Focus On: Major Gifts: Take A Lesson from the Old School
That dream. We’ve all had it: You’re back in school, sitting down to take the final exam, and you haven’t attended a class all semester. And the exam is on advanced Russian or trigonometry … or nuclear physics.
That’s how it can feel to walk into a major-gift meeting without being properly prepared. It’s that make-it-or-break-it moment, the final exam that will decide your grade.
The importance of individual major gifts to your nonprofit organization’s success cannot be overestimated. Individuals make up the largest portion of givers — more than 75 percent of charitable giving in the United States. And the best fundraisers will tell you that the success of a major-gift ask is grounded in the research — the preparation — that came long before.
It’s the homework, stupid
A wealthy and successful corporate leader has agreed to meet with you, your CEO or the board chairman, and she knows what’s on your mind. Having afforded you some of her precious time, she’s entitled to ask some questions, and you’d better have the answers.
You’re looking for a six- or seven-figure gift, and she’ll want to know about your program’s budget, projections for the particular project you’re discussing and who’s given already. How will her gift be recognized? Is that the most suitable naming opportunity for her? She very well could want to explore alternatives for lower-level gifts; are you prepared to discuss them? Or have the leaders of your organization decided they’re so sure of the appropriate gift level that you must keep her focused on that number?
Of course, you arrived at that number by doing your homework. The amount of information publicly and legally available about donor prospects — information from Google to LexisNexis and everything in between — is staggering. Do you know her history of giving — not just to your institution, but to others? What about important financial developments for her corporation, her family or for her personally?