Are You Mis-Applying Membership Tactics to Your Major Giving Program?

donor cultivation and stewardship, Major Giving, Gift Clubs

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In public media individual giving, membership is king. It’s where we’ve had the most success. In fact, we’re kind of famous among nonprofits for how good we are at getting large numbers of donors to give small amounts. And that is something to be proud of.

If you work in public media major giving, you also know that our successes in membership can sometimes affect how we think about other areas of giving. 

Perhaps you’ve experienced one or more of the following:

  • Donors move into a major giving portfolio based only on a gift level instead of on a qualifying process.
  • There is a significant percentage of donors in your portfolio whom you don’t know well at all.
  • You don’t have a plan for each donor in your portfolio.
  • Your organization does not have projects defined that can be matched to donor interests.

Nearly all public media organizations are fluent in membership. But when public media fundraisers take the tactics that made membership wildly successful and mis-apply them to major giving, it results in low major giving revenue and frustrated major giving officers.

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Strategies to Generate Major Donor Thank-Yous When Times Are Hard

donor cultivation and stewardship, Major Giving, Gift Clubs, COVID-19

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As the country navigates the economic effects of massive unemployment, the health crisis of the coronavirus pandemic, and calls for change due to systematic inequality, the public media system continues its essential public service for audiences and donors who are affected by this complex and historic moment.

Donors have been extraordinarily generous since the beginning of the pandemic response in March and there are no signs of that slowing down. Organizations are seeing gift-club ($1000 - $5000) donors give earlier and bigger gifts than expected and we are having more substantial conversations with major gift prospects in cultivation.  

This is all wonderful news. Where we have started to let donors down is in the back-end process now that we are no longer working collaboratively in an office environment. Many organizations struggle to send timely and personal thank-you letters to donors under normal circumstances. The pressures of all these joint crises together have made that process break down even further. 

There seem to be three main reasons that this type of stewardship has stumbled. 

  1. Gift officers are extra busy and all aspects of their work is harder during lockdowns.
  2. It’s easy to feel stuck creatively and not know what to say.
  3. We may fear the donor won’t appreciate the note.
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Major Giving Strategies During COVID-19

Major Giving, Gift Clubs, COVID-19

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The World Health Organization has declared COVID-19 an official pandemic and the ways in which we go about work, life, and interacting with our donors will change in the coming weeks. Now is the time to create and/or assess plans for your major giving program so that your donors feel like partners and you're positioning yourself to maintain major giving revenue. 

Here are four ways that we at Greater Public recommend you move forward.

1. Communicate Now

This time period is absolutely critical. The sooner you communicate your station plans to your donors, the more they will feel like a trusted member of your team. If your portfolio is small enough to send a personal email to each of your donors, choose that option. If you have hundreds or thousands of members in your $1,200 gift club, a group message will suffice.

What should you say? 

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Create Stand-Out Gift Club Messaging Using This Exercise

Major Giving, Gift Clubs

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Many public media gift clubs suffer the problematic fate of being lumped too closely with either membership or major giving efforts. In truth, gift clubs serve as a crucial bridge connecting membership to major giving. These clubs must offer their members a distinct donor experience in order to draw them out of membership and into higher levels of giving, without overextending major gift staff who need to focus much of their efforts on highly individualized planning for each and every major gift prospect.

When you communicate with your gift club members, it will often be as a group. But your communication must feel personalized and specific, especially compared to what you send to membership. 

After you’ve planned all of the ways that you’ll thank and engage your gift club members throughout the year (communicating with them monthly, as a minimum), take some time to think through the real substance of these communications. Remember, you must consistently make a case for support to your gift club members that goes beyond the transactional to demonstrate:

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