HOW TO Build a Digital Major Gifts Program

I love it when anecdotes plus statistics lead to predictions, which then become real life case studies and finally evidential proof.

In 2012, we first witnessed major donors taking notice of online campaigns when a dozen major gift prospects made their first gifts ever to Florida State University during the school’s inaugural “Great Give.” These were prospects who had never made a gift of any size or type, but felt compelled to do so for the first time during the online giving day micro campaign. (Most gifts were made online in the $500 to $5,000 range with one coming in offline as a $100,000 pledge)

Major gift donors and prospects often give four- and five-figure gifts through ScaleFunder's crowdfunding and giving day modules without being specifically solicited.

Major gift donors and prospects often give four- and five-figure gifts through ScaleFunder’s crowdfunding and giving day modules without being specifically solicited.

Flash forward to the nearly 900 crowdfunding projects and online giving days ScaleFunder’s team has helped to launch and the refrain is similar in many cases – big gifts come from major donors and prospects, often unsolicited.

But those big gift donors should have been solicited, because we know:

  • 85 percent of millionaires use social media, text messaging, AND smartphone applications. (Fidelity Investments study of millionaire investors)
  • Online donors have higher household incomes than those who only give offline. (2012 Convio study)
  • Online-acquired donors give twice the average size of gift compared with donors acquired via mail. (2012 Blackbaud study)

The statistics tell us the more money a person has, the more likely it is they are engaged online and via social media. Past experience tells us big donors are excited by innovative online giving efforts. For these reasons, digital is quickly becoming a staple of the best major gift programs. With that in mind, here are a few tips for injecting digital energy into your traditional major gifts program:

Train gift officers to be active in the digital space

This is not a mandate that every single gift officer opens and maintains Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts for engaging donors. Instead, find those gift officers who are already active online as well as those who have an interest in increasing their digital footprint for fundraising. Build a training program for the willing gift officers that helps the novices get started and the pros polish their online appearance.

The same goes for your institution’s leadership. For the right donor, having a president or chancellor comment on that donor’s Facebook photo of their granddaughter’s graduation could be monumentally effective at strengthening that donor’s affinity for the institution. Again – provide training for your administration so those opportunities can be identified and leveraged.

Provide digital opportunities for major gift donors

From offering innovative matching and challenge opportunities to branding a giving day theme in the name of a specific donor’s family, online giving campaigns can serve as virtual naming rights for your digitally active major donors and prospects. Whether it’s a giving day theme or a crowdfunding perk, think about how you might build your biggest donors into your online campaigns in visible and meaningful ways.

Create a subgroup of major donor online ambassadors

We’ve seen major donors set up crowdfunding campaigns that have brought in $60,000 in a matter of days. More importantly, those major-donor-led crowdfunding campaigns have identified new major donor prospects through the networks of the major donor ambassadors who launched the campaigns. Which makes perfect sense – major donors often have major donor prospects in their networks (online and offline). Leveraging a major donor’s support as both a donor and recruiter can more than double their impact.

Major donors are proving to us they want to be involved during online campaigns through their actions during those campaigns. On Wednesday January 20, RNL/ScaleFunder’s Vice President of Digital Fundraising Strategy, Justin Ware (that’s me), led a webinar with tips and tactics for building digital into your major gifts program. Click here for the recording, slides, and infographic of that webinar.

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2 thoughts on “HOW TO Build a Digital Major Gifts Program

  1. Pingback: Clairity Click-it: Dive the Five Fundraising Fundamentals - Clairification

  2. Pingback: 3 Steps To Social Media Major Gift Prowess - Jennifer Filla

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