Major Gifts and Campaigns

How You Can Major in Major Gifts

The more prospective donors with whom you spend time, the more dollars you will raise.

It sounds simplistic. But it’s an often overlooked fundraising fact of life.

Let’s imagine that a development professional meets with X prospective donors during a year—or during the duration of a campaign—and raises Y number of dollars. Now, let’s envision another scenario over that same time in which that same development professional is given in-office support, relieved of other duties that often are distractions from front-line fundraising, and uses connectors and something called a stage-gate process.

Now that gift officer has more time for face-to-face donor work. Let’s do the math. Assume an average gift of $50,000 and $600,000 (Z) raised. Assume instead of four major gift calls per week, the gift officer now has the time to meet with five prospective donors. The result = X times 1.25. If Z was $600,000, the result in additional donations will average $120,000. What if each gift officer now has the time to meet with an average of seven prospective donors per week? The multiplier would be Y times 1.4 or $840,000 in total gifts.

The reality is, with the right processes and support, many gift officers can double or more their number of donor-facing meetings. And think of what that means to the top line! Instinctively, we’ve know this for a long time. We even have a way we’ve institutionalized this strategy.

We call it “campaign.”

Campaign is just another word for Focus

Campaigns come in many shapes and sizes. Essentially, however the core of any successful and sizeable campaign is intense focus on major gifts. Savvy campaign planning involves finding at least 20-percent of goal in one or more lead gifts and reaching the 60-percent mark with large gifts from the second and third level of the pyramid. Then it’s staff up and recruit volunteers for an all-hands-on-deck intense effort to reach goal through face-to-face meetings with the remaining prospects. Everything is about the campaign during a successful campaign.

Unfortunately, too often afterwards, it’s back to business as usual.

A lean six sigma-based performance improvement initiative is the best possible way to get a fundraising team ready for a stretch campaign goal. But it’s also the best way to simply—and continuously— increase year-over-year the amount your team raises. Better yet, the combination of  a performance improvement initiative followed by a campaign and then followed by a continuing improvement program gives you the best of both worlds.

What is FPI?

Fundraising Performance Improvement (FPI) is a potent approach to fundraising that moves board members, staff, physicians and key volunteers along a clearly charted course, with reinforcing measurements at critical stages. It is just beginning to make itself known in the world of development.

The performance improvement principles of Toyota’s Lean Manufacturing System and GE’s Six Sigma translate beautifully and powerfully into the fundraising setting. A Lean organization cuts waste and increases value for customers by creating an efficient flow and reduced cycle times. And Six Sigma helps propel fundraising success through a disciplined, data-driven approach. When you combine these methodologies, you make the best use of staff and volunteer resources.

For development professionals, one key component is how Lean Six Sigma concentrates on and accelerates major gifts, leveraging a staff’s top resources for the greatest potential gain. The exponentially greater power of performance improvement over conventional fundraising methods was proved dramatically when one of our clients raised nearly 90 percent of its $100 million campaign goal through major gifts – and hit its goal 15 months ahead of schedule. The client did so with an expense-to-revenue ratio well below 20 percent.

Performance improvement is not a new idea. Business is widely using Lean Six Sigma tools – which include process engineering, work flow redesign and cycle-time metrics – to improve quality, reduce costs and increase customer satisfaction. But it is relative a newcomer to the not-for-profit world and fundraising.