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4th – 6th July 2016

The Dating Game - building relationships with major donors

: Bill King

Society is becoming increasingly more unequal. The latest Sunday Times Rich List may have shown a fall in the wealth of those at the very top of society, but there can be no doubt that the overall flow of money in this country, and indeed around the world, is towards the few; the 1%.

Coupled with the new fundraising regulations and the difficulties these are likely to bring for recruiting and retaining your donors, the importance of focusing time and resources into attracting the support of very wealthy people becomes apparent.

Of course, that phrase, “wealthy people” covers a huge range. At the top there are those discussed in Coutts’ annual Million Pound Donor Report which shows an upward trend in those giving very big gifts of £1m or more, mostly to their own foundations and to Universities. These very big gifts may seem out of reach for most charities - though I don’t think that’s necessarily true – but there is undeniably huge potential further down the scale for charities of all shapes and sizes to secure significant donations.

Which all raises the question of how you go about persuading wealthy people to give to your cause. Perceived wisdom is that fundraising from individuals is all about emotion; about making them fall in love with your cause. That’s true, to a point. For smaller donors, tugging the heart strings and telling the stories of those you have helped is the right approach. However, when persuading larger donors to give you do need to be more rigorous in demonstrating the difference you make. Outcomes matter.

Nevertheless, you need to start by getting to know them, and giving them the chance to get to know you, to understand the need you are solving and see for themselves the outcomes you are getting. That’s where the cultivation process comes in, taking the donor from a prospect who may be interested in what you do, into someone who understands the difference you are making, and who is ready to give you that big gift, so that they can help you do more.

At this year’s Fundraising Convention, I will be chairing a panel looking at how you can build relationships with potential major donors. We call it “The Dating Game.”

Joining me will be Alison Pemberton, Head of Major Giving at the NSPCC, Sarah Jane O’Neil, Head of Major Giving at Stonewall, and Sarah Naismith, Head of Charities at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital Charity. Do come and join us and discover how they have succeeded and hear their tips for how you can do the same.


Bill King, UK Director, International Fundraising Consultancy

Bill will be speaking in the Philanthropy track at this year's Fundraising Convention. IFC are 2016 Sponsors

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