Joining the Leadership Giving Train? Some Tips for Getting Your Program

Sofia Janmohamed

By Sofia Janmohamed

They’ve been called the ‘missing middle’ or the ‘mid-level donor’.   Over the last few years, we have seen the emergence of a new fundraising donor focus – Leadership Giving.

It’s not quite mass communication like annual giving but not as intensely personal and lengthy as major giving. It has inspired the creation of new fundraising roles in many organizations – not the annual fund manager but not the major gift officer.

So we know what it is not.   How do we define and start building a Leadership Giving Program?   If you’re a smaller shop, are creating a program or are just new to the role, here are some quick tips that might help:

Pull your last fiscal fundraising data. This is your starting point. You will want additional data to inform additional giving levels or solicitation groups in the future. But what your donors have done in the last year and where you want them to be in the next year should inform your initial decision-making.

KISS (keep it simple, superstar!).   Pick one all-inclusive level to focus on initially, for example, $1,000 to $20,000. You can always add more levels as your program grows and offer specialized stewardship at each level.

Identify (or re-evaluate) ‘your’ leadership level.   The most common starting point for leadership giving programs is $1,000. Essentially you’re looking for that ‘sweet spot’ where you already have several donors that you can acknowledge and steward as leaders, while using their stories to inspire others. Welcome and steward first.

Solicit and upgrade your donors within close range of your leadership giving level as soon as their annual gift is due.  A $500 donor likely already has the capacity to become a $1,000 leadership donor. They just need to know why this will make a difference.

Continue to cultivate donors that decline and those that are further away from the range using various annual giving channels. Many donors will step up in subsequent years once they’ve had time to consider and learn about the impacts of other donors. Provide different options.

Patience. Perseverance. Personalization. In the short-term, you should see an immediate increase in the number of gifts at the leadership level. Long-term success depends on your ability to keep the identification, cultivation, solicitation and stewardship cycle moving – all with a personalized style. Resources are always limited. Use multiple channels that are personalized from you specifically – email, phone, notes, cards and invites – to keep the cycle moving as you try to personally meet with as many people as possible.

Please feel free to be in touch for even more tips, in-person meeting tips or questions.

Sofia Janmohamed, CFRE has been in fundraising for almost 15 years. She is currently the Associate Director of Annual Giving at Simon Fraser University.   She has volunteered with both the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Accreditation Committee and Mentorship Committee, in addition to delivering several fundraising presentations at CASE and AFP conferences. She was the recipient of the 2009 SFU Staff Achievement Award in Giving Leadership and is currently a scholarship recipient and mentee in the WXNWisdom Top 100 Mentoring Program. She holds a BA in Communications and a Graduate Diploma in Business Administration. She obtained her Certified Fundraising Executive designation in 2010 and is currently obtaining a Masters in Business Administration.

Sofia Janmohamed
SSJ Business Consultants Inc.

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