Face to Face
How to Get BIGGER Donations
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The Six Secrets of Big Gifts
Is Face-to-Face Fundraising for You?
Ken Wyman wants to express special thanks to the people whose insight and assistance helped make this book possible, including many who gave permission for their copyright material to be used here.
| Allan Arlett
The Canadian Centre for Philanthropy
Kent Dove and Lorri Wimer of
David R Dunlop
Gail A Evans
Fundraising Management Magazine
David W Heetland
Kim Klein and Nancy Adess of the
Grassroots Fundraising Journal
Michael F Luck
Charles F Mai
Helen Gardiner Phelan
GT Buck Smith
J Warren Steen
United Church of Canada
Frank V Whitely
Mildred and Max Wyman
The right volunteer asks the right donor for the right amount at the right time to support the right project with the right approach.
The Six Secrets
There are six secrets to getting bigger gifts. This book will focus on how to find out what is `right' in each case.
Depending on your circumstances, you may not need to go through each one or you may need to linger longer over areas that need extra work.
In a religious congregation, for example, it may not be appropriate to look beyond your own members for donors; however, research into their interests may be very important.
In a large organization with a history of major fundraising campaigns, it may not be hard to find good volunteers; in others, this may be the key to success.
For most groups, I recommend that you follow the sequence laid out here in logical and chronological order.
Identifying and acquiring major gifts is not a mystery it is a simple process made onerous only by those who choose to make the process of acquiring leadership gifts difficult.
The magic words are hard work and high visibility, that is, getting big gifts is tedious and requires your absence from the office and your presence in the streets. If you are in your office every day, you are not cultivating and soliciting major gifts.1
The Least Expensive, Most Productive Fundraising Method
Talking to specially selected people face-to-face is an excellent way for a non-profit group to raise money. It is the among the easiest sources of large sums of money. It works well in the short term and even better with planning and careful cultivation of prospects. It is also done less often than it could be, particularly among grassroots groups. This method is for you if you:
The techniques described in this book will explain how to achieve those goals. But this method is not for everyone. You must decide first if it's the right one for you. Here's how:
This manual is devoted to helping you get big donations. But is `big' too big for you? Or not big enough?
For many grassroots groups, having an individual donate $100 to $500 would be cause for celebration particularly if it happened often! For hospitals, universities and other large charities, the definition of big gift may start at $10,000, $50,000, $100,000 or more. Anything smaller might be considered ordinary.
With subtle variations, the techniques outlined here apply at all these levels, no matter how many zeros appear in the figures.
This book focuses on how to ask people for money in person. If you are ready to get personal, then the definition of `big' is strictly relative to your organization's past gifts. Use this handbook to learn how to approach the special few.
Finding a special few who give much more than others will be a welcome achievement in most groups but not all.
A strongly egalitarian organization may consider it a matter of principle for everyone to give about the same amount. They choose to ignore the potential for different donations resulting from differences in people's incomes, expenses, assets, lifestyles or level of commitment. They are concerned that all donors be treated equally. They suspect that if a few people make a disproportionate contribution to the budget, they might gain a corresponding degree of control. Some people assume that those who have enough money to give big donations must have done something unethical or immoral and are therefore enemies of the cause. If this describes your group, the techniques discussed here may not be for you.
Some groups need a wide base of support. Advocacy groups, for example, need to demonstrate that lots of people are on their side, whether or not the supporters are all big donors. Religious groups need lots of people to attend services, whether or not they are all generous donors. Clubs, membership organizations, performing arts groups and many others have similar needs.
Groups like these may want major donors at the beginning, to help them grow. They may want them to help pay for special extras as the organization matures. In between, however, their main goal may be to increase the number of small donors.
Direct mail, telephone solicitations and special events are generally good techniques to reach large numbers of people who can each give smaller donations. Those are the subjects of other Voluntary Action publications.
Through the upgrading system outlined here, you will discover the hidden advantage of those techniques: they will lead you to the special few, the very generous people who give so much.
If your primary need is for support from a large number of people, even if they all give relatively small amounts, this technique is not for you.
This manual concentrates on individuals who give large donations. Some of those people are rich and famous. Most are not; they are simply very generous.
You will learn how to find these generous people, and how to appeal to them for large donations. The techniques apply equally well to capital campaigns and to ongoing fundraising.
This book is about individuals. It is not about corporations, foundations or other big institutions that give grants.
Grant-giving organizations usually operate in a different way than generous individuals. They often have a formal application process. It is usually formalized and bureaucratic, and requires proposals written in accordance with standard models. This is necessary when decisions are to be made by a committee.
Individuals make faster decisions, often after a single conversation. They seldom have to check with anyone except their spouse.
