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How rescue missions can spur major donor pipeline growth

A few years ago, we wrote about how a decline in religion was impacting charitable giving.  

Since then, many faith-based organizations, like rescue missions, have transformed the way they serve their communities and tell their stories. There’s also been an increasing emphasis put on major donor pipeline development, due to the long-term stability it can provide. 

But for missions to continue to build their major donor pipeline, there has to be a shift in thinking. No longer can they lean on existing donors or rely on passive fundraising sources. Now is the time to think big, be bold and expand your focus! 

In this blog, I’m sharing a few ways rescue missions can identify and reach new major donors to build their pipeline. 

Use your executive leadership to network 

Many rescue missions have CEOs with pastor-like presences. Their connections in the community, passion for what they do, and vision for your mission are invaluable. Use them to build your major donor pipeline within the community. 

Major donors like to feel valued, and nothing is more meaningful than a connection with your CEO. Have them participate in speaking engagements, reach out to prospects and share their vision with their networks. 

Think big and be bold about your mission 

It’s easy to be humble about the transformational work your mission does. But there are many potential donors out there who are waiting to answer a call to do more—they just need you to give them the opportunity! 

Modeling solutions can help you think bigger, by identifying and reaching donors that you may not be aware of. Through the use of a model, you can uncover donors on your file who have a high probability of giving large gifts, even if they haven’t given one to your organization before.  

Even better, the right model can help you understand each donor’s probability to give at an individual level—so you can be bold and tailor your ask amount and engagement strategies directly to them. 

Expand outside of direct mail 

Missions have been really fortunate over the past few decades to rely on direct mail to build their pipelines. 

While direct mail is still a critical tool in your major donor toolbox, this more passive form of fundraising can no longer carry the entire weight of your program. Today’s major donors want more. They’re more sophisticated than ever before—and they expect communication across all channels. 

If you’re not spreading your word and promoting the good work you do in any channel other than direct mail, major donor prospects may not know that you exist. In the last year, we’ve seen a lot of success in the expansion of digital for our mission clients, and we’re using digital channels not only to acquire new donors but also to stay top of mind among existing audiences.  

Look into strategic partnerships with corporations 

Homelessness is a high-priority topic in many cities. You may be surprised how many corporations are looking to help solve the crisis. Strategic partnerships with organizations in your community can help support your overall major giving pipeline—and expose you to new audiences.  

In the years since 2020, much of the country has experienced pain and loss. I believe there’s more empathy out there for others than ever before as many people were put into situations that were out of their control. 

Use this time to think big and be bold. You might be surprised how many donors are out there waiting to answer the call to transform their communities.  

Remember, Jesus didn’t think small. Neither do major donors. And you shouldn’t either! 

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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