I have been a fan of Amy Eisenstein’s blog for a while, so when she offered me an advance copy of hernew book I jumped at the chance.
Having been a one-woman development department at a small, community-based nonprofit organization earlier in my career, I understand the challenges faced by small shops, especially when it comes to major gift solicitation.
I had no formal fundraising training when I took my first job as a director of development – and I really wish that this book had been around to guide me!
In her book, Major Gift Fundraising for Small Shops, Amy’s goal is to encourage nonprofits, small ones especially, to “mine the diamonds hidden within their own database(s)” rather than spend a lot of time, money and effort searching for new donors and succumbing to “shiny new object” syndrome.
In the book, she covers:
Why you can’t rely on grants, events and small donors alone
Why you don’t need sophisticated screening programs
Why just two hours a week is enough to get any nonprofit fundraiser started in major gift fundraising (but five hours is ideal to keep it going)
The reasons that people give, and how to adapt these to your specific organization
How to define a major gift for your organization
How to get your Board members to help
How to increase the amount of money you raise online
Ways to use your existing database to research major gift prospects
The nitty-gritty of the ask – who, when, where, how much
Planned giving strategies
What I like most is that the book is about the doing. How can a tiny nonprofit get a major gifts program up and running – and thriving – in just five hours a week?
Amy shows you how.
Many fundraising books spend a lot of time on the importance of fundraising. Amy’s book jumps right into the action steps that nonprofits can take today to build and sustain a major gifts program.
Hamster Wheel Syndrome
While the book does not claim that nonprofits need to stop all other cultivation efforts, it wisely points out that many nonprofit professionals prioritize their time unwisely, stressing out over keeping up with the trends and throwing hours away on events and grants.
Amy does not claim that any of this is going to be easy, either. Success in major gifts fundraising certainly takes a village, and silos need to be broken down and entire organizational cultures changed for this to work.
Telling A Great Story
Storytelling is a vital device in all fundraising efforts. People give when they connect with an organization.
The goal of all your nonprofit fundraising and communication campaigns should be to elicit strong emotions – that will make people give to your cause, and on social media channels, that will make people share your post or tweet.
Stewardship & Social Media
How many small nonprofits have a formal acknowledgement protocol, for gifts of any size?
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve given a donation and have not even received a thank you email or note of appreciation? It happens all too frequently.
Donor stewardship does not mean just sending a thank you note and then contacting the donor again the next time you need money. No. you need to tell donors how the gifts made an impact and continue to build the relationship with them.
That’s where social media can be a huge help. Social media is a big piece of the donor communication and cultivation puzzle.
I am glad Amy covered this topic in her book, because too often fundraising experts are quick to dismiss social media as a distraction from the real work of fundraising.
Using social media channels effectively has a significant impact on the cultivation of donors, which will hopefully lead to major gifts down the road. Amy emphasizes what I have always said, that online channels like email marketing and social media are tools in your toolbox – they themselves do not a fundraising strategy make.
It’s Not About You
It’s not about your organization, how long you’ve been around and how great you are. Fundraising is all about your donor – the impact they have made, are making or can make with their gifts.
The book provides a great example of how to reword donor communications:
Instead of: “This year, we helped 150 children succeed in school through our after-school programs.” Write this: “This year, you helped 150 children succeed in school, thanks to your generous support of our after-school program.”
At the end of the day, fundraising is all about building relationships. The donor must know who you are, trust your organization, understand the impact of the gift – when the stars align, major gift success is imminent. Amy sums it up best:
“Major gift fundraising isn’t about ‘twisting arms’ or shaking cans. It’s about finding people who share your organization’s passion and inviting them to become part of the solution to the problems you’re addressing.”
Disclaimer: I did not receive any monetary or other compensation to review this book, but Amy has been nice enough to enter me into a raffle for a chance to win a donation of $350 to my favorite charity. If I win I will announce the charity beneficiary on my Facebook Page.