Don’t Talk Yourself Out of a Big Nonprofit Gift
I think I’m going to lose it. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve talked to the leadership of three different organizations that have created a belief in their heads that “their” major donors will not give big nonprofit gifts.
It’s sounds something like this, “Well, our donors just give once a year, and they decide what to give. They never waiver from it.” Or it sounds like this, “We’re grateful they give each year and whatever they can do we’re happy with.” And, one leader said this, “Our donors are locked in. We’ve tried in the past to up their giving, but they won’t budge. We just need to find some new donors.”
On that last leader’s comment, his organization is bringing in gifts from donors who give $50,000 or $100,000 a year, and they have been doing this for five to 10 years! These donors have enormous wealth and when I asked him when he has personally solicited these donors, he said they haven’t in about a decade!
Here’s the thing that gets me riled up. In all the years that Richard and I have been working with nonprofit major gift programs, we have heard this kind of self-talk so many times that I’d be wealthy if I had a dime for every time we heard it.
And, all of it is baloney.
How do I know its baloney? Because in every case that an organization has allowed us to help them create, build and manage their major gift program, and they have had this attitude, it’s been proven wrong.
What Richard and I find so often is that executive directors, development directors and major gift officers create stories in their heads about their donors. They then develop “negative self-talk” that reinforces this story they have developed. The story then becomes part of the culture of that organization.
Anytime you hear, “our donors are different,” or “our donors just won’t respond to a personal meeting,” or “our donors just don’t do that,” I know this “negative self-talk” and story has been acculturated into the organization.
When this happens, I start hearing from nonprofit leaders that they really need to get out there and “bring in some new blood.” When I suggest they don’t really need to do that because “look at all of your current major donors,” they don’t like to hear it... because they’ve created a false belief about these donors.
Does this resonate with you and your organization?
If you or your organization have created this negative self-talk about your major donors, and it’s caused you not to either solicit your donors with a face-to-face ask or to challenge your donors for fear they will go away, I beg you to take a different approach.
Let me quickly tell you about one organization that did just that.
This organization’s brand is one of the most widely known in the U.S. In one particular area of the country, they have over 4,500 donors who give over $1,000 cume per year. In total, they had been bringing in around $15 million annually.
They have amazing donor loyalty. Of the 4,500 donors, 600 of them give gifts of $10,000 and above; and many give $25,000, $50,000 and $100,000 a year for the past decade! Any nonprofit would die to have this major gift file.
The problem is that they never asked their donors for more. Whatever the donor gave, the accepted.
Then, they got new leadership and they came up with bold, new offers. The old board was still there and was skeptical. What happened was those donors that gave $10,000 per year, they asked for $50,000. The donors that gave $25,000, they asked for $100,000 and those donors that gave $100,000 every year...they asked for $500,000 and $1 million gifts.
They got them! Why? Because they broke through the negative self-talk, gave the donor a good reason to give and asked boldly. The donor’s responded and total giving that year went to $34 million, up from $15 million.
I don’t care if your major gift program brings in $35 million, $1 million or even $100,000 a year; it doesn’t matter! Your donors believe in your mission. If you have dynamic programs and projects that are changing the world and you ask the donor to do more, they will!
What is holding you back?
If you like baseball, tennis, golf, Gregorian chant, jazz, rock, good wine and deep conversation, then you’ll like to hang out with Jeff.
If you are passionate about fundraising, Jeff will inspire you to be a true “broker of love” for your donors, helping you bring together a donor’s desire to change the world and the world’s greatest needs. Jeff believes that if nonprofits truly want to grow and obtain more net revenue for their mission, it will come through creating, building and successfully managing major-gift programs. The Connections blog will give you inspiration and practical advice to help you succeed. Jeff has more than 25 years of nonprofit fundraising experience and is senior partner of the Veritus Group.