Tag Archives: passion

How to get from $250k to $40m

You *want* to read this story about how the Wishard Foundation took a donor prospect from “If you’re coming to ask for money, I don’t even want to meet with you” to a $40 million naming gift. And when you’re done come back to this post and I’ll tell you what the prospect researchers were doing behind the scenes!

Where’s the Researcher?
Okay, if you look at the Wishard Foundation Staff page you won’t see a prospect researcher listed, but with that many gift officers and a manager of development services you’d at least expect a gift entry person, so let’s just speculate that there is someone with at least partial responsibility for research.

Getting the Edge with Donor Profiling
The president comes back from meeting a multi-millionaire who tells him to come back with a fundraising proposal and to make it “bold”. I betcha President Vargo was HOT for every scrap of information that could be found on Mr. and Mrs. Eskanazi. In my imagination I can see that prospect researcher sweating it out hour after hour, posting questions on PRSPCT-L, calling her APRA colleagues for tips and finally, hopefully, being a part of the conversation with the president about how much to ask for.

Identification – The First Step
But we all know prospect research happened MUCH earlier in the process, right? Somehow Mr. and Mrs. Eskanazi were identified and qualified for a $250,000 first gift. President Vargo’s amazing feat was to establish high affinity in one meeting. Granted, there was luck involved (they were looking for a legacy opportunity), but Vargo was ready. Mr. and Mrs. Eskanazi were identified and Vargo told a really powerful story. Pair that up with luck and presto! The Wishard Foundation received a $40 million gift. That is success!

Do you want a Professional Prospect Researcher?
If you don’t have a prospect researcher in-house, do not lament! Aspire Research Group can help you from identification all the way through to the ultimate solicitation. Check out our rating, profile and consulting services. Unfortunately, our magic wand is out for repair so we can’t manage the luck part right now, but we’re working on it.

Solicitation Approach for Distressed Donors

[Jan 2011 E-Newsletter Article]
I recently had the opportunity to meet up with Suzanne Nixon, State Director of Development for Devereux in Florida. We had such an interesting conversation that I asked her if I could share some of it with Aspire Research Group readers. Wouldn’t you know it, she said yes. Thanks Suzanne!

ARG: You have a lot of small and family business owners and other donors who have suffered with shrinking income and assets. Have you changed your solicitation approach with these donors?

Nixon: Yes, and I can give you an example. Some of Devereux Florida’s best and most passionate donors have found themselves struggling to meet their own and their peers’ expectations of giving. Thankfully, fundraising is not accounting so I have been able to help some of our donors reach a desired giving level by “stacking” their gift. One donor was able to make a gift by adding together several resources. She included a smaller than typical personal gift, adding that to one from her business and a third one from her family foundation. I was able to recognize her gift under the combined amount, which put her in a much higher giving level than any one of those gifts alone.

ARG: When do you use prospect research? 

Nixon: We are in a campaign to build a gymnasium and after my campaign cabinet has a brainstorming session I request a solicitation profile on the top four or five prospects that have surfaced. These are prospects my cabinet members already know, or know someone who knows them. Getting a solicitation profile at the identification stage makes sense for me because I have so little time. I need to know right away whether the prospect is philanthropic and what size gift might be possible. The solicitation profile gives me all the information I need to plan a strategy for cultivation or to disqualify early. When I’m ready to solicit for a gift I just ask for a profile update.

About Devereux:

The Devereux Foundation helps empower children and adults with intellectual, emotional, developmental, and behavioral challenges to lead fulfilling and rewarding lives. Devereux is a nationwide organization, headquartered in southeast Pennsylvania, positively impacting the lives of tens of thousands of individuals and families each year.

Devereux Florida operates nearly 50 programs in 38 counties statewide and is the largest non-profit provider of these services in the state of Florida. In 2012, we will celebrate 100 successful years nationally and 25 years of service in Florida.

A Call to Donors Who Can Appreciate the Mission

“The worst thing for artists is not to have the money available to carry out the ideas they have in their heads,” says Mark Bradford, explaining the thought that went into his $100,000 donation to create the Artists2Artists Fund.

Bradford would know. An article in the Wall Street Journal describes him as once being a financially struggling artist himself; one who was greatly helped by the award of a $50,000 fellowship grant from nonprofit organization United States Artists (USA). It’s important to him now to make available monetary grants for other artists who are in the same spot he once was.

