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How can we ensure the success of our major gifts program in this period of physical distancing?

Teisha Archer,
02 April 2020

Major gifts fundraising specialist Teisha Archer looks at the ways that major gift fundraisers can adapt and innovate in a time of uncertainty and physical distancing.

Most of us as major gift fundraisers are working from home. Due to physical distancing requirements (I refuse to use the term social isolation, as we should be advocating to stay socially connected in a virtual sense), we can’t meet with our prospects and donors over coffee or lunch to ask for their support. We won’t bump into them at an event. The fundamental platform of successful major gift fundraising, human contact, has been compromised.

But there is a way forward. Your cause is still valid, in fact for some maybe more valid than ever. And there are still people of means across Australia and the world who want to see you succeed in your vision and mission.

Right now, more than in the past few years, many of us have time. So how do we use this time constructively to not only ensure the ongoing viability of our fundraising programs and organisations, but perhaps even come out of this period stronger than ever.

Here are my three tips:

PLAN

What a time to take a look at your fundraising strategy and consider if it is current, appropriate and successful. Take a critical eye to it and consider what the future holds for your organisation. Rarely as fundraisers do we really get the time to plan and strategise our major gift program and approaches in the detail that we would like to. Right now many of us have this opportunity.

Use your time to undertake that prospect research that you never get around to. Delve into your CRM and see who is giving at what level, and prioritise and plan your approaches. Take the time to get to know your prospects’ and donors’ giving patterns and passions.

It is also a great time to be talking to your board and executive about who they know and how they can open doors for you to new and identified prospects either virtually now or physically later.

TRAIN

Perhaps now you can finally get the board and executive together for that major gift approach and ask training you have had on the agenda. A virtual training session where you show with full transparency how you identify, engage, cultivate, ask and steward a donor will ensure that your board and executive feel comfortable with face-to-face approaches and asks whether online or in-person.

While we are working from home, or taking leave, it is a great time to consider how you can personally and professionally develop to support your career.

Right now there is a myriad of online courses available in fundraising, leadership, social impact and more that can support the development of people working in major gift fundraising. In fact, many are even being offered for free at this time. A quick Google search, or a look at LinkedIn, will lead you to some great opportunities.

In addition to this, if you are struggling with finding the direction you need to go, perhaps consider a coach or mentor who you can bounce ideas off, brainstorm with or vent to. Having a second opinion from someone who knows your industry can be invaluable to keeping things on track and not being disheartened by the difficulties we will all face over the coming months.

ABOVE ALL, KEEP GOING

As I said above, your cause is still important. It is still needed. And, there are still people of means who want to help you succeed. So don’t stop fundraising.

What you need to do now is consider your “new normal”. We know the situation is unlikely to change over the coming three to six months, if not longer, so we need to adapt and innovate. Right now you can’t meet your prospect over a coffee or lunch, but you can still engage with them.

Will your “new normal” include online video conferences where you share your video, present your proposal and discuss their support?

Will you create a package that you send virtually or physically to the prospect to consider with a follow-up phone call or video conference?

Will you stick to the tried and true or will you do something never seen before?

However you push forward, forward you must go. The world has changed, and so must we as fundraisers and social impact organisations. But change is not all bad. In fact, by using your time well, you and your organisation may come out of this period with the strategy, knowledge and connections you need to be more successful than ever.

Stay happy and healthy.

TOP THREE WAYS TO USE YOUR TIME

1. Plan, strategise, plan – Rarely as fundraisers do we get the time to plan and strategise in the detail we would like. Use time working remotely to review your strategies, CRM and approaches and delve into some detailed prospect research.

2. Train yourself and your executive – Take this time to undertake some personal and professional development for your, your board and executive. Get to know your industry better and see who is doing what really well.

3. Keep fundraising – Do not stop asking for support. Your cause is still valid, and there are still people of means out there who want to see you succeed. Find your “new normal” for major gift fundraising and get into it.

Teisha Archer is an experienced major gifts and capital campaigns fundraising specialist member of The Xfactor Collective, and provides strategic consulting and coaching support to organisation leaders.

 Need help in your organisation? We run the sector’s first Specialist triage support service (our CONCIERGE) where we can help you find support from a range of services and solutions.

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