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.

Essential “Touch-Points” for Effective Donor Development

While it’s inherently true that most people do not like being asked to give money, I have found that the reason why most bristle when the opportunity to invest in a ministry’s Kingdom works is simple, there’s no real relationship.

Many ministry organizations don’t talk to their financial partners at all or the only time they talk with them is when their hands are out, asking for the next donation.

This kind of action is what makes people dislike fundraisers.

Develop a plan, which includes a literal schedule for when and how to talk with your financial partners throughout the year outside of asking for money. This is particularly important if you have major gifts financial partners who like to give at a specific time each year.

Schedule a number of touch points throughout the year where you are updating your financial partners about the work of your ministry. Take time to thank them for their relationship with you. Send them a note from someone whose life has been transformed through your ministry.

Then when it comes time to talk with them about a gift they will be ready to have that conversation with you. With a good development program, by the time you ask a financial partner to join with you in another opportunity to give, you will experience their eager anticipation, rather than reluctant anxiety.

Everybody wants to know that they are valued, especially when they give your ministry a part of their heart, which is what they are doing every time they contribute.

When you do major gifts fundraising you have an opportunity to work 1-on-1 with people about their giving priorities. Make sure to take the time to allow a relationship to grow. Some financial partners will want more of a relationship than others. You will be way more successful growing your major gifts program if you have regular soft touches with your financial partners than if you ask only once a year.

Here are some practical examples of the kinds of touch points that you can use as a great way to build relationships.

  • Send a card on your financial partner’s birthday and have everyone on staff, who are within reach, sign it. Staff members who know the financial partner should include a personal sentence or two on the card.
  • Make a thank you phone call within a couple of days of receiving their gift.
  • Send an update on what your organization has done the year before. This update can be specific to a programmatic or regional area of interest and should include some insider information from a program manager or director.
  • Invite them to sit at your table at an annual event.
  • Offer them a tour your organization. This is a great way to help someone connect in a deeper way with the work that you are doing.
  • Arrange a meeting with the financial partner, one of your program staff members, and yourself to provide an in-person update.
  • Send them a handwritten note with a few words about a special interest they have.
  • Buy them a cup of coffee and tell them a story of something that happened because of their support.
  • ALWAYS- write a handwritten note on EVERY receipt that goes out from the ministry!!! Even after he retired, Garth Hunt, founder of WorldServe Ministries, personally wrote a note on every receipt, which I argue is the only valid excuse to delay getting receipts out the door within 48 hours after they come in!

Spoiled-Rotten; Why Many Donor’s Are Getting Fed-Up With Ministries

Large-dollar donors, especially, can feel left out of God’s calling. After all, they don’t sense a calling to go out and evangelize to the unreached tribes in Africa. They don’t have the gift of preaching. They can feel unfulfilled in trying to teach the bible to others.

Many churches exacerbate this insecurity by speaking only of ministry work in terms of vocational ministry.

Yet, those who support the work of God through their financial resources are as much a part of the Kingdom-work as any. God blesses people differently and uses all of us who follow Him in different ways.

Many wealthy men and women have sacrificed much to build businesses that not only make it possible for them to give large gifts to ministries, but also create jobs, where families can also take part in giving to Kingdom work.

So it is a special calling to those responsible to steward a larger portion of God’s resources. Ministries need to recognize this unique calling and view those who invest in such a way, less as donors and more as partners.

However, overwhelmingly today, ministries take their financial partners for granted. They assume that because the donor understands that their work is “real ministry,” they will be satisfied to continue their support so long as the regular e-newsletter continues to shoot out regularly. After all, if they spend all their time building relationships with donors, when will they have the time to focus on their ministry work?

The thinking that financial partners are valued only for the money they contribute is a mistake. That’s because every gift they give is actually a piece of their heart.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Luke 12:34

Donor sentiment about being obligated to give is changing. A large part of my work is meeting with the financial partners of ministry organizations. In one meeting I had with a financial partner whose annual contributions amounted to more than half of the ministry’s annual budget, they shared the following:

“We want to feel like partners-in-ministry. However, we feel more like we’re in a co-dependent relationship with spoiled children whose only contact with us is when they need more money. Unless we see a change in mind-set among ministries that we value the relationship, our support will continue to diminish in favor of those who do.”

Taking partners for granted can be your ministry’s undoing.

However, it’s never too late to refocus and implement small, but meaningful strategies that help rebuild relationships with your partners.  Start with a simple phone call or handwritten note to do nothing else but say, “thank you!”

4 Fundamental’s to Develop Large-Dollar Partners

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. Focus on 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.