As the world continues to battle COVID-19 and grapple with the multitude and ever-changing international travel restrictions, many of your major gift prospects might be easier to reach than you've previously found. Unable to plan their regular holiday to Europe or fly to see family overseas, more of these individuals in New Zealand and Australia are having to take a less expensive staycation. Local tradespeople confirm they are also redirecting funds to home renovations and garden improvements. Why not add philanthropy to that list? With 20 years’ experience working in the philanthropic sector, specialising in major gift prospecting, Nicki Sayers believes now is the time to speak to major donors and make progress on your fundraising goals.
While this year has brought recession to many parts of the globe, a sector of New Zealand individuals with secure incomes potentially has a bit more discretionary income, and indications are they are spending. With encouragement from the government, New Zealanders have been getting out and visiting their own backyard, supporting tourism and hospitality businesses who have been hardest hit by the lack of overseas holidaymakers. Alongside this, home and garden renovations have been a major spending area and even art galleries are reporting record sales. Many people stayed at home a lot more last year and as a result they now have some extra money in their pockets. Many of these people appreciate the fortunate position they are in. They see the need is greater than ever to support those with less secure incomes who are having to deal with working shorter hours or who have lost their jobs. Nicki commented:
“Certainly, in New Zealand people seem to have bought into the ‘team of 5 million’ message which got us through the first lockdown and eliminated the virus here. I think charities have an opportunity to tap into that message. Donors are generous people, they want to help, and it’s up to us to give them a way to do that.
The sense of altruism that has been felt broadly across the globe, coupled with many potential philanthropists having returned home, with time on their hands for a conversation about your cause, creates a perfect scenario to get in touch with donors and continue progressing your major gifts programme.”
Although approaching prospects during a tough economic period may seem daunting, Nicki urges fundraisers to err on the side of optimism, while remaining sensitive to the current situation. She says:
“By doing even a small amount of background research in advance, you can start to get a feel for the person before you pick up the phone. As with all relationship-based fundraising it’s important to build rapport with the prospect and listen to their needs. What specifically are they concerned about that you can help them with?”
Now may not be the time to reach out to a totally new face: instead, Nicki advises starting with who you know in the form of existing or lapsed donors, or other supporters in your database. This will save you time as they already know your cause, and have shown a willingness to support in the past, which is a good indicator of future giving. Good candidates to start up a conversation with could include anyone who’s made an unusually large gift (compared with their prior giving) or anyone who’s giving more frequently. You can also look at long time or regular donors living in affluent neighbourhoods – they could potentially give more but maybe haven’t been asked.
Nicki says: “Several New Zealand charities invested early in donor care and reached out to their donors during the first lockdown with great success. People were feeling a bit uncertain about the future and in many cases, especially older donors, a bit isolated. They still wanted to help but didn’t really know how to. A simple courtesy well-being call was generally very well received.” Two examples of this strategy working extremely well, for the SPCA and Forest and Bird, are featured here.
Overall, it seems that as much of the rest of the world is hidden away in COVID chaos, in New Zealand there is an opportunity to make great progress with major gift fundraising. Donors who may not have previously had the time to ‘catch up for coffee’ could have more time on their hands and be able to meet. For fundraisers: act now to make the most of this opportunity and sow the seed of philanthropy.
Many thanks to Nicki Sayers for her contributions to this article. You can find out more about her expertise here.
Nicki Sayers is the Manager, Donor and Prospect Research at Victoria University of Wellington where she supports a team of major gift officers. She covers all aspects of prospect research and management from discovery through to pitching the ask.
In addition, Nicki works freelance with charities and schools to help them identify major gift prospects from their own database; network-map existing donors and supporters/volunteers; and help with strategies for approaching and managing major donors, through the moves process, towards a gift.
As one of only a handful of dedicated prospect researchers in New Zealand, Nicki is regularly asked to share her specialist knowledge and has presented webinars and at conferences for FINZ and Educate Plus.
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