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Stop Guessing: Define Your Donor

Wish it didn’t have to be so hard to find new big donors?

Fundraising never ends.

As long as your organization exists, your need to fundraise will too. And as long as your organization is growing (G-d willing!), your need to find new, bigger donors grows right along with it.

How do you go about finding those new donors? The ones that will be the sources of your largest gifts yet?

It’s not an easy search. That constant feeling of stabbing in the dark can get very discouraging.

So – don’t stab in the dark. Set up some floodlights along your path.

How? By creating your “Dream Donor Avatar.”

A donor avatar is a written profile that describes the type of person most likely to become a major supporter of your cause.

Think of it as a model, or imaginary character, that represents the real people you want to reach.

What does a donor avatar do for you? It gives you clarity. It helps you understand which types of people would be most likely to join your cause.

Which helps you direct your donor search, so you can waste less effort and meet greater success.

Now: how to go about creating this avatar?

Start by asking yourself questions like these:

1. What’s the age range of your current big donors? (30-40? 50-60? 70+?)

2. Are they male or female?

3. What do they do professionally?

4. Where do they live?

5. What’s their religious affiliation? (Yeshivish? Baal Teshuvah? Modern Orthodox? Traditional? Secular?)

6. What do they care about? (What values are important to them? What causes?)

7. What are the three other organizations they support most?

8. Why do they give to your organization?

9. How did they become your supporters? (Did they graduate from your program? Benefit from it in some other way? Were they introduced by somebody? Who, and why?)

What other details characterize your big donors? What other common threads seem to bind them?

Imagine you were the principal of Bais Yaakov of Birmingham (BYOB), going through this exercise.

You’d start by thinking about where your latest big donation came from – a fellow named Jake, a successful local businessman in the tech sector. A secular but respectful Jew in his fifties, Jake has a foundation which gives around $1,000,000 a year to causes he values.

How did he get involved with your Bais Yaakov? Someone on your staff invited him to speak at a school STEM event about his contribution to technology. He had a great time sharing his knowledge with your students. He also enjoyed meeting you, telling you that your school models so many of the values he appreciates.

Hearing that, you began to work at building a relationship with Jake, taking steps to help him feel emotionally connected to your school. Steps like offering to learn Torah with him. And, like inviting him to become a business mentor for some young Jewish leaders who support your school.

After several months of learning together, you offered him the opportunity to sponsor the following semester’s STEM program. He accepted, gifting your school $50,000.

What does this story tell you about which prospects would most likely become large supporters of BYOB?

Meanwhile, several miles to the west of you, your friend R’ Yaakov, director of the JLEB (Jewish Learning Exchange, Birmingham) is also working on this exercise.

The last large gift to the JLEB, he recalls, came from a young man named Josh.

Josh’s Jewish connection began in college, where a different kiruv organization introduced him to Yiddishkeit. He became frum, went to yeshivah in Eretz Yisrael. After a few years there, he came home to Birmingham and started working in his father’s real estate firm.

R’ Yaakov heard about Josh through his network soon after the young businessman moved to town. Aware that Josh felt very warmly toward kiruv organizations, R’ Yaakov started nurturing a connection with him. Soon afterward, he asked Josh to become a small monthly donor to the JLEB – and Josh agreed.

Fast forward ten years, and Josh, now 38, made his first mega deal. A few months later, R’ Yaakov approached him for a first-time major gift to the JLEB - $150,000 towards hiring a new campus couple. Passionate about campus kiruv from his own experiences, and eager to help other young Jews benefit as he did, Josh gave the $150,000 – and then some.

What can R’ Yaakov glean from this story? What does it tell him about the kind of prospects he should be pursuing?

BYOB and JLEB now have greater clarity about who they should be targeting as donors. Moving forward, they feel much stronger and more motivated in their fundraising.

Why? Because they aren’t just stabbing in the dark. They know that they’re maximizing their time and toil.

What about YOU? Why not give yourself the same gift of clarity?

Scroll up to the questions list. Start sketching your Dream Donor Avatar. Think you need more than one? Expand to two (but not more; fewer avatars = greater clarity).

Once you have your avatar all sketched up, send it over – I’d love to have a look.

B’hatzlacha raba in all your efforts,


© Avraham Lewis & Co.