If a station makes the necessary investments in staff and resources, full
participation in the work of the SRG Major Gifts Initiative has the potential of
achieving a 200% return on first-year expenses—including both in-house and project
costs. Start-up programs may require up to two years to see this return. The true
benefits of expanding major gifts project will be seen over the course of two to
three years. As programs gets stronger, the return on investment should increase as
costs per gift decrease.
The project’s intent is to increase major gifts of $1,000 or more in addition to
ongoing fundraising efforts, not to support one-time projects or to launch a
temporary campaign. The $1,000 figure was selected as a minimum level for personal
solicitation of major gifts based on the experience of the pilot stations. Some
stations may well have the opportunity to attract gifts at a much higher level even
in the initial year.
Different stations can benefit from the project in different ways, such as:
Depending upon the level of participation in the work of this project, stations can
reasonably expect to achieve at least a 50% increase in gifts at the $1,000+ level.
Stations in the Leaders Partnership achieved a 62% increase as a group during the
first project year, with many stations doubling their gifts from board members and
their top donors.
- For those already regularly cultivating and soliciting donors at the $1,000
and above levels, this program will help select and train the strongest team of
solicitors, improve skills in identifying and qualifying prospects and enable
stations to set and achieve higher annual goals.
- For stations launching a new major gifts program, this program will speed the
planning process and will walk them through the first critical year of their new
program from concept through achieving their goal.
- Station boards should increase their personal giving, understanding their role at
the station in a new way and in some cases, adopting a board giving goal of 100%
- If a station’s major gift program is combined with public television
(i.e, joint licensee), this program should motivate solicitors and donors to
attract more contributions from radio listeners.
- The project is designed to help stations develop an annual major gifts campaign
to increase unrestricted operating income for stations’ general budget. For stations
considering a capital or endowment campaign, SRG recommends that such campaigns take
place at a time other than the MGI project year. If a station has completed a special
campaign, this project will help integrate those intensive efforts into annual
At the conclusion of this one-year project, the successful station can expect some or
all of these outcomes:
Major gift income will be integrated as an ongoing income stream in fiscal budget
and planning. The board and management group will understand how a major giving
program fits together with other fund raising programs, including capital and
In meetings with prospective supporters, the general manager will better demonstrate
confidence and clarity in describing the station’s mission and its value to the
Board members will exhibit greater understanding and commitment to the goals of the
station, and some will become major givers and active solicitors on its behalf.
Fundraising staff members will have built the foundation for a growing base of major
gifts support, with systems in place for identifying, cultivating, soliciting and
recognizing major donors.
If the station began with a major gifts program in place, the program will have
become stronger, more cost-effective and more focused on the most promising
opportunities for growth. Stations may see significant increases in the size of the
gifts they receive.
Non-fundraising staff, including on-air hosts, will contribute to the "culture
of cultivation" at the station and will be more at ease meeting and talking with
donors and prospects.
Members and prospective donors will learn that the station cares about their needs
and relationships to the station, not just about the station’s needs.
Major donors will tell the station that they feel a greater sense of partnership with
the station and that they understand better what it is that is actually done there.
Major gift income will show signs of growth at a more rapid rate than other income
A few "surprise" relationships will unfold that may open opportunities for
significant support in the near future.
The benefits of this project, both inside the station as an institution and outside
in the community, can be powerful. These results are perhaps best described with a
few comments from the general managers and development staff of the stations who
participated in the Leaders Partnership:
"The project has forced us to rethink how we ask donors for money and how we
show our appreciation. I also think it is beginning to force us to rethink how we
expend our development energies. I have found myself more directly involved in this
effort than I had previously been in fundraising. I also believe that our development
team has to rethink the way they spend their time."
"This project has gotten people to start thinking ‘big’! Instead of always
viewing public radio as the grassroots organization worthy of only a $25 to $100 gift,
we now have people thinking that $500 to $1,000 is a more appropriate annual
"[This project] helped us understand the kind of personal relationship that the
donor wants, and that the station needs to provide and develop with them. Some of
these people have been waiting a long time for the station to ask them for larger
gifts, to show that we care."
"[We now] have specific proof and realization that a major donor program can be
a real benefit—[we’ve got] real results . . . . "
"This project has become an office team effort—[even the] receptionist is aware
of who the major donors are, what letters and materials are available for them
and—most important—how to answer their calls, visits and questions."