by Dawn M.S. Miller, CFRE
A common question I hear time and again: “What is a major gift?”
In a nutshell, a major gift:
- Is defined by impact on budget or goals for your organization
- Represents significant donor investment and commitment (“sacrificial”)
- Is above and beyond what the donor may have typically given in the past
- Can be given annually, one time or as a specific pledge
- Is often given for capital needs, a special gifts campaign and/or an endowment fund
- May be unrestricted or restricted
Donors don’t give major gifts to your organization because you have needs. They give to bold and visionary opportunities that engage and enable them to be part of a solution.
Likely, the greatest obstacles to creating, expanding and really growing a successful major gifts program are the lack of a compelling case and the lack of a clear plan of action. Although nonprofits do many good works, their programs and services may not be packaged in a way that allows staff to easily present tangible opportunities to those individuals capable of, and willing to, support the organization at a significant level.
With your limited financial and personnel resources in mind, address the following questions when planning a major gifts program:
- What will be done?
- Develop annual plans for each donor and update regularly
- Plan the next two to three steps; preferably your next four to five steps, but be reasonable
- How will it be done? Include your website, social media, online giving, etc. as integrated components of your planning
- Where will it be done?
- When will it be done?
- Develop timeframes for donor activities
- Create a cultivation/stewardship calendar and be accountable
- Stick to your calendar!
- Who will do it? Create quantitative goals for the total number of weekly/monthly calls for solicitors, staff members, etc.
- Which top donors will be included in your written plan? Or perhaps excluded from your plan?
As you delve into the creation of a major gifts program, it is important to understand why donors will support your organization. There are seven key reasons:
- They believe in your organization’s mission, core values and vision
- They believe in your organization’s unique ability to provide programs and services
- Their gift will change or save a life
- They want to make a difference in the community through your organization
- They believe your organization will use the funds wisely, per their intent
- They want to join others in a valuable cause
- You asked them to make an investment in your organization and the community.
By taking the time and truly understanding what a major gift program is, and the efforts it will take to sustain such a program, you can create a plan that works for you, your staff and your budget.
Dawn M.S. Miller, CFRE, is Director of Consulting for Fund Development Services at Zielinski Companies in St. Louis, Mo. Zielinski is one of our Resource Partners and was invited to post with us through their partnership. Dawn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (800) 489-2150. Founded in 1957, Zielinski Companies helps nonprofit and religious organizations address their financial, management and planning needs. The firm has a broad range of consulting service areas, including: Fund Development and Mission Advancement Consulting; Audit, Accounting and Tax Services; Property and Facility Planning; Organizational Management and Planning; Long-term Care, Facility and Staffing Consulting and Cash Management and Credit Card Services. For more information, please visit www.zielinskico.com.