4.2 The ‘targeted’ or ‘top-down’ approach
This approach to seeking big gifts rests on being quite clear and determined about your objectives. If you want to secure large financial contributions – with five, six or even seven figures – then you have to orientate your thinking and your energies to that end. You cannot expect big gifts to arrive as windfalls or as the byproducts of other fundraising activities. If you want to get large contributions from those who are capable of making them, you have to ‘go for it’; it is no use feeling ill at ease about issues of ‘elitism’ and status or hoping that you can hold on to some sort of middle ground in which major donors can be treated in the same way as the bulk of your £50-a-year subscribers. If you want to attract the commitment of those capable of making a major donation to your cause, you must have a matching commitment to them which shapes your initial research, the style of your approach and the precise request you present them with. A strategy like this requires substantial investment of time and resources – a recent benchmarking study put the cost of major donor development at 28 per cent of the money raised, compared to a ratio of 20 per cent for fundraising in general (Lloyd, 2006)
In securing a major gift, the best person to do the asking is someone who is of a similar status to your potential donor. It is essential that they also draw credibility from having themselves made a contribution of the order you are seeking. Campaigns for large contributions to secure the leading donors in a capital campaign, for instance, are most effective when led by people from outside the organisation who are peers of your target group and who can communicate your proposition in ways which will be most readily heard. A big gift request is not a one-way transaction. It involves you in identifying areas of mutual interest and concern with your donor and enabling them to share in the development of your cause in ways which are satisfying to them as well as to your organisation.