Major Gifts

Three major donor appeals & thank you's to learn from

The Clairification blog is hosting October's nonprofit blog carnival. This month the theme is major donors and I want to share with you one of my favourite SOFII exhibits, an newspaper ad for recruiting major donors from Belgium and a great major donor thank you piece.

Whatever the state of your major donor programme, I am confident you can pick up some ideas and inspiration from these three examples of great fundraising.

1: The Bruce Barton 100% response major donor letter

I love the quality of writing in this letter, it is one of my favourite SOFII exhibits. The letter was mailed to just 24 donors in 1925. It acheived a 100 per cent response rate and is a classic in direct response copywriting. It works for many reasons.

  • It uses a range of emotions.
  • It tells a great story.
  • It comes from a respected individual, who has also put their money where their mouth is.
  • It uses lots of behavioural economic techniques.

Reading the letter today, I want to send money to this cause!

How could you say no to this proposition?

This is my proposition to you. Let me pick out ten boys, who are as sure blooded Americans as your own sons,and just as deserving of a chance.

Let me send you their names and tell you in confidence, for we don’t want to hurt their pride, where they come from and what they hope to do with their lives. Let me report to you on their
progress three times a year.

You write me, using the enclosed envelope, that, if and when I get my other twenty three men, you will send President Hutchins your check for $1,000. If you will do this I’ll promise you the best time you have ever bought for a thousand dollars.

2. The major donor newspaper ad to six donors

I recently heard about this newspaper ad in Belgium, which was aimed at six people who had the potential to make a major gift to a children's charity. It was a brave move that paid off, but it is probably only something that can be done once.
Watch the video and let me know what you think.
A big thank you to Lisa Clavering for sending me a link to the creative for this.
3. Thanking major donors - NSPCC's little book of change

Another SOFII exhibit. The NSPCC produced 200 hardcopies of this handmade book of stories, poems, drawings and letters from children who had benefited from their services.
Much more engaging than a bunch of dry statistics in an annual report, this is something memorable that you would show to other people and share.
A soft copy version was also produced for volunteers and other donors and I am sure everyone who received it felt a warm glow of satisfaction (and shed a few tears also) when they read about the difference they made.
Little book of change

Fundraising mistakes and promoting giving: lessons from City Philanthropy

This is the second part of my interview with Cheryl Chapman of City Philanthropy. You can read part 1 here. The interview was to mark the launch of City Philanthropy - A Wealth of Giving.

Thanks to funding from the City of London Corporation’s charity City Bridge Trust the venture will run for three years and promote London as a centre for global philanthropy, part of the Lord Mayor of the City of London Roger Gifford’s aim too, it also aims to embed a culture of effective philanthropy in the City among young professionals.

What mistakes do you see fundraisers making?

Unfortunately I still hear horror stories from donors and their advisors about their experiences with fundraisers and charities.

Giving should be a joy, but sadly this isn’t always the case.

I recently spoke to an advisor whose client was interested in making a £500,000 donation to a particular charity. She wrote to the CEO of the charity to say this but didn’t hear back. Four weeks later she finally got a response by which time the donation was lost forever. This is not an isolated case.

The inability for fundraisers or charities to thank donors is also surprisingly common.  Some don’t even bother and only re-contact a donor when they make another appeal for funds. It’s quite astounding that such a basic thing as ‘thanks’ is executed so poorly.

Many philanthropists describe the “joy of giving” to projects. Yet, the inability of fundraisers to thank donors genuinely and authentically can mean the abrupt end of what could have been a beautiful relationship.

Fundraisers often don’t talk in the same language as philanthropists and that can be a missed opportunity. For example, people from the City live in a world of risk and return,  and are more likely to see giving as an investment than someone who is making a grant from a long standing, traditional, family trust perhaps. Fundraisers need to tailor their approach accordingly.

In my experience, many donors don’t give big first time round. They take baby steps. See how it goes with a charity and then if they like what they see they give more next time round. So fundraisers need to look beyond the size of a first gift to the potential of the long-term donor relationship. They should take more of an investment rather than a sales approach to fundraising.

What more do we need to do to promote giving?

A lot is being done and we are in fact already one of the most generous nations in the world. However we lag behind the US in giving and how we talk and celebrate our philanthropy. Of course culturally and historically we are very different from the US in terms of what the State is expected to provide, and what should be funded privately. However, I still think there are lessons to be learned.

