Man yelling into phone

How Not to Ask for a Major Gift

Man yelling into phoneTwice in the past month I’ve been asked for a major gift.

Pretty much out of the blue.

Without much preparation, relationship-building or making of an inspiring case for support.

It was clear to me what the charity would get out of it: my money. It was not so clear what I would get out of it. Should I not care?

  • Perhaps not.

  • Perhaps if I were the ideal, perfect donor I would give with no expectation of receiving anything in return.

  • Perhaps if I were less ego-centric, I’d just do it because it was the “right thing to do.”

  • Perhaps if I were not on a quest for personal meaning, I’d give just because the person who asked is someone I know (though, not all that well); it would give them a feeling of success, and that would bring me some happiness.

  • Perhaps if I were not searching for a community of folks who share my values, I’d give without quite understanding the depth and breadth of values enacted by these charities or without having met more of the people involved.

  • Perhaps if I were not examining what it is that sparks joy in my life, I’d give whether or not this cause was currently at the top of my list or I’d been given opportunity for reflection and consideration.

But I’m not perfect.

I’m betting most of your donors aren’t either.

Donors have expectations… egos… personal meaning they’re seeking… communities they’d like to form… and cups of joy that need filling. Otherwise they wouldn’t be human.

And even if you could find a perfect donor prospect, in the instances where I was asked the case for why this was the right thing for me to do wasn’t even made all that well. The ask was about money, not impact.

There was simply an assumption that since I’d shown interest in the past, I would welcome this opportunity to demonstrate my interest even more passionately.

Okay. That’s not a bad starting place. But… you should never assume. You know what they say about the word “assume,” right?

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Hope mural

How 13 Nonprofit Donors Yields a $1 Million Philanthropic Legacy

Hope mural13 happens to be my lucky number. I want it to be lucky for you too.

Today, I’m going to reveal to you how you can make this happen.

A recent survey of wills reported on by the Chronicle of Philanthropy reveals the average bequest by everyday donors is $78,630.

Some people will leave less; some people will leave more. What this survey reveals, however, is you only need 12 to 13 donors making a provision for your organization in their will to reap $1 million.

If a major gift for your organization is $1000 (or even 5000 or 10,000), I imagine this sounds off the charts to you. Guess what?

Legacy giving is off the charts!

In fact, bequest marketing produces the highest ROI (return on investment) of any fundraising activity.

The first step to making this happen for your organization is to encourage bequests. Actively.

Promote Charitable Bequests, or Else

If you don’t actively encourage charitable bequests, people are unlikely to make them.

Why? There are three primary reasons:

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Treat Nonprofit Board and Donors Like Family. Or Else.

Family, diverse, on stoopPeople are more generous when they feel more connected.

Like members of your community. Or, if you will, your family.

This isn’t just an opinion;

In fact, it’s documented in a study in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

The study found people have three basic psychological needs: relatedness, competence, and autonomy.

Today I want to examine relatedness and autonomy as they connect to success in fundraising.

Relatedness

Relatedness is particularly important for promoting pro-social behavior. Like philanthropy. The study found certain words — community, together, connected, and relationship — invoked feelings of relatedness.

Sharing feelings of relatedness also promotes pro-social behavior. This is why asking donors to share their own stories about why they volunteer, give or help in any other way is an effective fundraising strategy. Likewise, when you share with donors how you feel related to them this will make them feel good about how they’re affiliating with you.

4 Action Steps to Invoke Relatedness to Trigger Philanthropy

Here are strategies to engender feelings of being part of a family or community:

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Meeting over coffee

Improve Major Donor Fundraising to Grab a Larger Piece of Philanthropy Pie

meringue pieIf I had to tell you what you need to do to succeed with major gift fundraising in one sentence it would be this:

Identify major donor prospects… qualify them so you know they want to build a deeper relationship with you… cultivate them… visit with them… listen to them… reflect back to them what you heard… ask them for something specific that resonates with their passions… steward their gift and communicate in an ongoing way to make them feel like the hero they are!

Whew – that was a mouthful!

A shorter way to say this is: Meet with donors. Listen to donors. Ask donors. Thank donors.

See — it’s simple!

It’s definitely not rocket science. It’s just good old hard work. Satisfying and rewarding work. And it’s a type of work anyone can learn to do. [If you want to learn, please sign up for the upcoming Certification Course for Major Gift Fundraisers that begins April 5th. It may be the most important investment you make all year. Just one major gift will more than cover the cost].

Over my 40 years in fundraising, 30 of them working in the trenches as a director of development for organizations with budgets ranging from $1 – $40 million, I have asked for a lot of major gifts.  I know what works, and what doesn’t work. Today I want to give you:

(1) some of my best words of wisdom, and also

(2) answers to some of the questions folks frequently ask me .

I hope these tips will help you tweak your mindset and invigorate your systems so you can be more successful fundraising in the coming year!

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Clouds and sky

Legacy Gifts Don’t Usually Fall From the Sky

If you’ve been around ten years or more, and have demonstrated you have staying power, it’s time to start thinking about promoting legacy giving. And not just a little. A lot.

Even during a pandemic. Why?

