Many small donors or a few large donors?

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Many small donors or a few large donors?


As the year comes to a close many nonprofits are looking at their fundraising goals and asking an important question: should we focus on securing a large number of small gifts, or a few large ones? We believe the answer is “both.” Here are three things to consider.


Securing many small gifts often takes as much energy as securing a few large gifts. Much of the work is similar: define your case; agree on an ask amount or range; define your pool of prospective donors; determine the right method or approach. Most importantly “make the ask” and say thank you quickly when gifts are received. The difference between the two strategies often depends on a nonprofit’s fundraising history. Some have a history of securing large gifts. Others have built a cadre of fundraising volunteers, each of whom host parties or solicit gifts from individuals. Still others have a strong direct mail and/or on-line campaign. Incorporating a new fundraising strategy often takes time, and given the shortage of time it makes sense to use the method that works best for your nonprofit.


Continuing to ask your donors for a small gift may mean you lose out on a larger gift. When asked why they decided to make a larger gift many donors respond, “because I was asked.” If you have been running a direct mail campaign for years you should have data you can review. Are there individuals who consistently give year-after-year? Do you know them? Should you consider a personal letter asking for a larger gift? Better yet, who within your board, staff or volunteer pool knows your consistent donors? Could a personal ask be made for a larger gift?


Consider testing a fundraising appeal asking for a gift of $25 to $100. Depending on a few trusted donors to make larger gifts can be efficient in terms of time and resources. Yet there’s a built-in danger with that dependence: what happens as donors’ priorities change? How are you growing a pool of donors who may increase their giving over time? Now could be the time to take a small, calculated risk in trying something new. In addition to personally asking larger donors for a gift, craft a direct mail or personal letter to send to those who have volunteered or attended one of your events. Or test a small social media campaign.


Bottom line, securing large gifts help you meet your current goal; small gifts help build a base of donors from which to grow and sustain in future years. Take a risk, ask for gifts both large and small.


Copyright 2015– Mel and Pearl Shaw

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the owners of Saad&Shaw. They serve the nation’s nonprofits. For help with your fundraising visit www.saadandshaw.comor call (901) 522-8727. 

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