaps it’s a meeting with the CEO, or you invite the donor and her family to a celebratory event. Whatever you do, make sure you celebrate that commitment right up front.
2. Agree on project or program updates then exceed them.
I’ve seen pledge agreements where the organization agrees to send a written update or report yearly. Yearly? Really? Is that serving the donor? Not in our book.
Perhaps it’s twice a year for a more formal report, then it’s another 2-4 times a year to check in by doing something creative with multi-media to show progress. If it’s a capital campaign, you have it easy. Be creative with the donor and surprise her. Remember, donors want to know their gifts are making a difference. Show them as often as you can.
3. Plan on at least two face-to-face visits with that donor per year.
And more if the donor actually wants more. This shows the donor that you still care about their involvement, that you seek their input and advice.
4. If you have events, make sure they are invited.
And that they still pay above and beyond their pledge, unless they have in their pledge agreement that part of their pledge includes some events.
5. Have your CEO or Executive Director reach out to the donor.
Do this twice a year by phone or face-to-face. This will help the donor know that leadership values them.
6. Continue thanking them.
When the next pledge payment comes in, don’t just send a regular thank you receipt letter. Gosh, I’ve seen this happen too many times. Treat the gift as if it were new again. Remember, the donor could always NOT fulfill that pledge. Treat those payments like gold.
7. Look for other opportunities for the donor to fund.
That’s right! He may have a multi-year pledge, but that doesn’t mean he won’t fund something else he has a passion for. I’ve seen this work very effectively, and the donors actually appreciate it. Why? Because they know you are “looking out for them” and presenting them with opportunities to make more of a difference.
8. Before a pledge is fulfilled, start working on the next one.
Too many times, people wait until the pledge is actually fulfilled before talking to a donor about another gift. Why? If it’s a three-year pledge, start the process in year 2. If it’s a 5-year pledge, start cultivating that gift in year 3.
Make Your Donors Feel Great About Their Gifts
Remember, your multi-year pledge donors love your organization. Your job from day one of that pledged gift is to help make them feel great about it, and to show them how they have made a difference with their gift.
This relationship is a long-term one for your organization, whether you remain as their contact or not. If you can think of a multi-year pledge as one that could turn into a multi-generational pledge to your organization, ONLY THEN will you have the right attitude and mindset to serve your donor well.
With special thanks to Jeff Schreifels and The Veritus Group for being willing to let me adapt their recent post. Reading Jeff’s suggestions (listed above) made me rethink the importance of really ramping up communications and donor engagement AFTER the gift!
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