There's something far more valuable in your donor base already.

Many nonprofit leaders, especially in newer or smaller organizations, dream of a “sugar daddy”—a wealthy individual who falls so in love with their organization that she’s willing to pretty much bankroll it, or at least provide a huge donation for a couple years that will create some breathing room.

It’s understandable, of course. But how realistic is it?

In 2012, there were only 95 gifts of more than one million dollars. Of those, 73 were not to normal nonprofits. They were to huge museums, hospitals, colleges with multi-billion dollar endowments, and the like. And frankly, even were that not the case, few serious philanthropists these days are willing to take the risk involved in being the sole funder of a new or small organization—they want to be the icing on the cake, not the flour.

Yet even in the world far from dreamland, I see nonprofits so concerned with “major donors” that they fail to cultivate that $100 giver and his network. They think of their budget as a penny jar to be filled, and non-major donors as nonexistent once they’ve dropped in their penny and turned away.

Think about what’s represented by that $100 gift. This probably isn’t a wealthy person. But this wasn’t a $5 assuage-my-conscience gift. This person appears to believe in what you’re doing. That ought to be an inspiring thought.

So should this: that donor may not be wealthy, but he might be able to give more if you found a way to let him become a part of what you’re doing. And if you find ways to connect to his network, statistically speaking, you will more than double what you got from his gift. That $100 gift from one person can become $200 gifts apiece from six people mighty quickly. And you have a lot of donors at the $100 level just waiting for you to value them this way.

And when you have a few thousand well-cultivated, valued, happy donors, maybe your dreams won’t need to involve money at all.

Comment