Many development professionals will tell you that major gifts are the bread and butter of your fundraising efforts. And those professionals were right in previous generations. But, with millennials taking on more workforce responsibility, their giving habits should be taken into consideration as philanthropic culture shifts. A major gifts plan should play a defined role in an overall development strategy. Still, most everyday millennials are not dropping millions of dollars to have their names on buildings (yet). Collectively, well-educated millennials seek authenticity over elitism. Your annual fund should serve as a pipe line to: 1) identify supporters of your mission 2) develop relationship that will lead to the major gifts from current annual fund donors.
The annual fund is both a short and long game. In the short game, you need operating dollars right now. Annual funds, which are more often than not geared toward general operating expenses, provide those dollars. Whether you have a file cabinet full of university students in financial need or a small nonprofit that is hoping to transition a part-time role into full-time, you can’t make it without consistent annual giving. Having dollars given that aren’t earmarked by the donor for a specific project or initiative (like many grants or gifts from major donors are) is helpful as Executive Directors look to navigate moments of financial uncertainty.
Looking at annual fund as a long game, it is a way to secure information on donors that will allow your prospect research team, development professional, or office manager to determine giving propensity and gauge long-term capacity.
This year, the youngest millennial is 24 years old. Let me paint a picture of her life with your organization.
Who is Lisa?
24-year-old Lisa has an entry-level role at a regional corporation, as well as a budding side hustle. She is single and earns $43,000 per year. She volunteered with your organization throughout college. When she saw the end of year appeal, she committed to give $20 each month. That is her sacrificing an evening out with her college friends. With every raise she gets, she increases her gift because your organization communicates consistently.
By 34, Lisa is married and has a son but she still gives. She is not a major donor but she is consistent. She has launched her own business and her income is well-over $100,000. Her annual gift reflects that. Your development professional has stewarded this relationship well. He knows that she can turn the corner from making annual gifts of $2,400 to pledging $50,000 over a 3-year period.
How Do We Pivot?
Your organization won’t get the $50,000 over 3 years without investing in a development strategy. Build authentic relationships with your donors. That way, when you sit down for dinner and ask them to sponsor a new initiative for 5- or 6-figures, you’re not blindsiding them.
Together, we can develop a strategy to build right now dollars while funneling today’s consistent supporters into tomorrow’s major donors. Click here to contact me now.