What If Mark Twain Was Your Major-Gifts Officer?
“It ain’t what you don’t know that hurts you. It’s what you do know that ain’t so.” — Mark Twain
Great wisdom is always cryptic. Parables, allegories, metaphors — these are the ways great thinkers express great truths. It's up to the rest of us to determine how to apply those insights in ways that make our own lives better and more rewarding.
For example, if Mark Twain was your major-gifts officer (MGO), he might amble into your office, lean his surprisingly slight frame against the doorway (he was just 5 feet 8 inches), brush a fleck of cigar ash from the collar of his rumpled white suit and drawl:
"A round man cannot be expected to fit into a square hole right away. He must have time to modify his shape."
What he'd mean, of course, is that those who contribute to your regular appeals are far and away your best source for major donors. In fact, I've had more than one MGO tell me most of their major donors start out giving at the $25 or $50 level.
But turning those modest contributors into major donors rarely happens overnight. The challenge is that their giving habits are already in place. And they're not likely to change them overnight. As Twain would tell you:
"Habit is habit and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time."
It takes time, patience and cultivation. It starts long before you approach the donor about stepping up his or her commitment. It starts with knowing more about the donors you want to reach out to:
"There are two times in a man's life when he should not speculate: when he can't afford it, and when he can."
Willis Turner believes great writing has the power to change minds, save lives, and make people want to dance and sing. Willis is the creative director at Huntsinger & Jeffer. He worked as a lead writer and creative director in the traditional advertising world for more than 15 years before making the switch to fundraising 20 years ago. In his work with nonprofit organizations and associations, he has written thousands of appeals, renewals and acquisition communications for every medium. He creates direct-response campaigns, and collateral communications materials that get attention, tell powerful stories and persuade people to take action or make a donation.