Abandoning hope as a strategy: How to succeed in major gifts fundraising
Our Major Gifts Masterclass presenters Ann Badger and Clare Pullar on how to focus your efforts on evidence-based decision making and adopting the cultural change needed to secure big gifts.
Yikes! It’s 6pm and you are still writing your quarterly board report. You’re trying to squeeze something joyful out of progress since the last report.
It seems to be a career defining moment trying to demonstrate growth and confidence in your fundraising program but the graphs charting the last three years look flat.
And those tiresome fundraising events—which suck up your time and much of your resources—haven’t delivered the return promised by enthusiastic volunteers.
You’re stressed. You’re so busy responding to all the demands of a small company that it’s hard to focus on strategy.
It’s hard to focus on delivering the cultural change you know is needed secure the big gifts, which will make the difference.
You are doing your best to be responsive. You are passionate about the company and the arts in general because you know it enriches communities and makes them more whole.
Some of your more forthright board members have recommended ideas requiring resources you don’t have and, from your knowledge of philanthropic strategy, they are most unlikely to bring a return on investment.
Choose four or five aspirant companies by looking at type, size, turnover, history, brand, fundraising budget, engagement programs and philanthropic growth rates.
To boot, you find yourself looking longingly at other organisations. They seem to you to be doing so much better – bigger audiences, more out-there branding and profile, high profile board members and robust philanthropic communities supporting their big ideas and bold vision!
You need to abandon hope as your strategy and enter, instead, the world of analytics and evidence-based strategy.
Take some time, slow down. Less frenetic activity can lead to increased results.
Less activity means more board and leadership engagement, more research, less buffeting by well-meaning volunteers, more focused planning. You will be supported and strengthened by an evidence-based approach. That should be music to your ears.
Start by looking deeply into the ecosystem in which your organisation belongs.
That exercise will bring you insights into the programs that work best for your organisation and set benchmarks against which you can track progress.
Choose your four or five aspirant companies by looking at type, size, annual turnover, history, brand and presence, fundraising budget, engagement programs and philanthropic growth rates.
Which companies are most successful in attracting the philanthropy they deserve? How are they structured? What are their most effective programs?
Now you can take that knowledge and apply it to your organisation. Evaluate your programs, systems and management processes to achieve maximum efficiency and effectiveness.
The next steps will be:
- Assess the effectiveness of volunteer structures in supporting the best program to bring a good return on investment, in particular for the major gift program.
- Assess the willingness and level of engagement of your CEO and the leadership team to partner with you in deep engagement with these prospects.
- Determine your team’s core competencies, training needs and the resources required to accomplish the strategy’s goals and objectives; and set a reasonable compound annual growth rate (CAGR) based on the organisations chosen to benchmark against.
Once you know who you are and where you sit within your sector, you can begin to make evidence-based informed decisions and develop sound strategic plans regarding what program will bring the best return on investment for your organisation.
Less activity means more board and leadership engagement, more research, less buffeting by well-meaning volunteers, more focused planning.
The evidence is there that organisations with small budgets and limited staff enjoy considerable success when fundraising programs are focused heavily on major gifts, which we know typically account for over 90% of philanthropic support internationally in any sector.
Show your Board this approach and engage them on the strategy.
Your benchmarking study and internal analysis of your approach will lead to a higher level of effectiveness, increased philanthropic market share and, ultimately, maximised fundraising potential.
This strategy can become a game changer for your organisation!
Senior Consultants Ann Badger and Clare Pullar of award-winning international fundraising consultancy Marts & Lundy will present our Major Gifts Masterclasses, to be held in Perth, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide in May and June 2018. Visit our events page for all Creative Partnerships masterclasses and workshops.