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If you work or volunteer with a nonprofit – or serve on the board – you know that funding is one of multiple number-one priorities. For many nonprofits, funding comes from individuals who believe in the organization’s mission and vision. There are those who give $25 a month, those who give $25,000 annually, and every amount in between, or more. With this column, we focus your attention on the 20% of donors who can give 80% of a fundraising goal. These are known as lead donors, and they set the standard for giving and create momentum.

As you plan your fundraising, focus on who could give a lead gift. This is more than thinking of the names of famous and wealthy people that you would like to provide support. It’s also more than investigating who gave to the organization down the street. Just because a person, family, foundation, or business gives to similar nonprofits doesn’t mean they will automatically give to yours. Here are our suggestions on how to identify potential lead donors.

First, you’ll need to define what exactly a lead gift is for your nonprofit. Here’s an example of a $300,000 fundraising goal. You will want to identify a small group of donors who collectively could give a total of $240,000 (80% of your $300,000 goal). That could be six gifts of $40,000 or one gift of $50,000, six gifts of $25,000, and five gifts of $8,000. In this case, a lead gift could range from $8,000 to $50,000 or more. Collectively the gifts should total $240,000.

In terms of who these donors could be, look to those with a history with your nonprofit as donors, board members, volunteers, or beneficiaries of your work. They should have an understanding of your mission, vision, and what it takes to do the work. You – or someone on your team – will have a personal connection. Pick up the phone – to call, text, or email – and get time to talk about your fundraising and explore their potential giving. Continuing with the theme of personal contacts, reach out to those individuals you know who could provide an introduction to a potential lead donor.

In all cases, you want to “qualify” each potential lead donor, or prospect. Do they have an interest in your goals and mission, are these in alignment with their own? Have you been in contact with them on an ongoing basis? Do they really know your organization, or have they just heard about it? Those who know your work may be more likely to consider giving. If a prospect has heard good things about your work, take time to share specifics so they can gain a clearer understanding of your impact. You want to focus your time and energy on those with the interest – and financial capacity – to become a lead donor. Ideally, these are individuals with whom you have a meaningful relationship with. The bottom line: identify a small group of potential lead donors and take the time to cultivate their engagement and giving.


Copyright 2023 – Mel and Pearl Shaw of Saad&Shaw – Comprehensive Fund Development Services. Let us help you plan for 2023! Video and phone conferencing services are always available. Call us at (901) 522-8727. www.saadandshaw.com

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