Net Worth = Size of a Major Gift?

So what does a donor or prospects net worth tell you about how large a major gift they can make? My quick answer to this question – absolutely nothing! Sure someone with a lot of money certainly has the capacity to give. The question really is:

  • Are they philanthropic?
  • Do they have passion for your work?
  • Is your organization part of their philanthropic priorities?
  • Will they give to your organization at all, let alone in an amount based on their “wealth indicator”?

Fundraising has always been about relationships and cultivating the donor’s interest and involvement. So if your wealth screening tells you there are high net worth individuals in your database – my question is: What will you do with that information? Or if you or your Board members read about a wealthy person and say, “We need to go after them.” Again – how, why? What’s the connection and plan?

Just because a person has a lot of money, doesn’t mean they are philanthropic. If they are generous, there is no formula you can apply to say a person with a net worth of $X will/should/could donate X% of their net worth. Here are some ideas to create a major giving program:

  • Identify individuals who are already giving – screening can help narrow your focus and set priorities to those who have the capacity.
  • Prospect research – whether that’s a full time prospect researcher or utilizing the internet to learn more about your major donor prospects
  • Talk with your Board members – they should be your best major donors and should bring their relationships to the organization – people give to people who share the same philanthropic priorities and passions
  • Determine who knows who on your prospect list and make plans to learn about the prospect and what may or currently interests them in your work, mission, programs
  • Make a plan to involve them in your organization in a way that is important to them – investment follows involvement
  • Cultivate based on their interests
  • Plan to ask for the right gift, at the right time, in the right way for the donor – direct contribution, planned gift, for a specific program, in honor of someone – based on donor interests

So use the tools available to you to narrow your focus and set priorities, but fundraising is an art and a science. Let’s not forget, people give to people because they align their passions to make change through their philanthropy.

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