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Want to secure a seven-figure gift, grant or partnership? Andrea Riddell and Andrew Sadauskas share five tips for doing it, from the recent Big4 conference.

The benefits of breaking down silos and the critical need to manage reputational risks when accepting big donations were among the key themes to emerge from the 2020 Big4 conference.

The two-day virtual event focused on the ‘big four’ areas of fundraising: corporate partnerships, major gifts, gifts-in-wills and trusts & foundations.

At the conference, fundraisers learnt new ways to demonstrate their social impact to funders. They also discovered how to leverage social purpose to strengthen their corporate partnerships.

Insights from Big4 will help fundraisers to secure six or seven-figure gifts, grants and donations for their causes.

Here’s a look at five of the key trends to emerge at Big4 in 2020:

1. Corporate partnerships: Don’t get left behind by the move into purpose! 

As we’ve known for a while, corporates are moving beyond more traditional corporate social responsibility to building social purpose into their core business. However, COVID-19 has hit the accelerator on this, and nonprofts can’t risk getting left behind! 

Looking beyond the cheque into a more impactful and multi-faceted partnership is the future that nonprofits need to be planning for. And who else is better equipped to direct and advise on impact than our very own sector! 

This was reinforced by Damien Coates, CEO of Dual Pacific, in one of the last sessions of the conference: “We’re not just looking for a charity partner who just wants a cheque, we’re looking for a multi-faceted partnership”. 

Carolyn Butler-Madden from The Cause Effect broke it down for us in her session ‘Westpac, Interrelate and the purpose-led brand revolution’ presented with Patricia Occelli, CEO of Interrelate. 

Traditional CSR: Linked to reputation and risk  

Purpose: Linked to differentiation and value creation 

Social purpose: Linked to social impact, innovation, leadership and grow  

Nonprofits need to understand the value that they can bring to the table, not just in terms of helping corporates do good, but also leadership and expertise in creating and expanding social impact. And that’s exactly what Occelli and Interrelate brought to their meeting with Westpac. Seeing a synergy between Westpac’s ‘life moments’ campaign and Interrelate’s focus on healthy resilient relationships, Occelli understood the Interrelate’s value proposition. She presented their credibility, expertise and leadership in this field forging a strong partnership with Westpac that amplifies their social impact. 

2. Major gifts: Due diligence is crucial for protecting your reputation 

A healthy reminder of the importance of due diligence, in light of the controversial revelation that Jeffrey Epstein donated to the International Peace Institute, an organisation chaired by the former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd. 

This was brought to us by Molly Masiello from FR&C and Victoria Coyne from Western Sydney University. Major donors are increasingly becoming a bigger slice of the pie for nonprofits. Gifts over $25,000 have increased from 28% of all individual giving in 2012 to 50% of all individual giving in 2018. With that comes some very public forms of recognition from official announcements to naming rights, making it even more critical to manage reputational risk

Philanthropy Advisor, Dr Sam Hardy, flipped the coin and walked us through the due diligence funders are doing on you – the nonprofits. We’ve seen a trend towards impact investing, meaning funders who are seeking “the greatest measurable impact”. These funders are looking for charity partners that can enhance the impact that they want to make on the world, and they’re using the theory of change to express this.  

Even though we’ve seen a lot of generosity throughout the pandemic, the impact of COVID-19 will tighten the purse strings. Philanthropists – particularly impact investors – will have to be more discerning in their philanthropy, which means we need to be attuned to what funders are looking for.  

A bad proposal, or a proposal without an outcomes and impact measurement framework, will be remembered for all the wrong reasons. A great proposal with a theory of change that allows the funder to work out your program’s plausibility will be remembered – and, hopefully, funded. In times of recession and economic downturn, a good proposal can spur a funder to advocate on a nonprofit’s behalf to their circle, even when they can’t fund the work themselves. 

3. Trusts & foundations: Outcomes measurement can be as simple as case studies 

Once you’ve got your theory of change, don’t forget to measure your outcomes and impact. Andrew Callaghan from Strategic Grants brought a timely reminder that qualitative data, such as case studies, is an effective form of outcomes measurement for some funders. Collecting stories is something that every charity does, but by ensuring they’re detailed, comprehensive and follow your beneficiaries at different stages of intervention, they can be evidence that you’re achieving what you’ve set out to do.  

