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Nill’s Amazing Truths of Fundraising: A Series (Part 6)

Author’s Note:  This is the sixth in a series of articles growing out of a session I conducted at the CharityChannel Summit 2003 in Palm Springs in March.  In this series, I present a strategic perspective on fund development that will, if adopted, substantially increase the volume of funds raised in the near-, medium-, and long-term.  Warning:  My perspective does not come from a text book on fund raising.  Rather, it is a perspective gained in my two decades in the trenches, where I’ve built, managed, and/or advised several hundred fund development programs.  My having a front row, center seat at CharityChannel these past 10 years, where I’ve carefully followed thousands of forum submissions around the topic of fund raising, convinces me that it’s more important than ever to gain clarity on the role of the fund development function for nonprofit organizations and educational institutions.  I hope this series will stimulate new thinking and help more than a few substantially to increase fund-raising effectiveness.

Note for our non-U.S. Colleagues.  This article uses U.S.-centered statistical maps.  There is no reason why the same analysis could not be applied to your own locale.

It is the central premise of this series that any nonprofit organization, large or small, rich or poor, new or old, can substantially increase its fund-raising effectiveness by focusing on big gifts from members of the Eisenhower generation.  In Part 4 of this series, I gave away some of my secrets to building a program that focuses on generating big gifts from wealthy members of the Eisenhower generation.  In this installment, we take a step back and look at things from another direction:  We look at where the wealthy Ikes are congregating.

Nill’s Amazing Truth of Fundraising No. 9:  It’s Easier to Attract Ikes if there are More Ikes Near You to Attract.

The fact is, some organizations are, by virtue of geography, going to have a much easier time than others of finding and attracting big gifts from Ikes, simply because of where they’re located.

When you build your network of allied professionals and/or your professional advisory council, the relative density of Ikes in your area will be the single biggest factor in the number of older, wealthier prospects brought to you as prospective donors.  Allied professionals who practice, say, in many parts of California are going to have little or no difficulty encountering wealthy Ikes; those practicing in Wyoming need a foreign policy, because they just aren’t going to find many of them.  I’ll explain what I mean by “foreign policy” in a future installment.

Let’s take a relatively simple profile and see where it leads us.  Let’s look for concentrations of individuals age 55 and over, and who live in households earning more than $150,000 annually.  While net worth is in many ways a better predictor of ability to donate than is income, when you qualify those age 55 or over with household income of $150,000, you can reasonably infer high net worth.  That is because persons age 55 or older are nearing retirement or are retired; imagine the asset base required to generate income of $150,000 annually.  Of course, if we were looking for those age 65 or older, we’d be even closer in probability to the high-net-worth inferred wealth target and we wouldn’t be including the oldest of the Baby Boomers.  But for this illustration, we’ll stick with age 55 or older.

The first step is to look at which states have the highest concentrations of persons age 55 or older.

The next step is to look at concentrations of persons with incomes of $150,000 annually, or higher. 

The next step is to put the information together.  What we want to see is which states have the highest concentrations of persons age 55 and over, and whose annual incomes are $150,000 or more.  

It’s important to not stop here.  For example, it’s obvious that a state such as California has one of the U.S.’s highest densities of wealthy Ikes.  But the fact is, there are parts of California that have the highest concentrations, and parts that don’t.  

It’s pretty easy to see that building a network of allied professionals in, say, Los Angeles County or the Bay Area will provide a rich payoff in prospective donors of the Eisenhower generation.  On the other hand, if you are in Modoc County, well, it’s going to be much more difficult.

Stephen Nill

About the Contributor: Stephen Nill

Stephen Nill founded CharityChannel in 1992 as a means of connecting his nonprofit hospital chain’s fund development staff over the Internet to their colleagues at other organizations. That first discussion community grew into what is today the oldest and largest community of third-sector professionals in the world, comprised of well over 100,000 participants worldwide. He has been working in the US and international third sector for more than 30 years. He has served as the Chief Development Officer at a major Southern California university, the CEO of a large health care foundation, a vice-president of fund development of a U.S. west-coast nonprofit hospital chain, as a founder and acting director of development of a parochial school in his community, and as a founder of an organization dedicated to providing food and clothing for homeless persons in Southern California.

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