Mega donors are essential if you are going to raise big money in your campaign. But many nonprofit leaders are challenged when it comes to approaching these important donors.
Approaching an important community or philanthropic leader – even if you can get the appointment — can be downright scary. But the only way to develop these relationships with your largest donors is to have actual meetings and face-to-face conversations with them.
So let’s try some “soft” approaches that aren’t so hard to pull off.
Major Ways to Connect with Major Donor
Here are some ways you can connect with major donors so it feels seamless, natural, conversational, and even fun.
Start by Getting Your Mindset Right
When you approach major donors, draw upon your own enthusiasm for your project. Think about how many people will be helped, and how absolutely important your organization’s work is. Find that place of vision and possibility, because that’s where your power is.
Ground yourself in an abundance and positive thinking. Convince yourself that there’s plenty to go around — and that your donor will in fact be interested. All that positive energy will be contagious – and your donors will feel cheerful when they are with you.
If you let yourself feel embarrassed or awkward, it’ll show. Your donor will pick up on your discomfort and then will start to feel uncomfortable too. That’s a dead end. You don’t want to go there!
Remember that most of your discomfort is around money, not impact. So keep a clear focus on IMPACT — what the donor’s money will make possible in the world. That way, you’ll stay comfortable, enthusiastic and excited.
Create a Process to Develop Relationships
You develop relationships through a continuing series of interactions. You will need a steady drumbeat of constantly and cheerfully connecting. So you’re looking for a format for a SERIES of encounters.
You’ll use one-on-one meetings, planning committees, small leadership conversation circles, small VIP events, exclusive tours, and even email to stay in touch and pull your prospects closer and closer.
Think back in high school when you had a crush — back then, you might have a drive-by sighting, and maybe -if you’re lucky — a chance conversation. You’d plan your walk home from school at a certain time hoping to run into your crush. You’d plan a deliberate series of contacts, hoping to get on his radar to develop his interest.
Building relationships with your major donors is just like that. It’s a slow process. Don’t rush it. See if you can make it social and enjoy it.
Plan Advice Visits
Here’s What To Do
Ask your donor what he or she thinks about your prospective project. Get their input. (You really DO want their input as early in the game as possible). Ask them if they think this might be possible. Ask them how you can best get broad community support, and be sure to ask them how you can obtain the support of major donors in your community.
By asking for advice in this early stage of the game, you draw your prospective donor in literally as an advisor. She is now interested in your success. And before she knows, she’s helping you out — making introductions for you and helping to open doors. Before YOU know, she will be asking you how she can help with a gift.
Create Planning Committees
Andrea and I love Planning Committees as a killer cultivation tool. Use them to pull in top level thinkers and strategists and mega donors and gain their advice.
If you involve your top stakeholders very early, getting them to actually help create a BIG vision and craft a plan to achieve it, then they’ll be totally and completely bought in.
As Nick Fellers, Co-Founder of For Impact says, “Leadership will help underwrite a plan that they help write.”
Involve Your Top Donors Early and Often
Involving your key stakeholders EARLY is absolutely key to a successful campaign.
Get the help of your prospects to clarify your plan, flesh out its details, and set priorities. Get them to help you figure out where will the money come from and who else you need on board.
There’s only one really great time to turn mega donor prospects into your champions. And that’s early on in your planning and thinking process. If you wait until you have figured everything out, it’ll be too late.
Three Strategies that Won’t Work
1. Don’t create your huge vision to change the world in a closed room with a tiny group of people. No!
You need your entire broad group of supporters engaged and supportive at the very beginning.
2. Don’t start by developing an expensive brochure, website, and powerpoints to convey your vision to the world. No!
You don’t want any of these materials until AFTER you get the input and buy-in of key players and funders.
3. Don’t make presentation after presentation to donors who have not yet bought in. If you do all the talking, you’re not engaging your donors. In fact, you are probably boring them. No!
You have to find out what they think first, then shape your comments around their interests.
Flawlessly Engage Your Top Prospects
For more super practical, action-oriented tips about how to draw your most important donors close, take a look at this recorded webinar that Andrea and I did back in July, 2016.