It’s easier to raise money from people who have money.

Did you roll your eyes when you read that? Does it make you think, “DUH! Of course it’s easier to raise money from people who have money.”

Now, think about how much time and energy you actually spend on that part of your job.

If you’re like many Development Directors, you don’t have enough time to get out and talk with the people who are (or might) become your organization’s largest donors.

Between the annual fund, Giving Tuesday, the Spring Gala, and trying to figure out what to do about things like golf tournaments in the time of Covid, you simply don’t have time to spare for talking to your largest donors.

In fact, you may find yourself only talking to them when it’s time to ask them for a gift. And then you feel a bit queasy because you know — and they know — that you only care about them for their money.

Let Donor Capacity and Inclination Guide Your Focus

If you already prioritize building real relationships with the people who are or who could become your largest donors — those with both capacity and inclination — you deserve great praise. You are doing what it takes to raise serious money. You are raising money from people who have money!

But many development professionals get lost in the swamp of day-to-day work without prioritizing their major donors. Until they get ready for a capital campaign, that is.

Capital Campaigns are Top-Heavy

Just about every capital campaign relies on approximately 10 gifts to raise half or more of the campaign goal. Without those top gifts, campaigns fail.

It’s what I love about capital campaign fundraising. Tell me to raise $1,000,000 from 1000 donors and I can’t figure out what to do or where to start. The task feels big and amorphous. I don’t think about donors, I think about tactics — spreadsheets, appeal letters, email blasts, crowdfunding and perhaps an event or two or three. I get tired before I even start.

But it’s easy to wrap your brain around just 10 donors!

  • I can start by making a short list of the people who have money and love the cause.
  • And I can get in touch with each of them to share the plans.
  • At the same time, I can find out what they think and what lights them up.
  • I can involve them and delight them and excite them.
  • And then, if they wish, I can invite them to make a gift.

Now, of course, there’s much more to capital campaign fundraising than just that. There are structures and policies and materials and more.

But really, laser-focusing on the people who love your mission and also have enough money to be able to make a big, generous gift is the heart of the work.

Even if you aren’t in a capital campaign, you should prioritize your work with major donors. Don’t let it fall to the bottom of your to-do list. If you do, I promise you, it won’t be long before that work has fallen off your list entirely and you bemoan the fact that you don’t have time for it.

Focus Time and Attention on Donors with Capacity and Inclination

Capital campaigns force you to focus on people who might be able to make one of the top ten gifts to your campaign. If you’ve been building those relationships over time, your campaign will be easier and quicker. But if you haven’t, all is not lost.

It’s never too late to start focusing your time and attention on the people who have the capacity and inclination to give. If you haven’t started before, today is a great day to do so.

Once you move that work to the top of your to-do list, chances are that not only will you be more successful, but you’ll probably also have more fun.

A Simple Tactic to Shift Your Priorities

Here is a simple tactic to use to reorient your focus toward raising money from the people who have money.

Block out 2 hours every week to schedule meetings with major donor prospects. Pick a specific day of the week and block out that time just for scheduling meetings.

These meetings don’t have to be solicitation meetings. In fact, most of them shouldn’t be.

The primary purpose of these meetings to check in with donors, find out how they are doing, share some information with them, and perhaps, to ask them for a favor of some sort (like providing a bit of advice about your latest idea).

Keeping the Focus On Your Top Donors

If you get in the habit of scheduling time with your donors, like day follows night, you will meet with them! Gradually, if you stick to a disciplined approach of scheduling meetings and meeting with major donors, your priorities will shift. And these days, meetings take even less time since you don’t even have to travel.

You will start looking for and noticing people with whom to schedule meetings during the rest of the week. And your list of people to reach out to will grow larger than you might have imagined. One meeting will open the door for another.

It won’t take long before you see your fundraising transform.

When it does, you’ll find that, indeed, raising money from people who have it is far easier and more satisfying than sending group letters and email blasts in hopes that lots of people will respond.


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