Gail Perry outlines some key trends among philanthropists and gives strategies that nonprofits can use to engage, reassure and please them.

Major donors have changed in recent years in what they want and expect from nonprofits. Now cultivating these relationships means working harder and smarter. Let’s take a look at what major donors are thinking about their philanthropy and nonprofits.

Trend 1: Donors are wary of trusting us.

Trust is a huge issue these days. The post-global financial crisis donor of today has lost trust in large institutions – and that carries over to nonprofits. What can you do to help your donors trust you? You just have to get to know them personally! How can they trust you if they don’t know you? Why would they invest in you?

Your strategy: Build trust by fostering personal relationships with your major donors.

Trend 2: The baby boomers are becoming the #1 donor population.

Boomers, how do we love thee? Boomers own most of the world’s wealth. They are more generous than the oldest generations, and they volunteer in droves. What do boomers want? They want personal self-expression.They want to express their passions and their individuality. They want to be involved.

Your strategy: Let boomers’ personal passions and interests guide their cultivation plan. Help them connect to what is most meaningful to them.

Trend 3: Older ladies are becoming the major donor demographic.

Here’s something amazing: women are far more generous than men. A recent US study found that women are more than twice as generous as men. For every $100 given by boomer and older men, women in the very same economic circumstances gave $258! The study found, across the board, that women are more likely to give to charity, and more likely to give more.

Your strategy: Review your prospect lists. Re-evaluate the giving capacity of the ladies. Get to work and go see them.

Trend 4: Donors want donor-centred communications.

Donors don’t want to hear about how wonderful you are. When you talk and talk, they hear: “Blah, blah, blah.” Try asking your major donors what they think; what they believe; what they want to see in the world. Then they will be happy.

Your strategy: Slant everything toward the donors’ perspective. Stop talking so much about you and your wonderful organisation.

Trend 5: Major donors are all over social media.

Should you “friend” a major donor on Facebook? You can’t very well ignore them! The fact is some major donors want to connect with you on social media. That’s their preferred communications channel. But do remember that getting to know you personally is what makes the donor trust you more (see Trend 1).

Your strategy: Don’t be afraid of Facebook. Just be careful what you post there!

Trend 6: Major donors want to see direct impact and a return on their investments.

Donors will often give more if you let them designate their gifts. Of course, major gifts are almost always focused or designated for one area or another. Even if donors are making an unrestricted major gift to “operations”, they need to understand why and what that will achieve.

Your strategy: Let major donors fund something specific.

Trend 7: Major donors are reassured when they see the financials and the numbers.

Remember the trust issue. When you share your financials with donors, you have a great opportunity to help them understand where the money goes and how much it really costs. I don’t know why more fundraisers don’t simply talk about where the money is or what will be spent. That conversation creates such trust and credibility.

Your strategy: Be transparent. Show them the numbers.

Trend 8: Like most of us, donors are feeling overwhelmed, jaded, and even bored.

Today most people are inundated with media messages and hopelessly busy. Major donors are overwhelmed, too. So how do you reach a bored donor? My strategy is to be a bit quirky, playful, and fun. Then your donors will read your e-mails first.This can give you an edge over everybody else.

Your strategy: Add surprise and delight to everything you do.

Trend 9: Major donors who volunteer give more. Much more.

We are seeing a trend toward high net worth donors getting really involved in their nonprofits. They are volunteering and taking it very seriously. The 2012 Bank of America High Net Worth Study of 700 households of high net worth donors found that those who volunteered over 100 hours last year gave their organisations an average of $78,000 compared to an average gift of $39,000 for those who volunteered less.

Your strategy: Get your donors and prospects on site and in action.

These strategies can put you ahead of the pack. Try them and see if you don’t raise lots more major gifts in the coming year.

Gail Perry

Gail Perry, CFRE, inspires nonprofits worldwide with cutting-edge fundraising strategies and new tools to make fundraising more successful and fun. Her book Fired-Up Fundraising: Turn Board Passion into Action, newsletter and blog at draws on her 25 years as a philanthropy expert in America to provide tactics that can help charities raise more money faster for their cause.

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