Who Wants a Million Dollars?

Today’s blog post is written by Kevin Patterson, Senior Account Executive, Patron Technology.

Recently, the 2016 Million Dollar Donors Report was published by the English investment bank Coutts, documenting philanthropic trends across the globe and, in particular, the number of million-dollar (or greater) gifts given to organizations in the calendar year of 2015.

The report shows solid growth in the United States, with more than $19.3 billion in philanthropic gifts being given to 1,823 organizations, which represents a 64 percent increase in million-dollar gifts over the previous year. Arts, Culture, and Humanities accounted for 167 of those gifts, approximately $1.6 billion. You may be saying to yourself, “Great, but how do I get my hands on one of those million-dollar gifts?” Well, the tools you need may already be at your disposal.

As the saying goes, people give to what you believe, not to what you produce. Having a great product is important, but the vision and beliefs of your organization will do more to attract potential million-dollar patrons. First, ensure that your messaging supports your vision. Your programming is the outward and direct manifestation of that vision, and having everything in alignment is crucial to your success.

That said, you already know that building strong relationships with your patrons is the very lifeblood of your organization. Today’s thousand-dollar donor can in time be cultivated to become tomorrow’s ten-thousand, hundred-thousand, or even million-dollar donor. Today a robust CRM system, such as our PatronManager, represents an essential tool in this approach.  

For instance, how’s your donor pyramid looking? Remember, major donors, while small in number, typically account for the largest share of total dollars given. Every organization sustains itself on its ability to successfully attract, retain, and upgrade donors. Need to know where to find the next donor? Look no further than those patrons who have purchased multiple tickets to events that may signal a specific interest in your organization.

When was the last time you looked closely at giving from your subscriber base? If less than 30 percent of your subscribers are donating to your organization, you’ve got some work to do, according to TRG’s blog post “Hung Up on Renewal Rate? Measure This Too.” If you don’t have an annual campaign to actively engage these subscribers to turn them into annual fund donors, you are missing a huge opportunity. Are you running reports of subscribers who haven’t donated to your organization and targeting communications to turn them into annual fund donors? Subscribers are primed and ready to give to your organization — but you must ask.

Do you have an overall strategy with your board of directors to cultivate specific donors? Too often, organizations spend more time thinking about the donations their patrons might give and miss the opportunity to engage personally in a well-thought-out campaign that will generate an even higher rate of return. By setting up a campaign and identifying, cultivating, and tracking your individual donations, you can more easily match specific donors to the causes in your organization that interest them most.

Now, back to the million-dollar donor. Although it may sound far-fetched, your organization may have a donor with the capacity to give a seven-figure gift right now, and you may not even know it. We partner with the data mining company WealthEngine to help our clients discover more about the giving capacity of their patrons.

Million-dollar donors don’t fall from the sky; they are strategically and deliberately cultivated. Every organization has the potential to cultivate the next million-dollar donor. With a disciplined, donor-focused strategy, you may find that your million-dollar donor is closer than you think.


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