Here’s a timely tip: maximize this revenue stream for your association or medical society
Are you leaving money on the table?
Oh, wait – that question needs some context. I’m not talking about restaurant tipping (you know, that time-honored practice wherein people choose to give something extra above what’s expected).
No, I’m talking about securing philanthropic major gifts for your organization (you know, that other time-honored practice wherein people choose to give something extra above what’s expected).
Sure, members of our associations and professional societies pay dues to receive benefits from our organizations. But increasing numbers of them are going farther, by making major gifts that support and elevate their organization’s mission. If your organization isn’t maximizing such revenues, you’re not only leaving money on the table, but missing a valuable opportunity to increase member engagement.
Are major gifts worth the effort?
The answer is a flat-out “yes.” There’s a commonly held misperception that most charitable giving comes from corporations and foundations. In fact, the opposite is true. According to Giving USA, 86 percent of the $485 billion given in 2021 to US nonprofits came from individuals, bequests, family foundations and donor advised funds. Foundation grants added 10 percent and corporations rounded out the final 4 percent.
That balance pretty much reveals where your real opportunities lie.
Major gifts programs pay off in some very attractive ways:
Increased financial stability. A mature major gifts program can produce 70-80% of all philanthropic revenue, helping to ensure long-term financial stability. By focusing effort on major gifts, your organization can reduce its reliance on less predictable sources of funding (like event participation and giving from foundations and corporations).
Stronger relationships with members. A major gifts program builds long-term relationships with its most committed supporters.
Increased program impact. More resources will allow your organization to expand its programs and services to create greater impact. Major gifts can support new initiatives, research, advocacy efforts, and other strategic priorities that might never happen without limited funding.
Enhanced reputation. A major gifts program can enhance your organization’s reputation; a strong base of dedicated supporters is a great “third party endorsement” that can influence other external stakeholders.
Stronger culture of philanthropy. Donors who give large gifts can change the equation for all donors. Properly communicated, a major donor’s high-profile example can cause other rank and file members to stop and consider their own commitment and aspirations. When it comes to copycat giving, a rising tide lifts all boats.
Consider the facts of life
If this all sounds great, there are some major gift facts-of-life to consider. Major gift request letters seldom work – after all, most of these donors are dipping into their assets to give, not just dashing off a check. Strong engagement is key, so you’ll have to invest in building personal relationships – a process that can take 3-18 months. Also, major donors tend to fund compelling programs and projects rather than general operations, so you’ll have to identify those opportunities and build your case.
The good news is that, with proper stewardship, major donors become more than transactional, annual fund givers. Properly stewarded, they will tend to give again and again, with a lifetime of impact on your organization.
Consultants in Association Philanthropy can help your association, association foundation or medical society establish or enhance a members major gifts program. See the steps below and visit our website https://associationphilanthropy.com/ or contact Joe Skvara (Joe@associationphilanthropy.com; 708-990-1325) for a no-obligation 30-minute consultation.
How to start a major gift program
- Commit your entire organization to a members major gifts program
- Determine your priority giving opportunities and their budgets
- Determine minimum/other levels for major gifts contributions
- Set a preliminary philanthropic goal and initial timetable
- Develop a compelling case for support for each of your program/project giving opportunities
- Identify your major gifts prospects — discover if you have enough prospects in your donor base, even for a modest start:
- Top $1,000+ annual donors for the past 3-5 years (not gov’t)
- Top 25 donors (cumulative amount) for all time (not gov’t)
- Loyal donors who have given any amount every year for the past 5-10 years
- Loyal conference and program event participants for the past 5-10 years
- Consider conducting an electronic wealth screening of your members
- Recruit a major gifts committee, with a formal charge and job description
- Create a major gifts plan; staff and committee should share their plan with your development committee, board, and select major gifts donor prospects.