Getting the Most out of Your Donors

This week we welcome back Jim Leighton and he shares some of his secrets that has led to success in the fundraising business!

Tell us a little bit of your story.

The last 14 years I was at Children’s Cancer Research Fund. We produced large events in the twin cities. I’ve raised all my money with great teams in the twin cities, but what we are doing in the twin cities, doesn’t have to stay in the twin cities. 

Don’t be afraid of events because events can be a sustainable revenue model. In the development offices across the country people are scared of the word, but let’s not be scared of that word. You can do it effectively. I’ve built programs with sustainable growth.

You can be hired.

Make it RAIN. That’s our goal. There are so many non profits and people ask if there is a mission I’m focused on. My mission is non profits. I’m excited about when people are excited about their mission. I’ve taken one step back and are more of an advocate of the whole industry. 

How much money have you raised over the years?

Ten’s of Millions. Great teams’ I’ve led have raised about 52 million dollars. Impact. The more impact we can have for non profits the better our communities are. Individual giving is what’s going to make the difference in what’s going on in our country and in the world. That’s where we need to focus.

How do you use events to make money?

People need to decide what it is they are raising money for and let’s not be afraid to dream a little bit. My first thing is: how much money do we want to raise. Just because you raised 50,000 last year, that’s not the answer to the question of how much money do you want to raise. If a group can raise their budget what can they do with that? What impact can they have? That’s exciting. An event can bring a community together. One of my catch phrases is be bold. Be bold in our goals and not afraid to go get them. The work to get that money doesn’t scare me and it shouldn’t scare you. I’ll hold your hand and help you get not scared. We will set your goal to attainable and inspirational.

88% of an organizations funding comes from 12% of their donors. 

This is interesting, at the end of the day it’s a very small group of people providing most of the money.

It’s a very small group of people driving most of the money. Now, are those small things important? Those are important, as they become more successful they can give more. You’re at 88% you still need that 12%. When you talk about the 12%, those are event attendees, a lot of them are people that you will get to know through events. Events and major gifts should be holding hands. 

Let’s talk the general strategy.

You have to have a strategy and the strategy has to be there before we get into the ballroom or brewery. It has to be able to tell a story. I think production is important. The real work is after the event. That’s when we start to build those relationships. I am going to introduce you to something:

  1. Produce: Produce a quality event. It doesn’t need to be a high end gala. Make it comfortable, inviting, and fun. Able to tell a story and convey why there is a need in the organization. 
  2. Prospect: Before the event. Get your guests names. You don’t know who your donors are going to be. At least an email, get that information. You want that information in advance, at least before the show. The earlier we get it the more work we can do. 
  3. Prepare: Once we have the event and I have more information. We now strategize. Who were the top ten percent or top five percent. 
  4. Pursue: Now we are going out and getting coffee and meet these people. Find out what is their motivation. Don’t ask for money for a while were going to get them more engaged. Let’s get them quickly in the next couple of months to the organization to experience the impact. Immerse yourself in the mission. 
  5. Prosper: This is where those words turn not just into a single donation but a life long partnership. A lot of these donors will become partners. 

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