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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

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Strategies: How to Score Major Gifts
William T. Sturtevant on Developing and Implementing Cultivation and Solicitation

Jacqueline Beretta

June, 2006

Philanthropy – A Vibrant and Uniquely America Sector

William Sturtevant, Director of Trusts and Planned Giving at the University of Illinois Foundation reminded us that it is interesting to remember that philosophically speaking, philanthropy is very “American” as described by Alexis de Tocqueville, Frenchman and author of Democracy in America in the early 1800's. Through the Moves Management process, practical cultivation techniques can be explored hand in hand with identification and qualification of major gift projects.

What motivates donors?

In order of importance researchers have found that guilt and obligation is primary. The promotional appeal of the brochures that the organization circulates is of secondary importance. And tax considerations are of least importance. Not what you would think, right?

Theodore Levitt, the Edward W. Carter Professor of Business Administration, Emeritus at Harvard University, spoke of selling dreams – of making a compelling story with nostalgia and remembrance while telling who will benefit and what the outcomes of their generosity might be.

How do donors select organizations to support?

  • Belief in the mission of the organization – personal experience with us will involve our contributors with our mission and outcomes

  • Community involvement and civic pride – invest with us and we will accomplish a shared goal

  • Financial Stability - donors beware of giving to a sinking Titanic

  • Regard for staff and leadership – reflecting good management and strength

  • Regard for volunteer leadership - relationships and respect matter

  • Service on a board or committee – creating relationships through involvement

Why would they give?

Brandeis University studied a group of Jewish philanthropists who explained why they did give:

  • This group gave to organizations they felt closely connected with – possibly serving on the board

  • They gave because of deep commitments nurtured by involvement

  • They gave to foster meaningful involvement

  • They gave because they enjoyed interaction with the leadership and representatives

  • They gave if they experienced a connection to the beneficiaries of services

  • They gave because they felt a positive feedback from their stewardship

  • They gave when they felt a positive impression from the solicitor

  • They gave if they received effective feedback including knowledge, passion, and commitment

  • They gave if there were two people calling on them – a professional and a peer – peers can gain access

  • They gave because it feels good……

Why would they not give?

The Lilly Endowment interviewed philanthropists who gave more than $100,000 to ask why they said “no” and declined giving opportunities. Here you go -

  • Mismatch of interest – if this is the case you might ask what are their interests

  • Failure to connect on a personal level with the organization – board membership, volunteer opportunity, recipient of services, interaction with beneficiaries of the services offered – deep commitments are nurtured by meaningful involvement

  • Premature request – insufficient cultivation in the “Getting to Know You Process”

  • Failure to ask for a specific amount – forgetting to ask at all

  • Excessive request – asking too much

  • Failure to convey urgency – if you will move on with this you will allow us to continue our services in helping everyone

  • Failure to ask for enough – asking less that the donor will typically give

  • Mismatch between solicitor and prospect

  • Failure to include spouse

  • Failure to sell dreams

  • Poor timing

  • Bad luck

Issues that nonprofits have:

Stress is usually a great factor in fundraising. Lack of time, an inadequate budget, fierce competition for financial support, unrealistic fundraising goals, an imbalance in internal politics, and ineffective partnerships between officers can all add to the problem.

Here are some good questions to ask your selves:

  • Do you collaborate – or do you simply try to sell?

  • Do you think in terms of gifts or relationships?

  • Do you try to win or help donors? What are their needs?

  • Do you just present to your donors, or involve them?

  • Do you impose on them, or involve them?

  • Do you ensure satisfaction, even if there are no more dollars?

Why do we fall short of our goals?

  • Forgetting the basics

  • Failing to make the calls

  • Time management issues

  • Failing to ask

  • Failing to use one of our most important resources - volunteers

  • Sloppy learning

  • Failing to focus on our donors

  • Failing to put donors first

Many times consultants have the leadership skills we are lacking. They can be strategic thinkers with the ability to build relationships, teach and communicate with others, and listen in order to learn. If you cannot follow through with the task at hand, you might think about interviewing potential consultants.

Key attributes to a winning strategy:

  • Do not take no for an answer

  • Make negatives work to their advantage – have you ever heard of making lemonade out of lemons?

  • Above average ambition

  • A high level of empathy – listen and understand

  • Be goal oriented

  • Have great self-discipline

  • Approach strangers even when you are uncomfortable

Peter Drucker said giving is necessary to satisfy the need of living out ideals. Passion is the human side of the equation. Associate with colleagues who have great empathy – those wonderful caring humans who envision dreams and help make them realities.

William Sturtevant is the Vice President of Trusts and Planned Giving at the University of Illinois Foundation. He is the author of The Artful Journey: Cultivating and Soliciting the Major Gift, and more recently, Continuing the Journey.


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