millionaire nonprofit donors major gifts fundraising

Building Relationships with Millionaire Nonprofit Donors with Major Gifts Fundraising

In all this talk about the Major Gifts Fundraising philosophy, I understand the pushback from the nonprofit industry at large. For years, nonprofit leaders became entrenched in outdated practices that have left organizations of all sizes scrambling for competitive grant funding and losing money on filet mignon at fundraising galas.

A humorous description of the charitable sector? A game of Hungry Hungry Hippos played on an uneven table with half the balls missing. But there are ways to bring more funding to the table by prioritizing millionaire nonprofit donors.

Can I blame nonprofit executives for clinging to fundraising practices to which the industry itself became addicted, thanks to a combination of laziness and shady consultants? No, absolutely not! I admit to not knowing better myself. As my good friend and Major Gifts Ramp-Up visionary Jimmy LaRose puts it, “The nonprofit sector is flaccid, and has been saddled with a century’s worth of wrong-thinking ensuring it’s remained a non-growth sector for nearly 50 years.”

This article discusses how to build relationships with millionaire nonprofit donors and how for-profit enterprise provides a powerful example of fundraising prowess.

Get Millionaire Nonprofit Donors in Your Court with Major Gifts Fundraising

In recent decades, over 45,000 for-profit companies increased annual revenue over $50 million. Meanwhile, the total of nonprofits that crossed the $50 million threshold remains under 150 – total. That’s a hard pill to swallow.

Nonprofits are nothing more than businesses with a special tax designation. Yet it’s as if making money to accomplish mission is taboo. It’s a reality not only self-imposed by the industry as a whole, but also by society, which now envisions charity as something that must be given freely to be credible.

But you and I know that thinking is absurd. Nonprofit missions cost money. Competent administration costs money. Outreach costs money. Products and services cost money. 

Yet nonprofits can’t make money to do their magic?

What would any successful enterprise business executive do when trying to scale or sustain an organization? That’s right: SEEK INVESTORS! Would they set up donation boxes at their local grocery store? Heck no! They would meet with as many people with deep pockets as possible to raise millions – or billions – to invest in staff, products, and services.

The Major Gifts Fundraising methodology to court millionaire nonprofit donors is charity’s version of that sound business practice.  

Connecting with Millionaires

There’s more than enough money to go around. There are more millionaires in the U.S. than you may think — more than 20 million of them. They comprise more than 10 percent of the country's households, not including the value of their residences. More than 8 million U.S. households have a net worth of $2 million or more. More than 5.67 million have a net worth of $3 million or more. An estimated 1.46 million have a net worth of at least $10 million. A total of 89,510 people in the U.S. have net assets of $50 million or more. 

They live closer to you than you think, too. The most common millionaire is the trade business owner who lives down the street. You could know one or more of them and not even know it.  

These individuals and families have the means and drive to sustain charities close to their hearts. But nonprofits don’t approach millionaire donor prospects nearly enough, causing the sector to lose out not only on funding but also philanthropic guidance of successful minds. 

Here’s what you can do about that.

Hunting … For Relationships

The purpose of identifying potential major gift donors is not to ask them for money. It’s to begin a relationship that extends beyond an initial donation into:

  • Mission advisement
  • Further connections
  • Future major gifts

Your first approach to donor prospects is not about money or giving. It’s about reaching out and connecting with another human being where they are, on their terms, with respect. You’re looking for engagement, a willingness to connect, and to find out more about each other.

When most nonprofits want to grow, they don’t think about starting relationships of dignity and respect. They think only about how much money they need. 

They also don’t think of individuals right away. Most of them think of turning to foundations or the government as their funding sources. (Don’t get me wrong, grant writing and other fundraising tactics can still be effective, but only as part of a more well-rounded strategy prioritizing Major Gifts Fundraising.) No wonder so many nonprofits are under-resourced and fail to scale. 

You won’t fulfill your dreams of making a substantial impact no matter how many 70-hour weeks you put in submitting grant proposals and organizing fundraising events. To end up doing more with less, you must develop other sources of revenue. 

You must develop revenue sources that make money and leverage your time. You don’t need to be constantly exhausted.

Raising the Big Bucks

Even if you are receiving five-figure gifts, you never know a person’s capacity to give until you thoroughly research them. And if you asked them to donate at an event, you are certainly not receiving their best gift. To get their best donation, you must ask them personally, face to face. 

But you may have fears and trepidations about approaching people of high net worth. You may feel out of your league. You may be intimidated by the big figures you’re asking. Or you just may think that kind of money is not available in your community.  

All these doubts are normal. But they are not reality. 

The first thing to realize is that people of means are people first. They have the same basic needs as you. They long to feel loved and accepted for who they are. If you are genuinely interested in them as people, they will respond. If you unconditionally accept them, they will jump through hoops for you. If you value their being instead of their money, they will value you and what you bring to the table. 

People of wealth, when it comes down to the bottom line, are no different than anyone else. They just have a greater capacity to give. 

Next Steps

Nurturing relationships with millionaire nonprofit donors is the nonprofit fundraising tactic that yields the greatest ROI. You can spend your life locked in an office building nonprofit sustainability a nickel and a dime at a time. To learn more about Major Gifts Fundraising, attend an upcoming Major Gifts Ramp-Up event and be sure to mention Joanne Oppelt in the “how you heard about us” section. 

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