You Can Teach an Old Dog Major Gifts Tricks
The other day I was in Uncle Bill's Pet Store in Noblesville, Ind. Both of my grandchildren wanted to see the new puppies on display for sale. We saw about 10, but Laffy, a Boston terrier less than a year old, caught their eye. We spent the next 45 minutes holding Laffy and watching Laffy do what puppies do all the time, which is be themselves. As we left the building, I began to think about the development conference I recently attended in Chicago.
One particular aspect of the conference that peaked my interest was the section on major gifts. I then wondered about the idiom regarding teaching an old dog new tricks. At times, many senior professionals think they can do it all and will not change their habits or acquire new skills because they feel it is impossible. Thanks to Richard Perry, founding partner at Veritus Group, that idiom was challenged.
Perry is a colleague of mine. He also writes a biweekly blog for NonProfit PRO, "Connections." He has more than 30 years of nonprofit leadership and fundraising experience. I was fortunate to attend his session at a national conference in 2014. When I found out he was speaking at a recent development conference, I was thrilled. Contrary to the old dog idiom, I love to learn and constantly seek to improve as a professional nonprofit executive.
When I learned Perry was speaking on the topic of major gifts, I was especially excited. While I enjoy all aspects of fundraising, I must say the area of major gifts is my favorite. It is very complex, and each fundraising professional must use an array of talents to secure gifts at the major gift level. I have worked with many major gift officers during my career, but very few have shown mastery of their craft.
Key points gleaned from Perry's presentation are as follows:
- The transfer of wealth is just beginning with baby boomers giving $62 billion annually.
- Treat donors as partners, not just sources of cash.
- Donors have lives.
- Money transfers value-money is a result, not an objective.
- Focus on building relationships.
- Create a grid base upon current donors.
- Create a plan for every donor through moves management.
- Identify interests and programs plus touchpoints.
- Follow the seven pillars for success in the major gifts arena.
I strongly suggest you acquire the book "It's Not Just About the Money" by Perry and Jeff Schreifels, his partner at Veritus Group and co-author of the Connections blog. The book is devoted to building authentic major donor relationships. It is important to note in the book that besides creating an individual plan for each donor, you need to invest more time in getting ready for the ask than any other task. According to Perry and Schreifels, preparing the ask involves knowing your donor, knowing your program, making the perfect match of program to donor, composing the ask and practicing the ask.
Just like public speaking, the more you do it the easier it becomes. The harder you practice the better the results. There are many factors that go into a major gift ask and major gift program development. That is why this area of fundraising is so special. At times, senior professionals with dual responsibilities for managing plus fundraising get so caught up in management they let their skills slip in the fundraising area. It is important to always have a third party give your battery a boost so you can be your best in the fundraising area.
I am certainly not Laffy's age and don't have his upside for training, but I did learn more about major gifts from Perry. Perry and Schreifels point out in their book a success story by a major gifts officer. There is no greater feeling than to secure a significant gift for your institution. It validates your worth and makes you hungry for more!
I believe you can teach old dogs new major gifts tricks if you are focused and willing to learn. Use every opportunity for growth, and continually practice your craft. In today's world of fundraising, status quo is not an option!
Duke Haddad, Ed.D., CFRE, is currently associate director of development, director of capital campaigns and director of corporate development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis. He also serves as president of Duke Haddad and Associates LLC and is a freelance instructor for Nonprofit Web Advisor.
He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO since 2008.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis on education administration plus a dissertation on donor characteristics. He received a master’s degree from Marshall University with an emphasis on public administration plus a thesis on annual fund analysis. He secured a bachelor’s degree (cum laude) with an emphasis on marketing/management. He has done post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
Duke has received the Fundraising Executive of the Year Award, from the Association of Fundraising Professionals Indiana Chapter. He also was given the Outstanding West Virginian Award, Kentucky Colonel Award and Sagamore of the Wabash Award from the governors of West Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana, respectively, for his many career contributions in the field of philanthropy. He has maintained a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) designation for three decades.