Why Them and Not Us?
I just read about Harvard receiving another eight-figure gift, substantially adding to its huge endowment coffers. And here you are, a development officer for a venerable institution, wondering what it is about Harvard that enables it to habitually attract such large gifts. As a consultant, I encounter this wonderment from my clients regularly. So I’ve begun asking the people who make those large gifts.
While everyone would like to think there’s some magic fundraising bullet out there, what it comes down to is old-fashioned development work — creating a firm foundation on which rest several delicate layers of organizationally sound principals that can bring your institution into the fundraising league it deserves to be in.
People who have a lot of money available for philanthropy typically have earned it or preserved it through astute scrutiny of investment opportunities. A key factor investors evaluate is the quality and track record of the people who are in charge and leading the organization. It’s important for the CEO to be a leader with a big, long-term vision, who can inspire and convey a sense of passion and urgency. Your board must inspire confidence and the likelihood for future accomplishment. A philanthropic investor wants to protect and maximize his or her investment and will consider the quality of your organization’s leadership as relationships are being built.
Is your board of directors heavily invested in the institution? Who’s giving generously to your organization, and is there social capital to be earned by being associated with publications and at events with the organization and its high-profile donors and board members? Who provides staff leadership, and how stable has it been? You can address these questions at your organization.
Age and stability
The same philanthropic investor who’s looking for stability in volunteers and personnel also is looking for organizational stability.