4 Fundamentals of Partner Development

Developing major partners is about building relationships.  From the online giver who makes a $15 gift to your organization, to the partner who gives $1 million to your capital campaign – in some way, you have built a relationship with each, which was key to their gift.

Partners at every level value relationships and none more so than high-capacity individuals.  Because they can make a significant investment to your organization, major donor prospects want to feel that they have a strong relationship with your ministry prior to making a financial commitment.  Following are four fundamental’s to building a strong and sustainable relationship with prospective major donor:

  1. Stand Out

High-net-worth individuals usually have lots of people clamoring for their attention, regardless if they have a propensity for giving.  Family, business, and church relationships alone are enough to fill every waking hour.  Add to that the not-for-profit organizations (faith based or not) seeking support, and the noise to gain attention can seem insurmountable.  But without their attention, your ministry will have a hard time building any kind of relationship.

That’s why you find an advocate from within your ministry organization (board or other partner) to make the introduction and spearhead the relationship cultivation.

You can try and entice him or her to attend an event, releasing a major report or holding a note-worthy seminar or hosting an important speaker, launching a campaign in a program area that matches the prospect’s heart for giving… the possibilities are (nearly) endless, but no matter what you choose to do, you have to get the their attention before he or she will be able to focus on your ministry.

  1. It’s ALWAYS About Relationship, NOT Money

Once you get the donor’s attention, you need to cultivate the prospect and build the relationship between him/her and your organization, before you make any kind of opportunity available to them.  Rush this process and you will have little hope of gaining a donor, much less a partner.

Ask them for advice and suggestions and try to involve him or her in volunteer work or allow them to see the work of the ministry first-hane.  Make them a part of your team.

  1. Explain the Investment

Prior to making an opportunity available to give be sure to explain the investment you are asking them to make.  They want to invest in Kingdom work that will deliver the best outcomes for the largest number of people in areas that match their heart for giving.

Through your cultivation process, you should know their heart for giving and what opportunities will be most important to them.  Explain to him or her exactly what your plans for the future are, what you are hoping to raise, and why you need the money.  What outcomes are you predicting and how you measure results?  How many people will you serve?  What is the return on this major Kingdom investment?

  1. People Give from their Heart

No matter how great an investment your ministry opportunity may seem, major partners still give primarily to organizations they feel an emotional connection with.  Thus, the best way to raise large-dollar gifts is to present your organization as both an emotionally compelling, mission-driven, and Kingdom focused organization as well as a wise investment.  A heart connection is essential, all others being equal.

Tell stories.  Get him or her to come out to your program sites.  Make the prospect feel emotionally connected to your work.  If you can do that, you are well on your way to developing them as long-term partners of your ministry.