At their core, both associations and foundations are in the “relationship business” — both thrive on the engagement of individuals: members, volunteers, and representatives of vendors and corporations. Because of this shared goal, the infrastructure needed by a foundation can often dovetail seamlessly with that needed by the association.
Typically, some sort of annual fund appeal (supported by regular communications about foundation programs) serves as the point of entry for donors. While this sometimes mail/email-intensive channel can be expensive in terms of the cost per dollar raised, annual fund loyalty feeds the pipeline for potentially far more cost-effective major and planned giving solicitations. That’s especially true when associations submit their membership and donor roles for electronic wealth screening. This relatively new process can pinpoint not only individual donors’ philanthropic capacity but their propensity to give as well, allowing for very sophisticated targeting of fundraising efforts.
Major gift solicitations hinge on strong personal relationships, which is why association foundations increasingly employ full-time professional fundraisers who can both advance relationships and guide the supporting efforts of board members. These staffers frequently report to the association CEO, but sometimes to the foundation board itself; there are advantages and disadvantages to both models.
A caution: while infrastructure can be built relatively quickly, the payoff takes patience. Relationships take time to develop into major and estate gifts, but the wait is definitely worth the ROI – another reason to start now.