EDITORIAL: Major donors are more than a cash cow for charities

Lucy Maggs

A member of the Royal Family was quoted last week as saying to a charity chief executive, "your organisation has a lot of good ideas and not much money, and I know a lot of people with a lot of money and not many ideas".

Hooking a wealthy donor must be any charity fundraiser's dream and a connection to the Royals is obviously a help. But according to a new report from the Institute for Philanthropy, charities lack a professional, consistent approach towards building a lasting relationship with major donors.

One of the key factors identified is that charities need to reciprocate.

In order to keep more generous benefactors committed to an organisation, it needs to give them something in return. The donor should be seen as a client and the charity needs to find a way to retain their good faith.

Part of this can be achieved through what could simply be described as good manners - a personal thank-you letter from the chief executive is always well received.

But many donors, particularly those who give large sums of money, want to feel their connection with the charity is deeper than their pockets.

Fundraisers from The Prince's Trust, when meeting a potential large donor for the first time, will have a young person who has benefited from the charity present at the meeting. An overseas aid charity recently took a potential donor and his family to visit a project in Africa.

Donors want to feel involved with the charity's work, not just the fundraising team. But in many charities, fundraisers are regarded with suspicion by those in the organisation who work more directly with the client group.

Fundraisers need to be better integrated into the organisation and have some input into programme planning and, in turn, programme directors should feed into fundraising strategies. The benefits of a less fragmented organisation would reach further than the fundraising department.

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