Subscribe to our blog

Subscribe to Email Updates

Featured Post

Recent Posts

Major donors are researching you! Do you pass the ‘headline test’?

Does your nonprofit pass the headline test?  

Before a major donor even considers donating to a nonprofit, they (or their financial advisors) do their research—or as we like to call it, conduct a “headline test.” They look at your website, your social media and across many other channels to do a gut check on your organization. Essentially, they skim the headlines to determine if you’re worth their time. 

While it may seem like this process is out of your control, you can do a few simple things behind the scenes to make sure you get an A+ on this test. 

1. Post regularly on LinkedIn 

According to a survey we recently conducted, 93% of major donors will look at a nonprofit’s LinkedIn profile first when doing their research. Major donors want to be a partner to your cause and build a deep relationship with your organization to support your mission. If your LinkedIn is bare, this may send a red flag to the donor. Post regularly and ensure the major players in your organization are posting regularly as well!  

2. Assess your website 

Next on that survey list? Websites. We often say, your website acts as the virtual front door to your cause, and it’s certainly true when it comes to major donors. Assess your website from their point of view. How is the user experience? Is the impact that a gift can make clear?  

3. Check your NTEE codes 

It might seem small, but it can make a huge difference. Many large nonprofits don’t have the proper NTEE codes referenced and therefore aren’t classified in the appropriate service categories—causing them to lose audiences before they even have a chance to connect with them.  

Many financial advisors serve as the gatekeepers to major gifts, and they start their screening process with a scan of these codes. Perhaps a major donor is looking to donate to disaster relief. If your organization isn’t categorized in the disaster relief category, you could put yourself out of the running! 

4. Work with news outlets for coverage 

This is putting “Do you pass the headline test?” a little more literally. Positive news coverage of the impact your organization is making is not only great for brand awareness, but it’s also valuable for major donors. Partner with news outlets for feature stories on your cause. 

Take it a step further by turning on Google Alerts for your organization. This is a great tool to keep a constant eye on what a donor will see when they Google your organization’s name. 

5. Audit their donor journey 

We all know there’s tremendous value in a donor’s experience, especially a major donor’s. It’s easy to focus on the experience they have with major gift officers, but not all major donors start out as major donors.  

Invest in creating a donor-centric experience every step of the way—from small $50 gifts all the way up to the major gift level. Whether it’s personal engagement, including face-to-face conversations or direct mail or digital, communication should be high-quality across all channels. 

6. Look at your competitive landscape 

Who else might be in the running when a major donor is looking to give a large gift? Run through the points above for your main competitors. Are they outperforming you in certain areas? Keeping an eye on those in your space can help reveal any areas where your organization may be falling short. 

It’s important to keep in mind that as new tools arise, this list can change. But for now, this is a great starting point if you’re looking to put yourself in a major donor’s shoes.  

Once you pass the headline test, then comes the next phase—building a relationship and securing that gift. For more information on this phase, check out these resources from a few of my colleagues:  

Katie Gordon-Wheat

Katie Gordon-Wheat is an accomplished development professional with almost two decades of experience in business development, program management, relationship development and leadership expertise in both for-profit and nonprofit environments.

Katie is tenured with organizations including the American Cancer Society and Gateway for Cancer Research. She is an expert in building strategic alliances and cultivating relationships to advance missions.

ListenUp blog banner

Leave a comment:

MidYear Benchmarks-Sidebar_SolidGold
Gen X eBook download