Because once you have a steady stream of legacy gifts maturing, you’ve secured your nonprofit’s future — in good times and bad. Not 100% of course. You’ll still need to continue with annual fundraising. But you’ll be confident in the knowledge that every year or so unanticipated income will flow into your nonprofit’s coffers, like a windfall from heaven. In fact, after a while you’ll even be able to conservatively budget for a certain amount of bequest income (based on your averages) each year.

Legacy gifts can be quite transformative for the financial trajectory of your nonprofit. Think about this for a minute. While not every bequest will be six or seven figures, it’s rare to see a two or three figure bequest. They’re all major gifts!

Except… legacy gifts won’t usually fall from the sky unless you seed the clouds.

So let’s take a look at how to do that.

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Man and woman shaking hands

Are the Rich Motivated to Give Differently?

Wealthy donorProbably not as much as you might think.

Yet people tell me all the time how much they’re afraid to ask wealthy people for major gifts. If you share those fears, it’s time for a little “Charity Clairity:”

Contrary to what your gut may be telling you, NOT asking is not making would-be donors feel good. Quite the opposite, in fact.

In this article, I’ll cover why you must stop short-changing your would-be major donors by not offering them opportunities to be the change they want to see in the world.  Why you must stop robbing them of chances to feel good about themselves.

And we’ll explore how you can use six major donor triggers to make donors feel so good they’ll want to say “yes” to your solicitation.

Bottom line: When you don’t make donors feel good, they’ll go elsewhere.

The Rich Are Just Like You and Me (They Just Have More Money)

F. Scott Fitzgerald is famously supposed to have told Ernest Hemingway that “the rich are different than you and I.” “Yes, Scott,” Hemingway supposedly retorted. “They have more money.”

It’s good to remember that major donors are, first and foremost, just people.

Many of them actually don’t even feel “wealthy” (just as often so-called seniors don’t feel “old.”)  In fact, a survey of 4,000 investors by UBS found that 70% of people with investible assets of $1 million or more do NOT consider themselves “wealthy.”

What most donors share (no matter their net worth) is

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Treasure Map

Do You Want More Major Donors? Read This!

If you’re like most nonprofits, you probably wish you had more major donors.

Guess what?

You can have them!

Today we’re going to look at a great tool for building those important relationships with top prospects over time.

And we all know that is what will result in the big gift.

You know how important it is to put a plan in place to build relationships, right?

It’s super-de-duper important if you want to secure major gifts.

And there’s a name for the strategic process of building meaningful relationships with potential major gift donors.

I’m talking about “Moves Management.”

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Giant gummy bear

The Giant Mid-Level Fundraising Opportunity Your Nonprofit’s Missing

Nonprofits pay a lot of attention to donor acquisition. Then?

They largely ignore these donors, unless…

They become worthy of attention by virtue of being ‘major’ donors. Then?

Nonprofits pay a lot of attention to major donor relationship building.

But between new donor acquisition and major donor cultivation, solicitation and stewardship, what happens?

Usually not enough.

This is a BIG missed opportunity.

You’ve likely got great donor prospects hiding inside your own donor base, and you’re essentially treating them like, well, poop.

What if you were to begin to look at your mid-level donors as the transformational fundraising opportunity they are?

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FAQs in magnifying glass

How to Supercharge Your Nonprofit Major Gift Fundraising Strategy: 10 FAQs

FAQs in magnifying glassIf I had to tell you what you need to do to succeed with major gift fundraising in one short paragraph it would be this:

Identify prospects. Qualify them so you know they want to build a deeper relationship with you. Cultivate them. Visit with them. Listen to them. Ask them for something specific that resonates with their passions. Steward their gift. Communicate the impact of their gift, more than once, to cement the relationship and make them feel like the hero they are.

It’s definitely not rocket science. It’s just not something most of us are taught.  Ultimately, success depends on doing the right things the right way. Once you know what is required, success comes from good old hard work. Satisfying and rewarding work. It’s a type of work anyone can learn to do. [If you want to learn, please sign up for the upcoming Certification Course for Major Gift Fundraisers that begins January 25th. It may be the most important investment you make all year. Just one major gift will more than cover the cost].

Over my 39 years in fundraising, 30 of them working in the trenches as a director of development for organizations with budgets ranging from $1 – $40 million, I have asked for a lot of major gifts.  I know what works, and what doesn’t work. Today I want to give you some of my best words of wisdom, and also answer some of the questions folks tend to ask me frequently.

I hope these tips will help you tweak your mindset and invigorate your systems so you can be more successful fundraising in the coming year!

Nonprofit Major Gift Fundraising Strategy: 10 FAQs

1. What is the board’s role in major gift fundraising?

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roaring lion

7 Things Nonprofit Major Gifts Programs Need to Succeed

Every nonprofit should have a major gifts program.

That’s where the lion’s share of the money is.

It’s a rare organization that has a mailing list large enough to raise a million dollars from a million different $1 donors. But most nonprofits do have major donor prospects hiding in plain sight.

It’s up to you to find them; then move them along a cultivation path that prepares them – and you – to make an ask that results in a win/win values-based exchange.

Let’s review 7 secrets that will guarantee your major gifts program is a success, whatever your size.

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