An artist born and raised in Los Angeles with two degrees from California Institute of the Arts according to art21, Bradford is the lead donor to the Artists2Artists Fund of USA, which is designed in an innovative way as to best use social networking for community fundraising.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the  Artists2Artists Fund will be financed by established artists, and will match funds received through USA Projects, which is a social-network fundraising website. Artists can create their own pages on the website, where their works and ideas for future works will be displayed. People donate money for a specific artist to USA, which matches their gift. Of the funds raised, 81% goes to the artist and the other 19% covers program and website expenses.

So how does a nonprofit come by a donor as valuable as Mark Bradford? Look to his story. He is someone who appreciates the value of USA’s mission because his success, at least in part, grew from it. Bradford was the recipient of aid, and is now the leading donor to USA’s budding project. And his donation goes beyond just money– along with the $100,000 major gift he provided, he is also helping USA blaze a new trail for arts philanthropy by starting up a social-network fundraising website and encouraging successful artists to give back.

It is interesting that no gift from Mark Bradley could be found to the California Institute of the Arts where he received two degrees. One of Mr. Bradley’s primary motivations to give to USA was giving back. Why didn’t he want to give back to his alma mater? Did the Institute ask? Do they just not publicly recognize their alumni gifts? After a visit to their website I couldn’t even find a place to make a gift. From appearances, it would seem that the Institute missed a golden opportunity with Mark Bradley.

Mr. Bradley’s primary giving motivation appears to be to give back, but he also gave back in a way that mirrors his art and expressed values. In his art he re-purposes paper, twine and other materials he finds out in the world. He makes art possible from various discarded materials. The Artists2Artists Fund takes small gifts from many people and pulls them together to create a matching grant to an artist. Technology makes it possible to turn small gifts into a real opportunity for a struggling artist.

USA recognized that one of its previous aid recipients was now a successful artist. They took the time to listen to his interests and created a gift opportunity that matched Mark Bradley’s needs as well as their mission. Do you have a way to identify those who receive your services and move on to financial and other success? Once you identify the person, do you have a way to find out how to best connect?

Aspire Research Group helps organizations across the country find better ways to connect with donors. By preparing comprehensive, in-depth profiles on donor prospects we have helped clients just like USA learn enough about their prospects to reach out in a meaningful way by identifying board memberships, peers who could solicit, past giving history, wealth and so much more. You can bet that USA did their research before asking Mark Bradley for a gift. Have you done yours?

To learn more about donor prospect profiles, visit www.AspireResearchGroup.com or call (800) 494.4132.

A *Middle Child* Donor Speaks Out

The Chronicle of Philanthropy held a live discussion with Jill Warren – a self-described middle class donor – and then wrote an article about it for readers. The moral of the story was that some people with middle-class incomes are passionate enough to make annual gifts representing $10,000 or more – in Jill’s case, up to 60% of household income. That’s a major gift for many organizations.

I worked for an organization who had a “Jill” on staff. The fundraising team did not want to put her on the major gift track because her income was not great, but her passion for the organization was inspiring and she gave a high percentage of her income to demonstrate that passion. I found it confusing. Based upon her demonstrated giving and absolutely by her lifetime giving she was a significant donor to the organization. But she was never assigned a solicitor or specifically cultivated and nurtured as a donor.

An analogy might be a Mercedes customer who drives a Ford. She drives her Ford into the Mercedes dealership and routinely purchases Mercedes for her chauffer business, but the dealership treats her the same as a customer who has only ever once purchased a Mercedes. Why? Because she drives a Ford. Ridiculous? Absolutely!

Wealth or perceived ability to give should not be our *primary* indicator for a best donor prospect. Sometimes the prospect screening and software vendors lead us astray. Vendors are looking to make a profit and focus on those organizations with the biggest budgets to buy their products.

Nonprofit organizations are not looking for only the biggest wallets to give to their organizations. Nonprofits are looking for the most philanthropic people, the people most passionate about their mission AND THEN of those people, the ones who have the ability to support that mission. Passion trumps wealth.

Passion provides us with donors who:

  • give recurring or monthly gifts that pay keep our organization running every day
  • give us multiple major gifts and challenge other donors to stretch their gifts
  • leave us part or all of their estate
  • inspire our program recipients, our donors, and ourselves

If you look for wealth first you will miss the passionate “Jill”s in your database.

You can use common sense prospect research techniques to identify those people in your database with passion. Affinity searches can be as simple as filtering for recency, frequency and longevity of giving or you can invest in a more sophisticated statistical analysis to take into account event attendance and other data points.

Get your list together and then get out there!