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Ignore the rich list if you want to grow your major donor fundraising

I’m in the Board of trustees meeting for a regional charity, I’m the Fundraising Director. We’ve got a gap to reach our income target for the year. After discussing the plan to close the gap, one trustee mentions that Antonio Banderas has recently moved into the area. This seems to be changing the subject and I have to coax him to understand his comment.  “Well, wouldn’t Mr Banderas be able to donate a large sum to the charity because he is incredibly wealthy after all?” !!

Have you got your eye on those millionaires on the Sunday Times Rich List? It’s published annually in Spring & the 2021 list is imminent (or may be out by the time you read this.) There are levels of wealth that are almost unimaginable and there are also a lot of fundraisers, Chief Executives and trustees for whom it becomes a huge distraction. If your charity is serious about its major donor fundraising please ignore it.

Why? Well there are three things your charity needs to bear in mind when deciding who to try and build a relationship with, to hopefully secure a major gift. We can take Antonio as an example here:

  1. You need a LINK to the person
    Who can introduce you to this person, persuade them to come to an event, or to have coffee with the charity Chief Executive or Chair? Some of your trustees may know high-net-worth individuals. If you identify an existing or past supporter as being high-net-worth, you may well have contact details and permission – you can then start communicating with them in a different way.
    Did anyone at my charity know Mr Banderas?  Unfortunately not. We didn’t know his agent either. A letter from our Chairman, however wonderfully worded, would have wasted time and resource.
  1. They must have an INTEREST in your type of cause or charity
    Are you a small local community charity, but this individual seems to fund wildly different projects internationally? Or is this person passionate about climate change, and you think your environmental work could be right up her street. All causes are worthy. Put yourself in the philanthropist’s shoes; they’ll follow their passions and interests; you should too.
    Mr Banderas? He hadn’t funded any similar causes and showed little interest in the local community.
  1. The ABILITY to give
    With the Rich List, this is the easy part. The logic goes that they are rich, so therefore they could easily give a large gift to the charity. £10,000 or £100,000 or £1million – it wouldn’t be much for them would it? In major donor fundraising we should focus on building really personal, tailored relationships with those who have got wealth. Those on the Rich List have wealth. Mr Banderas? A big tick for this one

The logic goes that they are rich, so therefore they could easily give a large gift to our charity. £10,000 or £100,000 or £1million – it wouldn’t be much for them would it?

However, without a link to them, without them having an interest, you’ll be wasting precious charity resource at a time when you and your teams are stretched! This is before taking into consideration that philanthropists are approached by hundreds of charities per year with those on the Rich List are likely approached by thousands.

Quite simply – don’t become distracted by the list. Please don’t ask your team to follow up with people on the Rich List, and if you know all of this as a fundraiser, make sure you’re not distracted and are armed with an assertive response to why you won’t be focusing on it.

So where are the wealthy donors for your cause?

This is one of the areas we cover in the Summit Major donor fundraising from scratch programme.

Whatever size your organisation is, we work together to focus on how you can build relationships with those individuals who are most likely to give a large gift.

Whether you are getting some major donor gifts already but want a more proactive major donor programme, or whether you’re setting one up for the first time, this approach works!  You will raise more large gifts!

You can get in touch at louise@summitfundraising.co.uk.

Photo of Louise, charity fundraising consultant

Louise Morris is Founder of Summit Fundraising. She is a major donor fundraising specialist and has worked with over 100 charities helping them raise large gifts.

This was posted on 12 May 2021.

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