Why do we miss the next big thing when it's already happening?

Howard Lake | 24 July 2008 | Blogs

How many years have we been talking about major donor fundraising being the next big thing? How many seminars have we attended? And yet for many it has seemed like an unattainable Holy Grail.
Recently, I was going through the latest Fundratios Report – something all good fundraisers should subscribe to – and I came across a really amazing statistic. Of the 28 charities who took part (isn’t it pathetic that only 28 charities care enough about their performance to participate?), the average growth in major donor income OVER THE LAST YEAR ALONE was 79%, with the upper quartile reporting growth of 232%. Over the last three years major donor income has grown by 322%. Just run that by me again: 322%. Wow!
No other source of income comes close to those figures. Major donor fundraising has come of age, and suddenly we hear very little about it – as if everything that there is to be said on the subject has been said. And yet I see many organisations undertaking major gift work in a poor, if not amateurish, way.
Let’s not do what we’ve done with every other big thing and kill it almost before we’ve found it. We need high quality training and support to ensure that this fundraising bubble doesn’t burst but becomes a key mainstay of income generation for the foreseeable future.
So what are the key things to get right?
1. Have a great visionary transformational programme that inspires and is absolutely central to the mission of the organisation. Work it through properly and thoroughly.
2. Research your donors and cultivate them carefully. Don’t waste their time.
3. If you decide to set up a Fundraising Board or Leadership Forum, make sure it’s absolutely clear what you want from them (e.g. we want each member to pledge to raise £1m over the next three years, either by personal gift, raising the money from contacts or running high profile events). Don’t invite anyone to join who isn’t committed to that goal. Make sure your Chair is up for the job.
4. Treat every major donor (prospect and donor) as an individual and give them the care and support they deserve.
5. Don’t do it on the cheap. Allocate enough resources so that your major donors will want to come back for more and love you for it.
Easy really! But let’s get it right. In these recessionary times, major donors will become more important rather than less. Let’s make sure we make that happen.