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Cultivating Major Donors

The ability to cultivate major donors who can write checks for tens of thousands of dollars at a time and establish significant charitable trusts, for example, can make a substantial positive difference for nonprofits to benefit others. In these economically strained times, winning over the wealthy can be a real effort. One of the most effective ways to do so is to intimately connect the nonprofit’s mission and message with the strong preferences of potential major donors. This approach was spearheaded with the publication of The Seven Faces of Philanthropy. That book was one of the first to detail the seven psychographic segments of wealthy donors and provide guidance on capitalizing on this methodology.

While nonprofits are increasingly adopting this type of approach, the fact that it is being embraced is making competition among various nonprofits more intense. At the same time, the wealthy are being more circumspect concerning who they give their charitable dollars. By marrying a fundraising approach predicated on psychographics with solid thought leadership, nonprofits can dramatically raise their stature. This can consequently enable a particular nonprofit to become the charity of choice for a select wealthy cohort. Then with the appropriate steps, the nonprofit can capitalize by bringing in major and planned gifts.

Having developed a time-tested psychographic segmentation model of wealthy donors and extensive thought leadership campaigns, we recognize that various psychographic segments are more and less responsive to this integrated approach. The following table identifies where thought leadership can be most influential. It is essential to realize that thought leadership can be the deciding factor for the wealthy in choosing among nonprofits that are similar such as those in the medical field (i.e., hospitals, disease-related 501(3)Cs, and the like), as well as those that are different types such as nonprofits dealing with animal causes compared to those in the arts.

The Power Of Thought Leadership

SegmentMotivationAmong similar nonprofitsBetween different types of nonprofits
The CommunitarianDoing good makes senseHighHigh
The DevoutDoing good is God’s willMediumLow
The InvestorDoing good is good businessHighHigh
The SocialiteDoing good is funLowLow
The RepayerDoing good in returnMediumLow
The AltruistDoing good feels rightMediumMedium
The DynastDoing good is a family traditionHighHigh

For communitarians, investors and dynasts, thought leadership can be very impactful among and between nonprofits. For the devout and repayers, thought leadership will have the most significant impact in motivating them to decide among similar nonprofits. Thought leadership can influence altruists, but the power of this approach varies dramatically. Finally, most thought leadership initiatives are less likely to influence socialites.

With all the extraordinarily worthy causes vying for money from the wealthy, cultivating prospective major and planned gifts will take greater fundraising sophistication. By combining an overall fundraising approach that utilizes a highly effective and proven psychographic segmentation model with a well-conceived and executed thought leadership campaign, a nonprofit will likely see an exponential boost in major and planned gifts.

Russ Alan Prince is the executive director of Private Wealth magazine and chief content officer for High-Net-Worth Genius. He consults with family offices, the wealthy, fast-tracking entrepreneurs and select professionals.


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