But the methods outlined here may also help to open doors at granting institutions. You'll learn how to find contacts who will help your grant application stand out from the pile. Learning how to present an appeal face-to-face will be useful if you can arrange to meet with the institutional decision-makers. Such discussions greatly increase your chances of success.
To get an institutional grant, however, you will almost certainly need to supplement the techniques outlined in this handbook with a well written proposal. The art of proposal-writing is a topic for another book. 2
Some prospective donors (or prospects) who own small businesses or have family foundations may prefer to make donations on their institutional cheques instead of their personal account. If they operate without answering to others, then you can use the techniques suggested here.
This manual does not try to cover all the aspects of campaign planning. Its focus is precise: it's on people how to find them, how to get ready, and what to say so they will give you a big donation (no matter how you define `big'). If your interest is primarily in institutional donors, this book is not your best choice.
Are you thinking, We don't know anyone who could make a major donation?
People involved with non-profit groups are often surprised when they discover the hidden contacts they have. Gifts ranging from $500 to $1000 each are easily available to virtually any group. Many individuals are ready to give donations of thousands of dollars and more.
In the United States, amazingly large donations have been reported. Comedian and educator Bill Cosby and his wife Camille gave $22 million to Spelman College.3 Pulitzer prize-winning author James Michener has given away artwork valued at $25 million to museums, and an additional $7 million to creative writing programs,4 including a graduate writing school he helped launch at the University of Texas with a $1 million endowment.5 Paul Mellon has given away more than $300 million.6
Sinéad O'Connor, the Irish rock star, donated her Hollywood mansion to help starving Somalians. After watching a Red Cross tv charity appeal, she telephoned the station and gave them the house. It is said to have five bedrooms, three reception rooms, a jacuzzi and a pool, and is worth around $970,000.7
The past contributions of Andrew Carnegie and John D Rockefeller live on in the names of countless libraries, concert halls and other buildings, foundations and endeavours.
Canada, too, has seen multi-millionaire philanthropists, some of whom were noted eccentrics. While the main goal of this manual is to help you get substantial donations from less exalted personages, a few examples of the great and the notorious are important for the historical record.
Liquor baron Hiram Walker based a distilling empire in his company town of Walkerville (now a suburb of Windsor, Ontario), built churches both there and in Detroit, but closed the former chapel for two years after discovering its pastor, a cuckoo in the nest, was preaching temperance.8
Donors, no matter how rich or poor, do allow personal prejudice to influence their decisions. Unlike government, they are accountable to no-one. Knowing their biases may make all the difference. Another famous Canadian proved this point:
Donald Smith (aka Lord Strathcona), the Canadian Pacific Railway financier who drove the Cpr's last spike, was a munificent but quixotic philanthropist. Smith gave away $12 million during his lifetime, and another $20 million in his will. Among his most outstanding gifts were the donation in 1900 of an entire mounted regiment to British forces fighting the Boer War, and a $1 million donation to found Montreal's famed Royal Victoria Hospital. Still, Smith's generous legacy was marked by personal biases: unable to forgive Winnipeg voters for their failure to re-elect him to his House of Commons seat, Smith held back his charitable impulses from schools and hospitals in that city; and his upper-class pretensions were betrayed in his will, which made a bequest to set up a leper colony but stipulated that only Englishmen of good social standing be allowed to stay there.9
In more recent times, Canadian universities have received many large and sometimes unusual donations. Late in 1992, Queen's University received $12 million from Alfred Bader, an alumnus living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to buy a 15th-century castle in England, with 140 rooms, a 93-hectare demesne, and a moat. It will be converted into an international study centre. Queen's also received a $15 million donation in the late 1980s from an anonymous source.10
There have been other breath-taking donations:
McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, received a $25 million bequest from Dr Harry Lyman Hooker when he died with no family in the early 1980s. Dr Hooker was not a McMaster graduate, and lived in New York City, not Hamilton, although he had some business interests there. Dr Hooker was an early investor in Ibm. The president of the university got to know him and built up a relationship. As a result of his gift, you see students on campus wearing jackets that say `Hooker Scholar', says McMaster fundraiser Tom Daly.11
McMaster also received a sizeable donation in the form of a collection of art worth $30 million from Dr Herman Herzog Levy, a Hamilton jeweller, who took art history courses at the university. When he died at the age of 88 in June 1990, also with no family, he left an estate of over $28 million to be split in approximately equal amounts between McMaster and the Royal Ontario Museum. This brought his total gift to McMaster to $44 million.
The University of Victoria received the $6 million Dunsmuir Lodge conference building as a donation in 1986.
