Knowing the difference between when and how to emphasize gifts and commitments with potential donors is vital to the process of creating a sustained community of generous giving.
To determine the development strategy you’re going to use, you must first understand the stages of a donor. Donor-focused perspective is key! The current outlook on fundraising that’s out there is often more focused on raising money to support programs than keeping the perspective that leadership stewards the relationship that develops between donors and your ministry as they give.
A potential donor starts at the simplest point of decision – they will either give or they won’t. Seeking ongoing gifts or seeking long-term commitments comes later, after people make their first decision. Giving for a first time donor a binary decision. It’s ones and zeros; yes or no. Either someone is giving to your ministry or they’re not.
But once they give, why don’t we begin to focus on helping them see the long-term plan, consider the impact of a multi-year decision, and ask them to commit to give and provide leadership to others?
Questions for Each Stage of Donor Development
- How do we transition potential donors from not giving to supporting your ministry through giving?
- How do we see them become a long-term donor?
- How do we start helping donors give more strategically for greater impact?
Annual giving, capital campaigns, fundraising programs, direct mail, planned giving, etc. are all important programs, but it’s important to remember they’re merely methods. The essential question about your individual donors is first: are they giving or not? Then, how do we help them continue giving. Each method was created to engage individual people in giving. We must be sure we are always using a donor-centered approach and then selecting the methods we should use, rather than just focusing on perpetuating programs for their own sake.
Are you asking for an immediate gift or a long-term commitment?
Your donors need to know! An immediate gift is one that can impact your ministry immediately, yet the lifetime impact of someone who is giving over a period of 15 years, 20 years, or even 40 years will usually far exceed any success you can experience in short-term giving strategies. However, a good rule of thumb is to only ask a potential donor to make one decision at a time. Ask for a long-term giving decision or an immediate giving decision. But, asking for both at the same time will likely confuse the donor. So pick one.
It’s important to note here that we intentionally use the phrase immediate gift rather than one-time gift. We are in the business of development not doing things that are “one-time.” We want to develop people to have a long-term vision for your organization that lines up with the long-term vision God has placed in your heart for your ministry.
In other words, when you have a long-term plan, you have a series of steps toward your vision that you are able to articulate and show people in order to illustrate how you got to this point and where you are with moving forward. When you have a long-term plan in place, you need to be seeking giving commitments because you’re saying to people, “We have a plan and what’s going to move us forward on this plan is how God moves and leads people to give, so I’m asking you to pray and think about a commitment.”
When you ask someone to make a gift, it has one impact – when they give the dollars, the dollars impact what you accomplish in your ministry. Securing a long-term commitment takes donor impact one step further because they’re saying, “I am going to stand as an example and make a commitment that provides leadership to others.” Even if their giving is anonymous, which many are, your ministry is moved forward regardless by the momentum created by multi-year commitments or pledges. It is imperative to use this language that commitments provide leadership in order to use your progress on the giving commitments made to your plan to encourage others. In this way the giver becomes a leader by making a commitment.
If you’re faithful in building a relationship with donors, where they’re constantly looking and seeing their leadership through their commitments and the impact of their giving on the lives of people, you’re on the right track.
If you are thinking about gifts and commitments, you are probably wanting to grow your giving. Growing your giving means growing your influence and investing in relationships with people. Our script for how to secure that first meeting may be helpful to you right now. Download it by clicking here.