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Major gifts: the changing face of big-gift fundraising.

The landscape in the nonprofit sector has changed drastically during the past several years, starting with the events of September 11, 2001 and culminating with the natural disasters that struck the United States and abroad during 2004 and 2005.

If that's not enough, throw into the mix the aging Baby Boomers, globalization, and inflated gas prices--the face of fundraising is quickly evolving.

At a recent fundraising conference held in New York City, Jacqueline L. Venable, vice president of fundraising management and consulting firm Brakeley Briscoe Inc., discussed the changing landscape, and how it is changing the face of major gifts fundraising.

More competition for private support. According to Venable, competition for private support continues to get tougher. New entries into the private fundraising world include community colleges, foreign nonprofit organizations seeking support from American benefactors, even your neighborhood public school. Compounding the already tight fit, all the new charities that sprung up after the terrorist attacks and the giving for natural disaster victims.

Characteristics of modern major donors. Today's major donors are unlike those of yesteryear. As a result, an increasing number of charities have resorted to doing more donor-centered fundraising. "Treat donors as investors," advised Venable, who described today's major gifts donor as a venture philanthropist. "These big gift donors see their wealth as 'philanthropic capital. It's not just an act of charity. It requires tracking and documentation of return on investment," said Venable. "They want to be involved, not just give money with no strings attached." Venable recommended that organizations do more to build a relationship with these donors. "It's essential."

Amounts of support for charitable giving. During 2004, giving increased across the board to nonprofits, however some experienced better growth than others. Environmental and animal welfare organizations experienced the biggest lift in giving during 2004, up by 7 percent to reach an estimated $7.61 billion. Giving to the arts, culture and humanities organizations was an estimated $13.9 billion during 2004, a 5.6-percent increase from 2003. Education saw a 5.4-percent increase to $33.84 billion, with giving by non-alumni up 21.5-percent. An estimated $21.95 billion was earmarked for health charities during 2004, up by 5.1 percent from 2003. And finally, human services charities exhibited an increase from 2003 of 1.5 percent, bringing in an estimated $19.17 billion.

To access the charitable giving, Venable recommended organizations implement the following three key strategies:

Prospecting: "It all begins with the 'known,'" said Venable. To achieve a more symbiotic relationship, Venable recommended that organizations develop prospective donors by allowing them to participate in the organization, teaching them to give consecutively, building their awareness at a higher level, and encouraging their involvement at a higher level.

By effecting a more involved relationship, the organization will be more able to profile its prospects to see where they fall (major gifts, planned gifts, volunteering, annual giving, galas/auctions, special initiatives, etc.). Prospects may fall into multiple categories, added Venable.

Once you've profiled your prospects, create and maintain a prospect management and tracking system. Define cultivation and solicitation strategies (solicitation moves a prospect to a donor), and integrate the strategies into your program. More organizations are finding stewardship is increasing in importance, so look for opportunities to continue to involve donors in between gifts, advised Venable. This will move a donor back into the cultivation phase.

Team Approach: To move beyond the "known," your organization must mobilize all of its resources, said Venable. Utilize your staff and volunteers. Interview each board member to learn about any prospective donors ("Mine their Rolodex," said Venable). Involve the entire community of your organization. If your organization is planning a campaign initiative, integrate the process into your timeline. If no campaign is planned, integrate the process into your organization's master calendar of events. And, tweak any existing events for prospecting purposes, added Venable.

Major/Planned Giving Program With or Without a Capital Campaign: According to Venable, a capital campaign provides a terrific framework for kicking off a major gift program, as it will continue on after the campaign.

The argument holds for many organizations that there is a constant and ongoing need for prospective major and planned gift donors, and the infrastructure to support the programs of the organization. Additionally, said Venable, implementing major and planned gift programs into an existing campaign is a great use of resources and will yield an excellent return on investment.

In summary, there is more competition than ever for the private dollar, but there is also more charitable giving. Organizations must change their thinking about where to look and who to ask when identifying prospective major and planned gift donors, and organizations must manage those prospects in a professional manner. Finally, creating a program that will outlive a capital campaign and serve the organization well into the future may be the most important lesson of all.

RELATED ARTICLE: Myth vs. reality: what's really the case with online fundraising?

Online fundraising will generate so much money, there won't ever be a need to go out and spend money to raise money again, right? Not so fast. While there is potential in online fundraising, it won't replace traditional fundraising any time soon, and there are things to think about before jumping in headfirst.

Timothy O'Leary, vice president at McPherson Associates, Inc. in Malvern, Pa., offered the seven myths of online fundraising during a workshop, "Shifting Trends and New Opportunities in Online Fundraising," at the recent DMA Nonprofit Federation's conference in New York City.

MYTH #1 : "My Web site has only a small impact on donations."

Reality:

* More than 40 percent of donors nationwide visit a Web site before deciding to give.

* More than 65 percent of current donors visit your site.

MYTH #2: "Online gifts show giving potential."

Reality:

* Online gifts only show a snapshot of your current relationship. Online interactions show giving potential. The data are there if we use it.

MYTH #3: "Don't bother online donors or registrants with too much e-mail."

Reality:

* Keeping them informed--and busy--leads to higher retention and giving. They have fun and you get the data, but avoid too much promotional e-mail.

MYTH #4: "Focus entirely on HTML e-mail."

Reality:

* Nothing important comes by HTML.

* Periodic and important e-mail should be text, especially to donors who have not been opening your HTML e-mails.

MYTH #5: "Have a comprehensive online giving form."

Reality:

* One size does not fit all. Having multiple and motivational forms that tie to your e-mail appeals and Web areas raises more money.

MYTH #6: "There is a 'best day' to get e-mail responses."

Reality:

* A study of 4,000 organizations and 2.7 billion e-mails revealed no "best day."

* Friday got high open rates; Sunday got high click-throughs--but it kept shifting.

MYTH #7: "Good content helps optimize search results for your Web site."

Reality:

* That's not a total myth--but good links to your Web site matter more to Google, et al.

* Links from big and popular sites, including blogs, really drive search results for your site.
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Title Annotation:Conference Coverage ...
Author:Nobles, Marla E.
Publication:The Non-profit Times
Date:Oct 15, 2006
Words:1168
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