Major Donors Answer the No. 1 Fundraising Question:
Should My Nonprofit Ask Now?
Major Donors generously answered an important question in last week’s blog, “What Should We Do Now?
In fact, I received such in-depth responses that I couldn’t fit all the information into a single article so today’s blog if filled with new insights and tell-tale hints regarding the current Ask Environment.
Each answer is from a unique donor, from someone who has said yes for years to non-profits across numerous sectors. Like ours, their worlds have also changed, and here are their thoughtful responses to our most pressing question:
“Should Fundraisers Ask Now?” or as I framed the question to them, “How Do You Feel about Giving During COVID-19?”
In the Words of Major Donors
— “No one has a crystal ball. You may be feeling like you don’t want to give…but you can’t take it with you.
“What we give away, we will ultimately get back. I am focusing my giving to organizations which “directly impact what’s happening in the moment.”
— “I will continue to give as before. This is not the right time to quit giving.”
— “…needs are currently so broad and wide ranging that I think it would be challenging for any nonprofit to literally break thru the walls and financial worries that are currently confining us and make the case for why support is needed now (vs. when life resumes some semblance of normality.)
“However, I think I’d be receptive to an appeal from an organization that needs help now so they can remain viable and be prepared to be at full speed when normality starts to return.”
— “My one thought on what donors want to hear from a non-profit (in good times or bad) is…the old, well-known principle of metrics and measurement….
“Those non-profits who…can talk knowledgeably to potential donors about them and the challenges in achieving results gain instant credibility…and inspire confidence in donors, who want to ‘be on a winning team.’”
— At this time, nonprofits should provide “general info, but no overload about the critical need. It’s overwhelming when every organization is experiencing need….
“One is hesitant to make significant giving plans even though all of the beloved entities matter enormously. But, it seems only reasonable to allow for an expectation of adapting on the other side of this initial crisis – ‘when we get back to normal.’”
From this range of responses, I continue to be optimistic. Not one single person said, “Don’t Ask!”
Last week’s blog provided advice on how to communicate with donors during Covid-19.
Major Donors Offer Insights on 3 Segments Likely to Give in 2020
Four Major Donors highlighted that even during 2020, it’s important to remind targeted donors of compelling reasons to give, and they reminded me of three prospect segments likely to give this year.
1. Donors over 70 1/2
— “One other thought occurred to me after my reply,” a donor emailed. “It may be a small subset of donors, but for those who have reached the required minimum distribution stage with their IRAs, a percentage of that required minimum distribution (in some cases up to $100,000) can be used for charitable purposes….This is a potential additional source of funds available to meeting charitable impulses without needing to sell assets at depressed prices.”
(Fundraisers, remember, this money is taxed unless the donor makes a qualified direct transfer from their IRA directly to the charity!)
2. Donors who want to reduce their 2020 tax burden
A major donor who is also a campaign committee member began calling his organization’s donors last week. He was very encouraged during one call to learn that a multi-year pledge may be paid in full this year because of the CARES bill provision which increases the allowed deduction as a percentage of Adjusted Gross Income from 60% to 100%!
(Fundraisers, I highlighted CARES in an earlier article. The Association of Fundraising Professionals also provides in-depth guidance.)
3. Private Foundations
— “This is the time to jump on this,” a major donor told me, referring to private foundations. “Seize the day! People are not calling on them (foundations) in person…so they are relying on the email and snail mail to do their jobs!”
These encouraging words came this week after a private foundation granted $20,000 to a beloved organization which called simply to keep them in the loop!
Generally speaking, private foundations are required to distribute annually at least 5% of the total fair market value of their non-charitable assets from the preceding year — preceding, as in 2019, when the market was high!
Take time to research the foundation to learn whether they prefer a call or a letter.
One private foundation trustee told me last week,
— “We get lots of extraneous requests from non-locals, which we rarely approve, as we think there are more than enough local deserving organizations, with probably not enough supporters….
“I usually ask for an executive summary (one page) of their request, along with names of board members and major supporters, and capital and operating statements or budgets, as we already know their basic missions. To us, be brief and succinct and make the case why they need our support.”
Steps to Prepare for the Call or Letter
Before contacting a private foundation or individual,
(1) understand operational adjustments relevant to current conditions;
(2) convey a “beautiful, visionary plan” while being realistic;
(3) communicate honestly about frank conversations, and reassure that this organization is unified and mission-focused; and
(4) be prepared to answer some version of this question: What is your greatest need or greatest risk?
Major Donors and Private Foundations provide the majority of nonprofit funding in the USA. Prioritize them today, and call, write, email, create videos, and send hand-written cards. Silence is not an option.
The philanthropic sector remains important to the very fabric of our communities. Be encouraged! You’re essential!
PS: What about the Pledge Payment Question? Once again, I’ve run out of space. (This blog is twice as long as it should be.) Next week, I promise…
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