Are you giving your major donors the good stuff?

The surprising success of a recent fundraising appeal mailed to major donors brought it all back to me.

Success so often comes down to your offer — the outcome donors want to see and experience through their giving.

Offer. Offer. Offer.

An extra hundred grand

Masterworks mails three proposal-style major donor appeals every year for a large rescue mission client. These perform well. The typical format is a cover letter, three-page case statement, and full-page response form, all mailed in a 9 x 12 kraft envelope. Simple, proven, but flexible. 

The response rate of these appeals is typically twice that of a general appeal, while ROI is often three or four times higher. It’s no wonder since average gifts can reach $500, $750 or more. 

But a recent proposal mailing surprised us, nearly quadrupling what were reasonable net income projections and beating previous packages by more than $100,000. 

Wow! What happened?

A compelling offer. An irresistible offer. A big offer.

Something special

Remember that donors give for their own good reasons. They want to fulfill their personal, well-considered — and often deeply spiritual — charitable giving goals. To shelter the homeless. To transform lives that have gone terribly wrong. To share Gospel hope with the lost and lonely. 

But in the case of major donors, there is often something else happening. They want to contribute to work that is special and will make an especially significant impact. And not just for your organization but for the people you serve in Jesus’ name.

What’s more, your high-value supporters are often more likely to be opportunity-oriented. They gravitate toward the big stuff: special capital projects, property renovations, major ministry expansions, and the like.

It’s not that they don’t want to provide meals at Thanksgiving, or ship a case of Bibles, or support a child in Africa for a month. After all, as a colleague of mine says, “Major donors are people too.” It’s that they are more likely to resonate with an invitation to something unique . . . something that only a handful of your partners are being asked to consider. And if majors are also included in your general cultivation stream, then “special” is even more likely to stand out to them.

Relevant, appropriate AND exclusive

For the fundraising package I mentioned above, the offer was the relocation, renovation, and expansion of a rural campus for use in a variety of restorative ministries. Perfect for majors. But am I saying general donors wouldn’t have responded to an offer like this? No, not at all. Nor am I saying that a capital campaign is somehow superior to meals, shelter, and addiction recovery. 

What I am saying is, this more-exclusive opportunity is the perfect project for partners who can write a big check. It’s arguably more relevant . . . more appropriate.

And the results proved it. This offer handily beat the much more common meals and shelter pitch. For good reason. 

The lesson is clear. If you want to improve your results, then improve your offer. Doing the hard work to develop a compelling offer that presents an unusual, enticing, high-potential opportunity to your valued major donors is worth the effort.

And who doesn’t need an extra hundred grand?