For small or large charities, a compass can kick-start major gifts

publication date: Feb 3, 2012
author/source: Fraser Green
Just about every small to medium-sized charity I talk to struggles with major gifts. They look at the big hospitals and universities up the street and get overwhelmed. "They've got staff and money and experience. We've got none of that. How can we possibly do major gifts right?"Fraser Green photo

Let me start by saying that more effort on major gifts on your part is an absolute priority! Donor pyramids are getting deeper - not wider - these days. Smart charities are doing more with the donors they already have. It's long been an absolute marketing principle that it's many times more expensive to get a new customer than to keep an existing one. I think the same principle applies to donors. To take it a step further, the most efficient way that you can grow your revenues in today's charitable economy is to leverage greater support from segments of your existing donor base.

To me, ramping up your major gift efforts is pretty much the same as getting fit or losing weight. Come up with a system. Make it as simple as possible. Take the first steps - one at a time - and then keep going! I think the same principles apply to major gift fundraising.

When I talk with smaller charities about major gifts, I use the metaphor of the compass. I emphasize that just as a compass with north, south, east and west helps us navigate geographically, a different type of compass can help you navigate your way into a successful major gift program.

Four points of major gifts method

Just as there are four points to a navigational compass, so too are there four points to our methodology around major gifts:
  1. Case for support Do you offer the prospective donor sufficiently powerful reasons to support your campaign instead of the many others available to her? There's no reason why your case can't be just as compelling as that mega-charity up the street.
  2. Prospect constituency Do you have sufficient supporters who have both the ability and interest to make major financial commitments? You don't need thousands of them - maybe a few dozen prospects are enough to get your major gift program jump-started in a meaningful way.
  3. Campaign team Do you have enough of the right people? Do they know what they're doing? Again, you don't need all of your city's power brokers on your board. You simply need a handful of motivated staff and volunteers who are willing to put some effort into raising serious money!
  4. Organizational systems This is the nitty-gritty of keeping the trains running on time. Schedules, budgets, assignment tracking, reporting/evaluation and tactical adjusting all fit into this critical category.
This month's tip is simple: Block out a couple of days to do an assessment of your major gift potential. Walk through the four compass points outlined here and apply them to your organization. Come up with a revenue target and a deadline (make it a campaign!). Write up a plan and away you go.

Is it hard work? Of course it is.

Will you double your organization's revenues this year if you follow this tip? Maybe not.

But you will engage the people who care most about your cause and begin moving the peak of your fundraising pyramid where it absolutely needs to go - UP!!!

Fraser Green is principal and chief strategist at Good Works, a consulting firm that works with Canadian charities to engage donors at a truly human level and build donor loyalty and commitment. Fraser welcomes your ideas, comments and criticisms about this tip. Please email him with your reactions and thoughts.

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