The University of British Columbia received $15 million from Vancouver financier Peter Wall in 1991, and a $10 million gift from the Chan Foundation of Canada to establish a performing arts centre in 1989.
Simon Fraser University received $13.6 million in the late 1980s from a donor who wished to remain anonymous.
Most groups can only dream of such huge sums. They would be happy with less than 10% of the $25 million gift McMaster University received. For most of Canada's 67,000 registered charities, it would be fantastic to get a donation totalling 1% of that record or even .1%. In fact, many groups would be delighted to find people who would give them $2500 .01% of the gift to McMaster.
For all too many nonprofits, it would be exciting to get donations of $250 on a regular basis and that is only .001%, or one ten-thousandth of the amount McMaster University raised from a single person.
Getting donations of a few hundred to a few thousand dollars is an achievable dream for almost every group.
Oddly, many donors are also surprised at how much they will give. Few people consciously set out to give away large sums of money. When they do give, it is in response to an exciting cause or a properly worded, well timed presentation made by the right person.
The construction of the largest modern mosque in the western hemisphere provides an example. It was built in 1992 in Maple, Ontario, just north of Toronto, by Ahmadiyya Muslims. They raised a total of $4.5 million.
Every cent was raised by Canadian Ahmadis, said Hasanat Ahmad Syed, national secretary of the Canadian Ahmadiyya Movement. (It is estimated that between 5000 and 10,000 Ahmadis live in Canada.) Some sold their homes, some borrowed money, some female members sold their jewelry to pay for the mosque.
Ahmadis are asked to donate from one-sixteenth to one-third of their monthly income to the movement.
While all the major work was contracted out, hundreds of volunteers contributed thousands of hours, some working 18-hour days and sleeping overnight in a trailer. It was a privilege, said Naseer Ahmad, 39, the owner of an advertising agency. Not many people are given the opportunity to help build a mosque.12
Similar stories could be told by people of every religion. Dedicated people also outdid themselves to create many of Canada's community centres, theatres, homes for senior citizens, health-care institutions and grassroots groups of every type.
Don't think that only the rich and super-rich are sources of generous gifts. They are not only not the only sources, they may not be the best sources of significant gifts for your organization. In fact, giving decreases as donor income increases, according to John William Thomas, Vice-President for Development at the New England Medical Centre in Boston.13
Perhaps you happen to have a board member who knows one of the McCain family14, or the Eatons, or Peter Pocklington, or the Bronfmans15, or one of Canada's other wealthy families? If so, by all means pursue that connection but use the methods outlined here for best results.
For the rest of us, whose world is made up of ordinary people, don't despair. In the following pages, you'll learn how to find contacts you never knew you had. You'll also discover how to make it possible for donors to give more than they thought they ever could, painlessly and happily.
But could it work for you?
Granted, some communities are very poor, and face high rates of unemployment. Certain regions of Canada have chronic problems, yet they give more generously. In Atlantic Canada, for example, people had an average family income of $30,254 in 1986. The average donation was $417 per family, or 1.37% of pre-tax income. By comparison, people in Ontario had an average income of $39,444 but gave only $349, or .85% of pre-tax income. That means that although the incomes in Ontario are 30% higher, the donations are almost 16% lower.16
Steinbach, Manitoba, had an average reported income of only $18,054 per tax-payer.17 Yet they are the most generous donors in the country, with a median donation of $870 in 1990. The median donation for all Canada was $120 per tax-payer.18
When they give, poor people give a far higher percentage of their income than the richest. In 1990, Canadian donors who earned less than $5000 a year gave 4.5% of their income to charity. This percentage dropped steadily as income increased. At the $45,000 to $50,000 annual income level, it bottomed out at 1.12%. After that it climbed slightly: people earning over $250,000 a year claimed 1.69% of income as charitable donations. The average was 2.3% for all returns. 19
To be fair, the average dollar amount donated did climb steadily with income:
In addition, the more people earn, the more likely they were to claim a tax deduction for a charitable donation. This ranged from 21% of people earning from $10,000 to $15,000 to 76% of people earning over $250,000. On the average, 30% of all people filing returns claimed charitable donations.
Of course all this is based on what people report on their income tax. That makes it somewhat unreliable. Not everyone claims all their charitable donations. Some kinds of support given to charities are not eligible for tax receipts, such as part of the cost of a ticket to a special event, a raffle ticket, or the purchase of services. Nonprofits that are not registered charities can't even issue tax receipts.
Some social-change organizations assume they cannot use face-to-face fundraising techniques because they attack the interests of the rich and powerful. But remember: a donor does not have to be wealthy to be generous. Actual experience proves that there are many people who have enough income to make generous donations as well as sufficient political consciousness to be willing to do so. They can be found among progressives who have taken jobs as university faculty, government staff, employees in many industries, the self-employed and successful artists.