Thomas Hughes-Hallet, who has just won a Beacon Award as a Philanthropy Advocate is one of the few UK philanthropists who will openly stand up and say how much he gives. We could do with more people talking about their giving so it becomes more mainstream.

Philanthropy really should come out of the closet and we should be proud of our tradition of philanthropy.

Campaigns such as Trevor Pears’ Give More  and our own City Philanthropy – A Wealth of Opportunity is helping that happen by giving people the chance to talk about their giving online. I am particularly optimistic that this will change as young philanthropists, who give together and at a lower level, are happy to be vocal about giving.

And initiatives like the Beacon Awards  are about celebrating philanthropy and recognising the people who are helping to change the world. Hopefully in the coming years we will see more and more people talking openly about their giving.

Catching them young: how to engage and nurture young philanthropists

I recently had the pleasure of chatting to Cheryl Chapman of City Philanthropy  about this new venture to promote philanthropy in the City of London. Thanks to funding from the City of London Corporation’s charity City Bridge Trust the venture will run for three years and promote London as a centre for global philanthropy, part of the Lord Mayor of the City of London Roger Gifford’s aim too, it also aims to embed a culture of effective philanthropy in the City among young professionals.

Over the next two posts I’ll share some of the Cheryl’s insights on fundraising and philanthropy, starting with a closer look at young philanthropists.

How do today’s City philanthropists differ from earlier generations?

Over the last few years we’ve seen a big shift in how the younger generation of City workers approach philanthropy. Increasingly people want to start giving whilst they are still working and not once they have retired.

This wish to embed philanthropy into their working lives is very exciting, but also poses a challenge, as charities need to adapt to fit into this new approach. People no longer want to just write a cheque and forget about it. 

So how should charities respond?

They need to understand how this new breed of donor operates and adjust their fundraising accordingly.

In my experience this wave of new philanthropists are looking for several things from their giving:

  • High touch – they want to be involved and engaged in the projects they give to. They want to give time and skills, as well as money. In some cases they want to be involved in the actual creation of the charitable project that they will then fund.
  • High impact – they want to know that the projects they are funding will have an impact and that they can track the results , They are used to seeing the results of investments and expect a similar investment relationship with their giving;
  • High leverage – they are looking to make the most of every pound they give through tax effective giving and matched funding.
  • Social networking – we are seeing a growing number of giving circles where young people socialise around giving. It is hard to meet people in the City with the pressure of work, and the constantly changing and commuting community. Philanthropy is proving an excellent reason for people to meet, socialise, work with each other and access new networks.

Overall, charities and fundraisers need to think afresh on how they pitch to these philanthropists. They need to commoditise differently, packaging up the charitable need into niche offers that they can really buy into. These young philanthropists are not spending megabucks but meaningful amounts of money so fundraisers should think about access points. They also want to give time and skills along with money which is quite a different proposition.

 In achieving a better and more fruitful understanding between donors and fundraisers there needs to be communication and  better listening. Major donor fundraising is a bespoke market and every major donor is different. A philanthropist’s choice of charities reflects very personal aspects of their personality, values, beliefs and individualism.

The best fundraisers help make giving a pleasure and create with philanthropists and not to or for them.

 Can you give me some examples of this in practice?

Certainly. We are seeing a trend for philanthropists working together and clubbing together to fund projects that they are interested in.

For example, the Funding Network  brings together donors aand invites charities to pitch for funds dragons den style. It is tailored specifically for a young City audience with events in exclusive settings around London. The Network makes giving social and members have a shared experience of donating. It also makes charities work hard for the money through the competitive pitching process

Another example is the recently formed Young Philanthropy Syndicate.  This is for people taking their first steps in giving. An individual identifies a cause that motivates them and gathers friends and colleagues to join the syndicate. They are then mentored by an experienced philanthropist, who matches the syndicate’s donation

Next time we will be discussing common mistakes fundraiser’s make and how we can do more to promote giving.

Should we name and shame millionaires who don't give?

UK Fundraising have a great summary of the 2011 Coutts million pound donor report (you can download the full report here) and it shows that the number of million pound gifts in the UK fell from 201 to 174 last year.

At the same time, one of the Freakonomics podcasts reports on Australian Dick Smith who has publicly vowed to name and shame rich people who don't give.

Would such an approach work in the UK and has Dick's direct approach had an effect?

Sadly, I think the answer is no to both questions.

While I admire Dick's enthusiasm and directness, I think issuing threats and trying to embarrass people to give is not a viable long term solution to get people to give more.

