Raising income from ‘high net worth’ (rich) individuals

Achieving major gifts from high net worth individuals (HNWs) is a low cost but often labour-intensive form of fundraising. It does not produce results over-night but is an important part of a medium to long-term fundraising strategy offering opportunities for financial growth. Though it takes time to develop a strong relationship with a HNW individual, their closeness and commitment to an organisation can provide significant, long-term financial support either for a specific project or core costs. They may have access to other HNWs or influential individuals who can help an organisation achieve its aims.

The key steps in successful fundraising from HNWs are;

  • Identification
    The best place to find HNW individuals is from within your existing supporters. Review your database of supporters looking for indicators such as previous gifts at a significant level; home addresses from a wealthy area; high profile names. Ask your trustees and other influential supporters for their contacts and networks – can they introduce you to potential HNW supporters?
  • Research
    Once you have identified your prospects, can you find out additional information about their background, career, wealth, interests and networks? This will help you to build up a picture of their motivations for becoming involved in your organisation and the level at which you might pitch your ask. You could use internet search engines, national registers of company directors, lists of donors to other charities.
  • Cultivation
    Through a cultivation process, you aim to build a closer relationship with the HNW individual, getting to know them better and discovering which areas of your work they are most responsive to. Through the cultivation process you are building up to an ‘ask’. Cultivation should be tailored and personalised.  Do not send mass mailings but instead write handwritten notes accompanying information of specific interest and aim to meet the donor face to face either at a meeting or by inviting them to an event.
  • The Ask
    An ask for a significant gift should ideally be made face to face, by a prominent person in your organisation such as the Director or Chair of the Board. Using the information you have gained from your research and cultivation, your ask should appeal to the donor’s particular motivations and interests. For example, can you restrict their gift to a project you know is close to their heart? Can you offer a recognition opportunity if that is likely to motivate them? You should be able to communicate why you need the money and what it will help you to achieve.
  • Stewardship
    After a gift has been made you must continue to offer a high standard of customer care to the donor. The aim is to continue developing the relationship allowing you to ask for renewal and increased gifts in the years to come.

Issues to consider when approaching a high net worth individual for support;

  • Are there regulations in your country that can make their donation more tax-efficient either for you or for them?
  • Would they consider leaving you a legacy in their will?
  • Can they make a ‘gift-in-kind’ through stocks or shares, or event sponsorship?
  • What are their networks?  Can they help you to approach other HNWs for support?

Fundraising from HNWs relies on the strength of your relationship. You must keep your records for each donor up to date with recent communications and the information you have researched on them. Help them to feel part of the organisation by including them in smaller events and giving them access to your frontline staff.

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