However, if you are still convinced after reading chapter 2 that there are no individuals who are willing or able to give you donations of a few hundred dollars or more, this technique is not for you.
Asking people face-to-face for a donation is the most efficient way to raise money. It is also the scariest.
In addition, it must be done by volunteers. The reasons why this is so are outlined later in this book. For the moment, take it as a simple fact that you cannot succeed with this fundraising technique unless you have volunteers who are willing to personally ask for the donation.
Experience suggests you need a minimum of ten volunteers to achieve `critical mass'. Theoretically, it could be done with just one: if one person asks others, the team can grow. But realistically, this is difficult in practice.
This handbook will touch on some techniques for recruiting volunteers, but volunteer recruitment is a broad topic, and there are many good publications on the subject.20
If you don't have volunteers and can't recruit any, this technique is not for you.
Volunteers who will be asking for donations need and (usually) appreciate training before they hit the streets. Are you prepared to invest time and energy in training?
You may also need to spend time gathering information to help build enthusiasm among volunteers and donors. For example, can you quickly answer questions like these: What are your goals? Your projects? What would a gift of $500 or $50,000 accomplish? What recognition can you offer?
This book will show you how to prepare volunteers, provide kits, and follow up after a campaign. The preparation process doesn't have to take long, but it is essential.
In fact, it may be faster than most other fundraising methods. The alternatives almost always involve more work for less financial return. The heavy work involved in special events is legendary. The high cost of direct mail can be staggering. Government, foundation and corporate grants can take months to arrange, and require writing complex proposals and waiting for slow decisions.
Success in finding major individual donations does require preparation. Wise planners spend two thirds of their campaign time on internal work before they approach the first prospective donor. You must prepare your organization. Research must be done to find prospects, and to find out their interests, solicitors must be trained, and so on. All this will take time.
Don't be impatient. Careful preparation is worth while.
However, if you cannot take the time, this technique is not for you.
This technique is good, but it is not magic. Prepare yourself and your organization for long-term fund raising.
Some people dream of a single huge campaign to raise all the money we'll ever need. But in reality, needs keep changing and growing.
The Fantasy: You buy a list of the richest people in the country. You write them a short and simple letter well, maybe two. Suddenly it is revealed to them in a blinding flash that their worldly wealth has all been misspent. Overcome by delight in your group, they shower you with money. In fact, they give you so much money that you can't spend it all it once. You invest their huge donation in an endowment fund. Your organization lives happily ever after on the interest.
The reality, of course, is not like that. Most often, the donors who make large gifts have supported your work for a long time. You may never have realized that they could give much more, so you never asked. They may not have thought of giving your group a lot of money, either. Here is a more realistic version.
The Reality (Part I): You have found a few individual supporters: a small mailing list and a few other nice people. Perhaps some current and former board members give more than token amounts. For the most part, they give relatively small amounts, and they give irregularly.
Your team is afraid to ask them too often, for fear you will offend them and drive them away.
Carefully, tentatively, you build your relationships over months and years. You send newsletters and form letters. Occasionally, one or two donors stand out from the pack, because they give a bit more, or a bit more often, or because they write you a thoughtful note, or because someone knows them. You write a personal letter. Maybe you make telephone calls. When you talk to them, you listen to them carefully, and take their concerns seriously.
When the time is right, a volunteer goes to see them in their home, or they come to where you work. The volunteer, who has been properly trained and rehearsed, asks them to give a specific amount of money for a project they might like to make possible. They give more than they ever have before.
Over the years, these donors give a little more. You look for a way to pay tribute to these special people, and start one or two groups with names such as Benefactors, Friends, or Sustainers. They give still more.
Eventually, the donations become quite generous. When the donors can no longer give you more money in the here-and-now, you discuss ways to give from future money, such as wills and life insurance. Finally, after a long and happy life, a donor passes gently away to a better world, leaving your group a modest but significant endowment in her will.
You combine these with other bequests accumulating as a result of your thoughtful work. The interest pays a significant portion of the costs of some important projects. The organization recognizes that the need for its services is continuing to grow, and fundraising efforts must expand to become more productive than ever.
What if you can't wait? You need money urgently! You don't have any contacts like that.
Relax! There's still hope. Big gifts do sometimes come from people who have never given to your group before.
The Reality (Part II): After careful thought, two or three of your board members or volunteers each discover one or two contacts with people who are capable of making a larger gift. The potential donors they know aren't usually the sort who give away millions, or even thousands, but they might give you an amount that is larger than you usually get.
