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How modeling and corporate partnerships can take your mission’s major donor pipeline to new heights

In my most recent blog on major donor pipeline growth, I shared how rescue missions needed to start thinking differently about how they identify and reach major donors. If you haven’t had a chance to give it a read, I encourage you to check it out here. 

In the meantime, here’s a quick look at the key takeaways: 

  1. Start using your executive leadership to reach major donors.
  2. Leverage modeling to uncover new prospects you may otherwise have missed.
  3. Expand your sights outside of direct mail. 
  4. Look into strategic partnerships with corporations. 

I know what you might be thinking after reading those—that all sounds great, but what does it actually look like when implemented into my program?  

As a follow up, I wanted to share a few examples of how we’re using these tactics to help craft engaging and effective plans for our client’s major donor and corporate partner initiatives.  

Strategic corporate partnerships 

One of our clients is currently in the process of securing a partnership with a major U.S. retailer. This partnership will be a game changer for the mission, and its success is due largely to a few key tactics used throughout the last few months, including: 

  • Identifying what’s important to them: The retailer is heavily invested in supporting black-owned businesses. The area happens to be a major focus for the mission, too. By identifying this, giving leadership tours of their facilities and expressing the impact their partnership could have on black-owned businesses in the area, they have formed a major connector between the two organizations.
  • Positioning leadership at key points of the conversation: We strategically partnered key leadership from the mission with leaders from the retailer. For example, only when the retailer’s CEO came in for the full tour did the mission’s CEO participate during strategic times as well. Strategically positioning your leadership in the relationship cultivation process builds respect and lets the potential partner know that your organization is hard at work using donor dollars to achieve your mission of transforming lives.
  • Remembering to include “the heart” in the process: A lot of corporate initiatives can get bogged down in the important business details—but just like with major donors, corporate partnerships are also about the heart of the cause. Throughout the process, we’ve included personal touchpoints like impact stories, photos and mission appropriate personalized gifts to ensure a deeper emotional connection is made. 

Using modeling to reach new donors 

Another organization we work with was interested in using modeling to identify prospects with a higher capacity to give. Our analytics team built a model of 15,370 constituents who had previously lapsed out of their mid-major portfolio or had the capacity to give but had not yet self-identified with a large donation. 

Once the model was complete, our creative team developed a package that was heavily personalized, presenting a problem that donors could solve with a tailored, donor-centric ask and high-value gift array based on their previous giving history. The mailing was solutions oriented and was followed by a personal outreach phone call and digital touchpoints. 

With the model, relationship coaching and creative working in harmony, the organization was able to think much bigger and bolder about the major donor strategy, resulting in: 

  1. $412,000 in revenue 
  2. 2.21 response rate 
  3. $1,200 average gift 

Even more impressively, because the model told us which ask arrays to use for each donor, 84 gifts came in above $1,000, 12 above $5,000 and one gift came in at $73,500. All of these gifts came from donors who had never given more than $100 annually.  

These two examples are just the starting point for missions looking to think bigger and bolder with their major donor pipeline development.  

By leveraging new tactics and not being afraid to share your mission’s heart with those whom you might not have considered otherwise, you can tap into an entirely new audience waiting for their call to transform their community. Don’t be afraid to go for it and be bold! You have a great mission and are doing great work in your community. 

Karla Baldelli

Karla is an elite nonprofit fundraising executive with a 25-year career in mid-level and distinguished donor fundraising, engagement and stewardship for major nonprofits. Her experience includes transformational roles with JDRF, Coast Guard Foundation, American Heart Association, Arthritis Foundation, The Salvation Army and Susan G. Komen for the Cure. While at the American Heart Association, Karla built the first-ever mega-donor event, Honored Guest Day.  She designed the campaign architecture for the $100 million Mission Lifeline Campaign and conceived the AHA’s National Giving Society, Cor Vitae.

Karla brings strong leadership and strategic counsel for thoughtful, year-round donor experience strategies integrated throughout campaigns and giving channels. Her expertise is changing the culture of major donor programs, including educating staff with her proprietary training, the Power of the Donor Experience.  Since coming to RKD, she has implemented a holistic program - leading with data insights and centered on the donor experience and organizational execution - that results in more inspired giving and increased revenue.   

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