One important role of consultants is to bring a fresh perspective to each client.

This is especially apparent when consultants act as interim staff for development leadership positions. Two recent staffing assignments helped Schultz & Williams clients identify major gift donors whose potential for giving may not have been recognized by busy development staff dealing with day-to-day responsibilities. In addition to the obvious and immediate benefits of these success stories, our clients learned to be more attuned to similar opportunities in the future.

Here are three examples of major donors who were identified in unusual ways and the gifts that were received as a result:

1. Long Distance Donor – At one social service agency, a busy donor who lives at a distance was always among the first to make a large gift to support the organization’s annual special event, even though she was rarely able to attend. Yet, her loyalty and generosity indicated that she could very well become this client’s next major donor.

Qualification and Education – The donor was regularly in contact with the organization’s staff to receive updates on a family member who received services at one of its facilities. To help the staff realize her potential as a major gift prospect, we provided a donor profile, which reflected her generous contributions – including several multi-million dollar gifts – to a number of nonprofits.

Strategy – We worked with staff to better understand what motivates this donor to give big gifts and to identify projects that might appeal to her. We then coached the staff member who is in frequent contact with her on the best way to introduce this topic during their next phone call. With the staff member’s spirited presentation and support from the organization’s leadership, a project was identified and presented – and resulted in a $2 million gift.

2. Almost Overlooked – With staff turnover, maintaining and increasing the success of numerous programs can be challenging for the development professionals who remain. At S&W, we seek not only to enhance existing fundraising programs, but also to provide continuity for strengthening relationships with current and prospective donors, especially during periods of staff turnover. This can be as basic as working with development staff to respond effectively to phone and email messages.

Background Information – While working with this client, we found an important email in the inbox of the former development director. A member of the staff asked how to respond.

The email was from a foundation that had discovered a unique community health program in California and wanted to know whether our client would like to explore the possibility of replicating the program in Philadelphia.

Strategy – S&W researched the model program in California and reviewed the results with our client’s leadership. We felt that the program could be a good fit, so we invited the foundation’s officials for a site visit, during which shared program goals were defined and developed into a grant application. Within six months, the proposal was submitted and a $2.2 million grant was awarded.

3. Raising Sights – Often with a little planning, major gifts can be woven into the fabric of a special event or a fundraising campaign. That was the case for one hospital planning a gala and a direct mail appeal.

Strategy – We increased sponsorship levels for the gala to include a $50,000 Presenting Sponsorship level as well as benefits and additional sponsorships levels to recognize contributions ranging from $5,000 to $25,000. Although initially budgeted to net $50,000, the event produced nearly $300,000 in net proceeds. We followed up our efforts with a longer-term plan that outlined specific strategies for building on this notable success.

For the direct mail campaign, a leadership giving club was developed with five giving levels that have increased gifts from $20,000 last year to more than $200,000 to date for this fiscal year.

Major gifts are often hidden in our day-to-day interactions with donors and prospects. By listening and responding to their interests, significant gifts can be realized.