The volunteers may not be old friends of the prospective donors, or even know them well. It would be wonderful if the prospects owed the volunteer a big favour, or wanted the volunteer's business but that's unlikely to be the case in a grassroots group.
The volunteer is nervous about approaching the potential donor. After some careful training and role-playing, the volunteer, teamed with a buddy, is hesitant, but is now willing to try.
After several phone calls, the volunteer arranges an appointment to meet the prospect. They talk. The prospect is impressed that this person she knows, even if only slightly, is so dedicated.
After the discussion, she wants time to think about it after all, this is a lot of money. They arrange to talk again.
On the second visit, the prospect gives more money to this group than she ever gave them before.
The volunteer isn't sure whether to be grateful for this gift, or frustrated that it wasn't much more. Mostly the volunteer is relieved that it's over, and makes a quick exit.
The organization, if it's smart, thanks the donor quickly and treats her well. The next year, the same volunteer goes back and gets a bit more. This continues through increasing gifts and, ultimately, a bequest.
To summarize, the techniques described here are not for groups that:
This method is for nonprofit groups that:
If you're ready to continue, let's go!
You could do a quick-and-dirty campaign in just a few weeks. The main task would be to have volunteers visit the most generous of your current donors. Leave new donors out for the moment it takes a little longer to prepare for them.
Here's how to estimate your income:
The number of volunteers is usually the limiting factor. It surprises many people to discover that they may be able to identify a surplus of potential donors. If there were time and people enough to ask them all, you could raise still more.
Start by estimating how many volunteers would be willing to:(a) invest 15 or 20 hours,
Let's use a fictitious organization as an example: Friends of the Fountain Pen (Fofp). They can get 12 volunteers involved in this task, not counting some who said they were too shy to visit anyone in person, but would write letters with their favourite fountain pens.
Doing this properly, each volunteer works as part of a two-person team. Thus the Friends of the Fountain Pen, with 12 volunteers, have 6 teams.
Each team visits at least 5 prospects. Thus, 6 teams visiting 5 prospects each gives you 30 visits.
Some people prefer to work alone. Although the total number of prospect visits will be higher, in many cases the average donation will be lower.
Look at the top individual (not corporate, foundation or government) givers on your donor list. Choose one prospect per visit.
How much was their total giving last year? If any of them gave significantly more in the previous two years than they gave last year, use the larger amount as your base line.
The top 30 donors to Friends of the Fountain Pen gave from $50 (most of them) to $500 (one of them). The total for all 30 was $3000.
For now, don't include people who might give for the first time if only you could figure out how to get to them. Estimating their giving will depend on more careful research into their ability to give and how much they are publicly known to have given to other nonprofits.
Fofp reluctantly agrees that without personal contacts, three `fantasy' prospects cannot yet be included: two former prime ministers and a famous millionaire, all of whom board members had seen using fountain pens on tv. Such people may become donors in the long run, but don't spend time considering them during this brief campaign.
Do not include anyone you are certain would not give more even if the right person asked them personally. Perhaps they are angry with your group; perhaps you suspect they could not afford to give more. Cultivation and research may bring them around, but that's not a job for a quick-and-dirty campaign.
Were your supporters' past donations made in response to letters, phone calls and events, and not to visits like this? If so, they are likely to give much more generously than they ever have before. Many of them will give from 50% more to double their past gifts.
Not every prospect will be willing or able to give. Past experience shows that three or four out of five past donors will probably donate again at this level, using these techniques.
If you approach people who have never given before, a smaller portion will respond. Your results are more likely to be one in five for them.
Many of the donors will agree to give each year for three to five years.
Unfortunately, not all of the donors will make good on their pledges. You'll probably collect about three-quarters of the amount promised.
The usual ratio is that 80% of a group's donations should come from the top 20% of donors. This is the 80/20 Target.
In some large capital campaigns the ratio is now higher. Some have seen 90% of the money come from 10% of the donors. In some cases a mere 1% of the donors contribute fully 95% of the income.
That's impossibly heady country for most grassroots groups. However, most small organizations can do better than they are doing now. The 80/20 Target is a reasonable goal over several years. How much more could your group raise if you could achieve the 80/20 Target?
The top 20% of donors are very important:
Of that 20%, about 90% are seen by somebody face-to-face. Very few people give $100,000 over the telephone. And probably even [fewer] people give $1 million in response to a letter. People have to be seen; there has to be contact eye-to-eye and heart-to-heart in order to be convincing. Now why isn't it done more? Because the solicitation process is a much more difficult process than all other fundraising methods.21
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|Last updated : 1998/10/16|