Major Gift Fundraisers, Not Asking = Less Love
There is a school of thought in the circles of some major gift fundraisers that if you do a really good job of telling your donors you love them by sending them thank-you cards, updates about your programs and small gifts every once in a while, the donor will just give out of the kindness of their heart and you don’t have to ask for a gift and show the donor how they made a difference.
Over the years, Richard and I have met with many major gift officers who have never sat across from a donor, looked them in the eye and asked for a significant gift. Yet, they have been a major gift fundraiser for years.
In addition to not asking for a gift, major gift fundraisers are not putting in the time and energy to show the donor the impact of their giving. They rely on the organization’s newsletter or a canned report that is about as dull as it can get instead of using their time and energy to delight their donors.
How it works is that the major gift fundraiser just showers all kinds “love” on the donor and waits for a gift to come in either through a direct-mail piece, newsletter, event or “getting that check every November.”
At first, Richard and I were just amazed that this was happening out there. Then, as we met more and more major gift fundraisers with the same story, we realized that this was more rampant in the industry than we thought.
But, in thinking about this, are you really showing a donor love by only telling them how much you love them?
Hold on to your answer for a moment and let’s think about why you are not asking your donors for a gift and showing impact of their giving.
After listening to fundraisers for many years here are the main reasons you are not asking:
- The thought of asking a donor for money makes you uncomfortable.
- You have a fear of rejection.
- You have a hard time talking about money.
- You don’t believe fundraising is a worthy endeavor.
- You don’t have the energy to navigate your organizations systems to get program information.
- You’re not excited about the mission of your organization and that it brings value to the world.
So, what happens is you avoid cultivating the donor toward an ask, and you hope the donor will feel good about all the “loving” stuff you do that they will just give.
And, you know what? They do give.
But, here is the thing; they could give so much more and have a much more meaningful experience with your organization if you challenged your donor to go beyond what they would do on their own. And, they would continue giving at a higher level if you spent the time and energy telling them how that gift made a difference.
And, that is what major gift fundraising is all about: Building a relationship with a donor so that you truly know their passion and interests, why they have them and finding something in your organization that fulfills that passion, so that the donor and the organization benefits.
Richard and I see so many major gift files of donors who give the same amount every year. And, most of the time, the story behind that is that no one is challenging the donor to give.
So, when you do all the great things about thanking and showing the donor your organization cares about them… but never ask, never think big with the donor and/or never report on that gift’s impact… is that really showing the donor love? Or, is it really something you have to work out?
You are doing no one a favor by not asking and not telling the donor she made a difference.
Showering your donor with love ultimately means challenging your donor to make a greater impact in the world. Because as a major gift fundraiser, you know that donors who make great impact through their giving experience a tremendous amount of joy.
Ask and ask boldly of your donors. That is real love.
Jeff Schreifels is the principal owner of Veritus Group — an agency that partners with nonprofits to create, build and manage mid-level fundraising, major gifts and planned giving programs. In his 32-plus year career, Jeff has worked with hundreds of nonprofits, helping to raise more than $400 million in revenue.