Major Gifts: Do You Want to Live in Fear or Freedom?
I can tell you that I am no stranger to fear. I know its grip, and the power it has to either make me do stupid things or worse yet, make me take no any action at all. Fear is a powerful, negative motivator, and if I let it, it can take over me.
Through my experiences of fear and working to move past it, I also know what it’s like to live in freedom. Believe me, that freedom place is so much better. Today, I’m going to outline what it looks like when major-gift professionals allow fear to take over and then what it looks like when we can live in freedom. Paste these on your desk next to you computer. I am.
Fear Looks Like…
- Going after dollars instead of developing relationships.
- Making unethical decisions because you need to make a revenue goal.
- Sitting at your desk doing busy work because you don’t want to see donors.
- Not picking up a phone to call a donor because you might be rejected.
- Sandbagging revenue goals because you don’t want to look bad if you don’t make them.
- Not challenging donors with a higher ask because you don’t want to lose the donor.
- Going out of your way not to challenge the board of directors to make a significant gift to the organization, so they don’t resign.
- Not talking to your CEO about soliciting donors because you know they don’t like fundraising.
- Immersing yourself into the details of events instead of working your own portfolio and getting to know your donors.
- Asking for the same amount from your donors year after year because you at least want them to give every year.
- Not asking a donor for a gift and allowing the donor to give through a direct mail piece instead.
- Not standing up to your manager when they pressure you to get money from a donor you know is not interested in that project.
- Being a lone wolf.
- Figuring out a way to hide your results from your manager, so you don’t have to have a hard conversation.
- Running from accountability and structure.
Freedom Looks Like…
- Developing long-term relationships with donors, even if it means you won’t get a significant gift in a couple of years.
- Calling your donors every day.
- Creating an environment at your office that honors and respects donors.
- Knowing your donors so well that you spend hours and hours to come up with the best projects and programs for your donors to invest in.
- Meeting with finance and program people regularly, so they know exactly what is happening to your donors and how they are crucial to your success.
- Setting up weekly meetings with your manager and proactively showing where you are with goals and your donor moves.
- Spending over half your time in front of donors getting to know them.
- Challenging donors to invest beyond what they thought capable.
- Thanking donors everyday.
- Letting donors know with high frequency how their gifts are making a difference and being creative about it.
- Thinking long-term.
- Being incredible at customer service toward your donors.
- Always being proactive with your manager and leadership.
- Inspiring your CEO to get out, talk to donors and solicit them for large gifts.
- Setting “stretch goals” above and beyond the goals you report to management.
- Allowing yourself to have someone manage and hold you accountable.
- Helping your colleagues to succeed.
What do you think? Freedom looks and feels a lot better, doesn’t it? I want to live there. Don’t you? The beautiful thing is that you can choose what path to go. It’s up to you. You don’t have to wait.
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.