Fundraisers often refer to the 80/20 rule: that 80 percent of your funding typically comes from about 20 percent of your donors. This rule especially comes into play as part of your year-end drive because it is the optimum time of year to discuss major gifts during your personal donor meetings. These donors are the people whose donations will spearhead your year-end campaign, and they require a much higher degree of personalized attention when appealed to. By Labor Day, you should have finished segmenting your donors and then begin preparing, sometime between mid-October and mid-December, to set up meetings with your largest donors: the top 20 percent of your givers.
Typically I’ll write to or call my top 20 percent and say, “I’d like to meet and update you about the organization and to talk about your year-end gift.” Some donors are so accustomed to it after all these years that they’ll occasionally reply, “We don’t need to meet this year.” However, if that’s the case, I don’t recommend just abandoning the conversation right there. It still behooves you to ask, “What would work for you this year?” If you feel a year-end gift is just not in the cards from a particular donor, you can still suggest a no-obligation meeting to update them about the organization.
It typically takes more time to secure larger gifts, in part because your donor needs to plan a large gift more meticulously due to its correlation with their year-end tax planning. By the end of the year, if you’ve taken time to work with your donors, they should be ready to make those really big year-end contributions. Given the potential for their year-end largesse, your devoting extra time and planning on your end can prove highly lucrative. Know who your loyal donors are. Communicate with them differently from those who have supported you only once or twice, or whose support is more sporadic. If you treat your loyal donors carefully, you can build an enduring relationship with them that can lead to larger gifts over time.
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