I was home sick with a cold. I was bored, so I made “cold calls” to car insurance companies I thought would benefit from a partnership with our nonprofit. As the executive director, I was determined to find a national partner to support community college students. The students we served were in almost 1,000 communities in the US, and a large number of students were commuting to class. What national car insurance company wouldn’t want to partner with us?
With tissue tossed around me and a stack of pillows propping me up, I grabbed my computer and phone. I found a number for GEICO and called. I was transferred numerous times as I explained each time I wanted the marketing department working with affinity groups. On hold. Transferred. On hold. Transferred. That went on for a while, but I stayed with it. Until Bingo! The other person on the other end of the line said I can help you with that.
Deedre was the marketing director in charge of partnerships. She asked several brilliant questions. She knew immediately the potential of our relationship. GEICO continued to be an amazing supporter of scholarships and programs promoting college completion. The partnership is still going strong with support reaching over $3 million.
Hear this! This was an anomaly!
While I loved that we were able to partner with this larger corporation in a big way, fundraising doesn’t typically happen this way. It usually takes time by building relationships and trust.
There are several lessons to be learned and explanations from this experience and relationship:
1. Consider your organization’s needs and who can help. Start by identifying prospective donors who align with your mission. Think about current relationships first before considering new ones. It is much easier to explain your needs with someone already familiar with your impact. While the GEICO partnership is a success story, it was a long shot. Secretly, I like long shots, but they are just that.
2. Switch from a scarcity to an abundance mindset. Think big. There is an abundance of money. Nonprofits in the United States raised a record of $410 billion in 2017 from individuals, foundations, and corporations. Giving exceeded $400 billion in a single year for the first time in 2017. Nonprofit leaders must switch from scarcity to an abundance mindset.
3. Most people give because they are asked. From research, the number one reason people do not give is that they are not asked. Get to know your prospects and supporters so you can identify what programs would align with their passion to support a meaningful investment.
4. Focus on keeping and advancing your current donors. We often overlook our current donors thinking we have to find new money with new donors. That is a mistake. Love the donors you have. Enhance your relationship with your current donors. Major gift fundraising is about building trust with those who 1) have the passion for the organization, 2) can make a meaningful gift, and 3) are philanthropic. Get laser focused on your current donors before considering new investors of your organization.
5. Most gifts come from individuals. While this GEICO story is about major funding from a corporate affinity program, most charitable gifts come from individuals. Giving by individuals totaled an estimated $286.65 billion in 2017. That is 70% of all charitable giving. Most of us believe we should be spending time asking corporations and foundations for support. Corporate giving equals only 5% of all charitable giving! Unless you have a great hair brain idea, spend your time building relationships with individuals. Read more here about donor visits.
Nonprofit leaders, you are the conduit between those with the financial ability to give and those in need. Fundraising is about seeking funds to further advance the mission of the organization. Figure out what you can do differently as you consider investors.
Nancy Rieves, Ed.D. is a fundraising coach. She provides executive and development directors with a roadmap to maximize and sustain major gift fundraising. She prepares leaders to be confident and successful in raising money. Reach her at [email protected].
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