In his book From Good to Great, Jim Collins talks about getting the right people on the bus and then finding them the right seat. As development professionals, how do we identify the right people? More importantly, how do we identify the donor that has the capacity and propensity to make a transformative gift?

To ensure that you aren’t overlooking your next million dollar donor, it’s important to follow these fundamental guidelines. First, use best practices to develop prospect lists but don’t let convention overtake the creative process. In his book How to Get Million Dollar Gifts, Robert Hartsook suggests that every institution has people who do not appear to fit in. In order to identify these promising prospects, Hartsook suggests that instead of following well-worn fundraising formats, a development professional must learn to view a situation from a fresh perspective.

Second, think beyond outright gifts and remember that most high net worth individuals invest about 20 % of their income annually. Reaching these potential donors will require that you present innovative planned giving opportunities to maximize your organization’s potential of being the beneficiary of their investments. According to noted fundraiser David R. Dunlop, “ultimate gifts encompass more than just money. They are estate, intellectual, connections, social –the full and complete expression of one’s willingness to contribute.” Many organizations receive their largest major gifts through bequests. It is not uncommon for a donor who supported a nonprofit for years with smaller gifts to make a larger gift in her will or estate plan. Encourage this kind of long-term giving relationship through the positive stewardship of the donor’s gifts over many years.

Finally, consider donors who are not on everyone else’s list. Your best opportunity will come from your own prospects, not someone else’s. Look critically at your list before you widen the net. In particular think about what makes donors give more: a new cause about which they feel passionate (93%), increased personal net worth (66%) and increased tax incentives (66%). Use these motivators to develop a targeted approach.

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The generous will prosper: those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.
(Proverbs 11:25)

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