In Australia his approach has attracted critics and he has been accused of being a bully.

If I was advising Dick, then I'd tell him that he might have more success by trying to show people the benefits of donating and the satisfaction that philanthropy can bring. 

I'd get him to encourage people to go on shows like Secret Millionaire and for him to  offer a matching challenge to millionaires who've never given before.

Finally, a public pledge (like the one from Warren Buffet and Bill Gates) that he will give most of his wealth away, might inspire others to join him.

In the UK I'd like to see more people celebrating their giving and publicising their philanthropy, but sadly our natural reserve means that even great initiatives like the Beacon Fellowship don't seem to attract the publicity and attention they deserve.

Rather than endless white papers and talks of tweaking the tax system to incentivise giving, I would rather see people celebrate the emotional joy of giving and encouraging others to join them.

Categorising Major Donors and What Annoys Them About Fundraisers

I attended the Institute of Fundraising’s ‘Maximising Fundraising Potential for Long Term Results’ and 'Strategies for Supporter Retention’ half day conferences on Friday 25th September.

I’ve put together some notes and comments on my three favourite sessions and I’ll post them all in the next few days.

First up, Elizabeth Loudon from Prospero Partners presented some interesting research on major donors talking about fundraisers and what fundraisers don’t do.  The list is a bit of an embarrassment.

According to her research, in major donor’s opinion fundraisers don’t:

  • Listen
  • Report back
  • Say thank you
  • Take care of resources
  • Stop asking for money

 However, despite this they still tend to like us!

She also reminded us that fundraisers need to build relationships and not friendships with donors, as at some point you are going to have to ask for money and it can be hard to ask friends for money.

Elizabeth also provided a (basic) but useful framework for trying to classify major donors.  The framework helps understand their motivations and can help formulate strategies you can employ for engaging them.

Her four categories were:

  • Joiners: very sociable and affiliate themselves with a large number of organisations and don’t develop deep connections.
  • Saviours: give to try and save the world.  Respond well to emergencies.
  • Investors: people who want to see a social return on their gift.  Good reporting back to these donors is vital.
  • Dealers: people who might have non-philanthropic reasons for giving and look what is in it for them. Not necessarily bad as can open a lot of doors and have great contacts.

 A good session and you find some more useful downloads here.

Shhhh! Don't tell anyone - the rise in anonymous giving

The Chronicle of Philanthropy has in-depth report on major giving in the current climate and highlights a noticeable increase in the number of anonymous large gifts.

A great article for all major donor fundraisers as it gives some good examples of why people give major gifts, their underlying motivations and how they can change over time.

Take this quote for example:

 "He (Robert Sharpe Jnr, Fundraising Consultant) says he is aware of a woman who pledged $1-million in exchange for an arts center naming part of its facility in her honor. The woman recently called to reassure the group that the cash was still on the way, but she asked that her name be removed and that the gift be considered anonymous. Slapping her name on something by making a large gift would be “unseemly and gauche,” she explained, at a time when many people are suffering."

The increase in anonymous gifts is also put down to a desire to avoid further requests for support from other non-profits.

Should millionaires be pressured to give?

An interesting interview in the Sunday Times with Dame Stephanie Shirley. Dame Stephanie has recently been appointed by Gordon Brown to be a 'philanthropy ambassador' (no I hadn't heard either...) It's an interesting article, with some good insight into one of Britain's biggest donors.

The part that made me think was this quote: "Shirley, 75, who made a fortune in information technology, criticised those among Britain's wealthiest who refused to give anything at all to charity. "We have to take the concept of philanthropy far, far wider," said Shirley, who plans to target everyone from the super-rich to schoolchildren. "My principle is that philanthropy is pleasure and it should be part of everybody's life." Shirley said she was already approaching financial advisers to apply pressure to those rich people who give "trivial amounts" or "a lot of high net worth people who don't give at all".

Should the wealthy be pressurised into giving or would it actually do more harm than good? I think if I was a multi-millionaire i'd feel slightly patronised and annoyed by someone telling me I should give more. Surely a far better way is to use your influence to demonstrate to other wealthy individuals the joy of giving and the benefits it brings to society .

You could make better use of psychological 'nudges' to persuade millionaires that they too should 'give something back'. Only when all these options fail should guilt, pressure and other tactics be employed.

Agree or disagree?

Should millionaires be compelled to give a certain percentage of their income away to charity every year?