Heurista Loves Canada!

Anne, Jeff and Rachel are just back from the first annual Association of Donor Relations Professionals Canadian Regional Workshop, held April 10, 2015 at the Hart House on the University of Toronto campus.  We settled into the beautiful surroundings (think Hogwarts, you Harry Potter fans) as the room filled with a sell-out crowd of 100 professionals intent on learning and sharing about donor relations and stewardship.

The day kicked off with this statement from David Palmer, University of Toronto Vice President of Advancement:  

“Stewardship is the most important factor in driving major gifts.  Pull stewardship out of the realm of letter writing and events.  Stewardship professionals should be at the table with the fundraising strategy team.”

Palmer, who now leads U of T’s $2M Boundless campaign, the largest campaign in Canadian university history, shared notable facts from a recent benchmarking study in support of this argument:

  •     On average, donors make 30+ gifts before making their first 7-figure gift
  •     On average, there is a 20+ year span between first gift and the first 7-figure gift
  •     The median first gift for these top donors is less than $100

In other words:  You can’t afford to wait until your donors make a major gift to treat them like a major donor. 

Furthermore, Palmer made the following points that indicate a shift in stewardship planning for most institutions:

  •     “Control” of the donor relationship by one person, the relationship manager, contradicts the satisfaction a donor receives from open access to those at the institution doing the work the donor supports
  •     Providing talking points and boiler plate text allows many more within the institution to be ready to talk meaningfully with a donor
  •     The number of connection points is the primary indicator in donor engagement; it matter more that they happen often than that they are connections with one specific individual
  •     Undue influence by a donor is curtailed by holding individual units to their own strategic plans and academic standards

As Palmer explains, “We, the institution, are no longer the cause.”  Your institution is the vehicle by which social change happens.  The donor must be convinced of the institution’s unique ability to achieve shared goal(s) and have information and access that feeds his or her passion.