Photo courtesy of Willy D on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Photo courtesy of Willy D on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

As we've been approaching the end of year, my coaching clients are asking me to help them prioritize their major gift fundraising contacts. Here are some of the ideas I share with them.

1. People who gave in November or December in 2014 but haven't yet this year

These calls are often simply asking them to repeat the great decision they made last year.

2. People who gave in November or December in previous years but not yet this year

Particularly people who exhibit a pattern of making year end gifts.

3. People who gave generously in previous years but not necessarily at year end

These are more or less the order I'd suggest. Start with more recent donors who have exhibited a behavior of giving at this time of the year and move to those whose last gifts were more distant.

Individual contacts, not spray-and-pray!

Obviously, this is not a one-size-fits all letter or email blast! This assumes you're looking at each person as a person and seeing if following up this year is appropriate. Some people may have had a big life event trigger a large gift last year, like the sale of a company or the death of a loved one. Those people typically aren't going to repeat that level of gift. But some may. So looking at each person as a person is essential.

This is why your database is so important. And why your fundraising can't rely solely on spray-and-pray type fundraising letter appeals or email blasts.

A surprising list of major gift prospects to follow up with at end of year

The most surprising one my coaching clients are discovering is:

4. Those donors you need to thank

I'm honored that in reviewing their assignments, my clients keep sharing with me names of people who've been really generous but asking isn't appropriate. One made a large gift earlier in the year; another made the final payment in a multi-year pledge.

Their reaction is, "I want to call them or write a note, but what should I say?" My advice? Say thanks. The donor did something remarkable for the nonprofit, so thank them.

Thanking is the right thing to do. And an added bonus is that very few donors are getting thank you's at the end of year. So your thanks really stand out. Another bonus is that these calls are typically enjoyable. So you might even mix them in between calls to the other three groups.

Giving thanks with not strings attached is pretty contagious! And you'll find the gratitude spills over into the solicitations.

Have a happy end of year!

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