Many organisations are hesitant to dive into the world of outcomes measurement as it has a reputation of being a resource-draining activity. But as Hardy said, funders are increasingly looking for nonprofits to prove they’re achieving the impact they say they are. 

Callaghan recommends building in your outcomes measurement in the very early planning stages of your program, choosing the method that’s reflective of all your resources, including your time and budget. While you may not be able to invest in a cost-benefit analysis, conducting surveys and interviews and collecting case studies can be efficient and effective.

Based on NESTA’s Standards of Evidence (see above graphic), most nonprofits are sitting at level two: ‘You capture data that shows positive change, but you cannot confirm that your intervention caused the change’. In Callaghan’s career, he’s only worked with one project that had achieved level three. While it’s important to know where you are, it’s also good to know that it’s not always necessary to reach level five. So what are you waiting for? Start measuring! 

4. Gifts-in-wills: Propensity modelling is the foundation of your success

One of the main cornerstones of a successful bequest program is propensity modelling, according to one of Australia’s leading gifts-in-wills experts.

Propensity modelling is the process of identifying the supporters who are the most likely to leave you a gift in their will.

This insight came from Donor Republic Co-Founder Andrew Sabatino, who previously led fundraising at Guide Dogs SA/NT. 

According to Sabatino, by focusing on the people most likely to leave you a gift in their will, you can avoid “wasting money approaching everybody on your list”.

“Prior to me starting in 2009, Guide Dogs mailed 20,000 gifts-in-will prospects. They gained 28 confirmed bequestors at a cost of $32,000,” he said.

“Six years later, we were using propensity modelling. We just targeted the 5,000 donors that met the parameters. The confirmation rate was similar, but our cost was significantly lower. We then used that remaining $25,000 for other areas. That’s how you optimise your program.”

Four critical pieces of information you need about your donors to create a propensity model are: 

  • Their age
  • The recency, frequency and value of their gifts
  • Whether they have recently had a major life event (this can include the passing a loved one or an illness)
  • Whether or not they have children

Citing benchmarking figures from IVE/Pareto, Sabatino noted there are four types of donors who are most likely to become bequestors. These are your $1,000-plus major donors, middle donors, loyal non face-to-face donors and active cash givers. 

“Generally speaking, the average you should aim for is around 1% of your active donors giving to you. If you’ve got 30,000 donors that are actively giving to you, you should aim for around about 300 confirmed bequestors,” he said.

5. Case study: Break down your silo walls

Until 2013, fundraising for St Vincent’s Hospital had been carried about by a number of different trusts and foundations. 

A major $30 million redevelopment led these various trusts and foundations to be amalgamated into the St Vincent’s Curran Foundation.

Since then, CEO Shanthini Naidoo has worked to break down organisational barriers. The goal has been to get gifts-in-wills and major gift fundraisers to collaborate, rather than compete.

“[Siloing] is essentially a management terminology, which is commonly used to describe the lack of cross-functional or cross-organisation collaboration and communication,” Naidoo said.

“In fundraising, [silos are] often deeply embedded in team cultures, and particularly in the area of individual giving or major gifts. 

“This leads to a situation where donor relationships can become jealously guarded by individuals and teams within the fundraising group, to the detriment of the overall goal of the organisation, and the organisation’s reputation.”

A crucial step in that process was creating a central database with a single record for each donor.

“We realised quickly that we absolutely needed a single donor record. That might seem pretty basic, but we had four different databases, and lots and lots of Excel spreadsheets. We also realised that this was key to understanding our donors better,” Naidoo said.

“Moving to the single donor record was, like any database transition, a complicated process that took a lot of time and effort. But it helped us to update our information, integrate it and deal with duplication.”

This collaborative culture has borne amazing dividends. The foundation grew its endowment fund from $17 million to $32 million. It also raised $47 million for patient care, equipment and clinical research in 2019 alone.

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