Twitter Chat Recap: Mega Millions: Demystifying Principal Gifts

On Tuesday, January 30, Apra members gathered around their screens to join in on the latest Apra Twitter Chat. Lindsey Nadeau, Associate Director, Presidential & Principal Gifts Research, with George Washington University led a discussion around Principal Gifts that reached almost 5,000 twitter accounts via 110+ tweets and 14 contributors.

Some highlights from the conversation include:

  • The amount that defines a principal gift varies from organization to organization. Participants shared levels between $1M + capacity rating and $10M.
  • Even within a single organization, the principal gift threshold can be fluid depending on factors like the alumnus’ age.
  • Do you know the ratio of donors who approached your organization nearly ready to give vs. those that your organization truly discovered and qualified? It may be worth having this stat available. Solid historical tracking data is key to having this data available, so it may be worth putting a plan in place now to begin to track it.
  • Look into holding a regular Principal Gifts meeting to focus on strategies for your transformational donors. To give your team a starting point, prepare or review existing research to identify a prospect’s interest areas and connections.
  • Some, but not all, participants had a dedicated Principal Gifts team. Is your organization’s investment in the team aligned with the value that these donors can bring if they are managed smartly?
  • Prospect Development and principal gifts professionals can help drive overarching strategy for prospect and donor visits with leadership (and also facilitate scheduling and trip itineraries), create guidelines for and vet requests from major gift officers for leadership visits with prospects or donors, identify prospects where your organization may have lost momentum and help develop new strategies, and develop areas for enhanced coding and tracking of prospects and donors.
  • Common challenges of principal gift work shared include inaction on new qualification leads by focusing just on “tried & true” donors and conversely, focusing on unrealistic leads like Oprah or Bill Gates. It can be difficult to balance the desire to never give up on a potentially transformational prospect or idea with the desire to devote adequate time and energy on the prospect relationships we already have.
  • A lack of documented historical strategies, proposals, and their outcomes are also a frustration. One lucky participant who benefits from solid documentation shared, “Our PG strategy papers are like gold!”
  • Advice for colleagues seeking their first principal gift included:
    • Bring all stakeholders to the table, document strategies, and be flexible to change
    • Keep pushing: there may be disappointments along the way, but the outcomes are worth it. Better to try and fail than never know what could have happened.
    • Listen to the prospects – hear their interest areas and passions to create the best relationship
    • Ask the question, is this idea big enough to make the impact you want?

Search #aprachats to read more about principal gifts, and stay tuned to @Apra_HQ for future Twitter Chats!

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