I work with small nonprofits who are beginning to ramp up their individual giving for the first time - usually to fill the gap caused by decreasing government resources. Often they are reluctant and ill equipped to begin the process of asking for major gifts. Their starting point is: “There must be rich people we should ask but we (Board members included) don’t know who they are or how to ask.” It doesn’t begin with making the ask – it culminates in making the ask. It starts with taking a hard look at yourself – who you are and who you want to be, working on developing the best ways (Yes, that is plural) to communicate that and then – only then approaching the right individuals in the right way. There isn’t an easy or less important step. They all need to be done with care and passion for your mission.
One of the “right individual” categories often overlooked is volunteers and another is women. A new study highlights how important women, especially women who volunteer can be as major gift donors. Since 2006, The Bank of America/Merrill Lynch has been sponsoring surveys of High Net Worth Individuals and philanthropic trends associated with them. I have reported on their findings in the past. This year the study, conducted by the highly regarded Center for Philanthropy at Indiana University, was more narrowly focused than usual and it is focused on women’s philanthropy.
One of the basic tenets of seeking major gifts is understanding the donor’s perspective and motivation. Most of the historical data focused on asking for major gifts has been mainly through men. That has changed in recent years and women are now recognized as potential major donors. There are a few things we have to learn about their differences.
I recommend that everyone read the whole report. You will learn something about major gifts from both men and women which I promise will be valuable. This article focus on just a few highlights and characteristics of Women High Net Worth Donors.
Read the whole report here
First some highlighted data – all of which has statistically significant differences between men and women
MOTIVATIONS FOR GIVING TO CHARITY
(Percentage yes responses)
Moved at How Gift Can Make a Difference 81.7 70.9
Give Back to Community 78.2 63.3
Volunteer for the Organization 65.7 49.8
Set Example for Young People 43.6 25.1
Further Legacy of Others 33.1 16.4
FACTORS THAT INFLUENCE CHARITABLE DECISION-MAKING
Personal Experience with an Org. 82 73
Org.'s Communication of Impact 46 32
IMPORTANT EXPECTATIONS WHEN MAKING A CHARITABLE GIFT
Honor Request for Use of Gift 80.4 68.4
Provide Ongoing Communication 45.1 34.5
Communicate Impact of Gift 45.3 26.4
Offer Involvement with the Org 15 5.3
This list of factors that are all significantly statistically different for men and women highlight the importance of identifying women who identify with your organization through community engagement and volunteering. Volunteers are the fuel for some organizations and others rely more heavily on staff and want to use volunteers at the most rudimentary level. I have often encouraged nonprofits to create more volunteer opportunities and to use volunteer high level skills not only to benefit from their services but too also develop stronger ties with them. Developing meaningful volunteer opportunities is an important relationship building tool. This data shows just how important that can be. A good way to do this is to begin to ask some of your supporters if they are willing to take on a specific project. Make sure that your volunteer application/information sheet asks for skills sets so you know who you may ask to do what. I know that this approach has been used on me – I’ve been asked to provide advice on using social media, to be on a planned giving advisory committee, to host a small event in my home, to be a speaker and to judge a student project contest. None of these took any heavy lifting but each of them furthered my engagement with an organization that I was already involved with. Looking at the list above, I see that I can check off all of them because I was asked to do something for an organization.
The last list is especially import to review. Once a gift is made, what are the expectations of the donor. All donors expect a tax receipt and that you honor their privacy. This chart shows what is different about women. Making sure you use the gift as request, ongoing communication and opportunity for engagement is much higher among women than men.
If you are cultivating women as major donors for the first time, take note of these factors. How well you do these simple things can impact future gifts.