Major Gifts and a $260,000 Online Donation

Guest post by Bill Connors, author of Fundraising with The Raiser’s Edge: A Non-Technical Guide. >> Join his free webinar on 4/17/12 @ 2pm ET – Making a major impact with your major gifts program.

Major Giving OnlineLarger and larger gifts are being given online.

In fact, Blackbaud’s 2011 Online Giving Report, noted that the largest online gift in 2011 was $260,000!  The report further noted, “87% of the nonprofits in this analysis had at least one online gift of $1,000 or more during 2011.”

The question for me is, “Is this major gifts fundraising?”  Or is this the giving of major gifts online?

Many people and organizations define a “major gift” based on some minimum gift amount.  I hear $1,000 used most frequently.  However, there is a very important distinction between a “major gift” and “major gift fundraising,” especially if you are defining “major gift” by a dollar amount.

For example, does your organization take any $1,000+ gift that comes in the door and code it a “major gift”?  I would suggest that is not only poor database coding but it’s not major gifts fundraising.

Of course, the internet and our websites are important.  I really doubt there is any debate about that today.  But I would suggest what I think are two important points:

It’s an Offline Process

Major gifts fundraising, the process of cultivating and soliciting a “stop-and-think” gift, is primarily an offline process.

True major gifts fundraising, regardless of the gift amount result, is about personal, strategic, relational fundraising—onsite visits, tours, meetings, introductions, conversations, asks, and similar “real-time” interactions.  This is the heart of the ever-popular “moves management” method of major gifts fundraising:   “Moves”—actions, interactions—with our constituents, primarily consisting of “foreground” moves that involve representatives of our organizations meeting with our prospects to inform, engage, and inspire them so they are led to make a truly major gift.

Online Support is Needed

Online support, however, is becoming increasingly important to the major gifts process.  I see this in three areas:

  1. For what are often referred to as “background” moves in “moves management,” these less-personal interactions that contribute to the education, engagement and inspiration of major gift prospects—e-newsletters and their links, online advocacy requests, event invitations and registrations, and the other reasons we have to direct our prospects to our online resources.
  2. For information sought by our major gifts prospects.  The research repeatedly shows that constituent age has little bearing anymore for online usage and further shows that higher income constituents—our major gifts prospects—are most likely to be online and take advantage of information available on the internet.  Does your website provide the financial, program, fundraising, administrative, and other information that a major gift prospect is likely to seek out before making a significant gift?
  3. For making the actual gift.  Whether for air mileage points or simply for convenience, many donors making truly major gifts will just find it more convenient to make that gift online.  Certainly not all but, as the research indicates, definitely many.

Two Questions for You

  1. Do your offline systems, both your database and your office’s practices, support a good major gifts fundraising methodology?  Not just count gifts bigger than a certain dollar amount, but do they reflect and support a “major gifts methodology,” whether “Moves Management” or some other, to properly guide your staff through the important contact management and relationship tracking that good major gifts fundraising involves?
  2. Do your online systems support the needs of major gifts fundraising?  Do you make it easy for major gifts prospects to see and find the information that will educate, engage, and inspire them?  Do you make it easy for them to find the giving page?  In fact, does that page allow them to make a gift of a very large size, or does it only offer specific amounts and encourage relatively small gifts?

I’m firmly convinced that major gifts fundraising, in its true meaning, still has to be done face to face.

But in 2012, as our major donors and prospects give more online, our online presence needs to support our offline major gifts fundraising efforts.

>> Join us on 4/17/12 @ 2pm ET for a FREE webinar on Making a major impact with a major gifts program.