What Should I Expect From My Donors?

By Erik Rogers, Chief Strategist Major Gift Services

When you’re planning for the next fiscal year, how do you go about making budget decisions, as well as proactively providing resources for your officers? I highly recommend setting ‘gift goals’ before entering the new year.

Gift goals are a very important tool for two reasons:

First, by asking your officers to set goals for each donor on their portfolio, it establishes accountability with the officer for the individual donor relationships, it honors the officer by asking for their input, and also allows for an intentional conversation to occur if your annual goal and their projections are out of balance. This clarity also helps maintain a healthy focus on your return on investment.

Secondly, gift goals provide the executive staff with some insights into the direction a portfolio is likely to trend for the year. If projections indicate a profitable year, then encourage the officer to achieve their goals and objectives, and plan for the expansion of your ministry. If projections suggest a lean year, have a conversation with the officer to determine if additional resources are needed to increase the financial forecast.

Let’s talk about it in context of donor stage classifications.

• Identification

During this stage of donor classification, you may only have a name and an address and are in the process of qualifying them as a major donor. So, if you know nothing about them, how can you be expected to give a target goal amount that’s accurate?

In this case, you would utilize the donor’s gift history, and seek to replicate that gift history in the coming year.

• Cultivation

You’ve qualified your donor but you still need to get to know their heart for your ministry. As we know through decades of donor cultivation, donors naturally increase their support to the organization if they have a personal connection with the organization and staff.

For planning purposes, it is appropriate to expect a gift in the coming year that is twice the size of the previous gift, simply due to the officers relational investment.

• Solicitation

The sky is the limit! You now know how the donor aligns with your organization. You know their interest(s) in funding, you have done your homework to understand a gift range associated with their capacity, and you’ve likely gained permission to ask them for a specific gift.

At this point the officer should enter the custom amount aligned with the donor’s interests. Typically, you can expect to attain a gift that’s oftentimes 2-10 times the amount they gave in the previous year.

• Stewardship

It’s during this stage that you want to err on a conservative target goal. Because the donor has recently increased their support substantially, the officer must be conscious of the fact the donor may or may not have an inclination to increase support once more.

So, because of the relationship you’re building and the ways in which you’re communicating the impact of their gift, oftentimes you should plan for their next gift to be the same size, or even less the next year. The officer should know their donor best and guide the gift goal accordingly.

Gift goals allow for intentional planning and effective strategy when it comes to donor relationships.

So, identify your gift goals today… because without proper aim, you’ll never hit the target!

For more tips on building a solid infrastructure for your organization around your major gift development program, be sure to check out my Dunham Institute Course.


More Insights from Dunham+Company: “Why You Need to Classify Your Donors”

Ready to take the next step? 
Dunham+Company is here to help your organization have more impact and establish deeper relationships with your donors and supporters. Contact Bethany Cranfield at 469-454-0100 to get more information.