Because the ability of high-end donors to give to nonprofit organizations has been hampered by the current economy, there's rarely been as important a time to approach them the right way.
"High-end donors, by any definition, produce a huge share of the net revenue in any fundraising program," says Mal Warwick, founder and chairman of Mal Warwick Associates in Berkeley, Calif. and author of the recent book, "Fundraising When Money Is Tight." "During tough times, when so many donors are shrinking the size of their gifts and reducing the number of causes they support, it's doubly important to stay close to your most loyal and generous donors. This is no time to cut back on stewardship."
Renee Simi, an independent fundraising consultant based in Berkeley, Calif., strongly agrees. "For most organizations, 20 percent of the donors provide 80 percent of the income. In this economy, we've been seeing a big falloff in high-end giving. We are getting the same number of gifts, but donors are downgrading and giving less. And one or two missing gifts makes a big difference in the percentage falloff."
Here's how to prevent further falloff.
1. Give Them Special Treatment ... or a Special Place
Warwick explains that many nonprofits remove high-end donors from their membership or direct marketing programs. Nonetheless, many direct mail fundraisers still treat high-end donors little differently from those at the bottom of the pyramid. He calls this a shortsighted approach. "High-end donors require special treatment, including frequent cultivation, copy that respects their intelligence and sense of self-worth, and special giving opportunities beyond those open to rank-and-file donors," says Warwick.
In general, two types of approaches can be made, according to Simi. "Some clients use the same direct mail copy as the low-dollar group and just upgrade packaging and ask amounts. Other clients prefer to take a softer approach or provide a lot more information than a low-dollar letter," she details. Because these high-dollar files are smaller, it's more difficult to test these approaches, but still may be worth trying to test.
2. Use the Bad Economy
The economy is in the back of practically every donor's mind, especially those high-end donors with stock market investments, so don't pussyfoot around; mention the tough times that equally affect these crucial causes. "Our approach has been to recognize that this group of donors is committed to the mission of the organization, and we've been trying to show how the economy is making delivering on that mission more challenging thus, their help is needed more than ever," explains Simi.