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4 Ways to Identify Your Next Big Donor

Mike Duerksen from Build Good Fundraising recently posed this question on LinkedIn: “Imagine a world in which you cannot get new donors. What would you do?” This fun game of limitations forces us to think differently about our work. His point was simple: we must take better care of what we already have.

As fundraisers, we spend so much time hustling, scouring the globe for that next big donor. We email, call, LinkedIn-message, and buy expensive tickets to an event all for the chance to schedule a visit with a complete stranger who has minimal affiliation with our organization.

Spoiler alert: your next big donor is already here.

If your organization has been around for longer than a couple of years, your future best donors are already showing up. They already believe in your mission and support it. You don’t have to spend $125 on a plated meal at a fancy gala to get their attention because you already have it.

When I first started building affinity programs, leads for prospective members were hard to come by. It seemed like all the best prospects were already managed by my colleagues, so I needed to strategize in order to make this program work. I decided to pull multi-year donor reports with hopes of finding patterns. My thought was simple: If someone is willing to contribute $100 a year for consecutive years and no one is verbally asking them to give, what will they do if we ask?

Answer: they give more.

In fact, they give more, and then a little more, and then often times, they give a lot more. If we take the time to build relationships with individuals who are already donors, even at the smallest level, we give them the opportunity to have a meaningful impact on an organization they care about. And in this process, we become an organization that cares about them.

Here are four ways to identify your next big donors:

1. They demonstrate consecutive years of giving at the annual fund level.

2. Their contributions are often among the largest in our annual giving donor base.

3. They are currently giving below their financial capacity. (Your CRM can tell you this.)

4. They respond when you reach out.

Stan O’Reilly is a great example of an annual giving donor – turned mid-level donor – turned major gift donor. Joining the affinity program was just the beginning of his intentional philanthropy. Prior to our first phone call, Stan had given about $1,600 over five years in response to annual appeals. In our initial conversation, he committed to an affinity group membership of $2,000. That was a 525% increase in annual giving from a single phone call! Just two years later, Stan and his wife Tracie went on to establish an endowment, including a planned gift, and provide additional financial support for faculty professional development.

Stan became the instrumental philanthropist he’d always hoped to be. The truth is that he was here all along. It took awareness by the university and an effective moves management strategy for him to grow into the donor he is today.

They say, the grass is greenest where you water it. This is the case for donors too. In order for donors to grow into meaningful contributors to our organizations, we must take care of the ones that are already here first before venturing to new fields. Our next big donors already support our work and our mission – we just need to recognize their patterns and potential.

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