PhilanthropyJournal.com recently had an article entitled "Major Gift Etiquette" that caught my eye and I thought I would share the main ideas with you. These comments were provided by Susan Orr, Founder of Telosa Software who has also co-chaired several major capital campaigns. She is a lady who knows what she is talking about.
Susan described three basic mistakes that are often made by nonprofits when seeking major gifts.
Mistake #1: Making the ask without the relationship.
It is critically important to first build a good relationship with the potential donor, and develop a solid understanding of their interests. A relationship comes from uncovering those values that are shared between the organization and the donor. The sample Orr uses is one donor may be willing to make a donation of a major work of art and another might be more interested in a community outreach program. If you have taken the time to build a relationship you have a sense of their interests.
Mistake #2: Not asking for an amount
If the potential donor of a major gift doesn't understand how much you are seeking there is a very high probability that you will get less than you would if you ask for a specific amount. Doing your homework about other gifts the potential donor has made may help you frame the ask.
Mistake #3: Setting your sights too low
This has to do with understanding what a donor cares about at a deep level. In asking for a big gift, you must have a big idea that goes along with it. You should have a plan, some piece of which is in line with what the donor cares about. And this plan also should advance your mission or your organization in an exciting way. And guess what? If you do a good job of implementation you can come back to the till with these major donors. They do make repeat gifts if they are satisfied with how their gift was used.
If you have experience with major gifts please share them with others who read this blog by posting a comment to this post.
In June I will be featuring posts on Leadership in Nonprofits....check back soon!
Marion Conway Consulting