I don’t blame you. Yes, the Great Recession is not easy to maneuver as a fundraiser. It leaves many non-profits holding on by a thread. But today, many non-profits are hoping for the “magic bullet” or quick fix to turn their fundraising, and in particular, major gift program around.
There is one problem with that, however. It doesn’t work that way.
Sadly, because many non-profits did not do the hard work years ago to create, build and manage a robust major gift program, when the economy went into the tank, they struggled mightily. Now that major donors are starting to give at pre-recession levels again to other organizations, they find themselves left behind.
This leaves the non-profit vulnerable. Being vulnerable leads to being anxious, and being anxious leads to irrationality.
This is where Richard and I find many non-profits today. Some non-profits are doing stupid things to get the money. They are trying to bypass the hard work it takes to develop relationships with donors and, instead, just chasing dollars.
Is this your non-profit?
I urge you, if this is how your non-profit is operating, to please stop, reflect and seek help. Yes, I know the board may be breathing down your neck, but if you don’t do this major gift fundraising thing right, you will put the organization and your career in jeopardy.
Richard and I are currently talking to many non-profits who are seeking help with their major gift program. This is a good thing. Many non-profits are seeing that major gifts can really help grow their organizations. Unfortunately, they are at the point I described earlier, and they are looking to turn their program around in just a few months because they are anxious about the money.
When we tell them it will take a good 18-24 months to really start to see things turn around, they get discouraged and start looking for all those “quick fixes” that fundraisers are enticed to try and eventually fail at.
Here is what you need to know if you want to start and/or build a major gift program:
- You want to create a major gift program with donors who WANT a relationship with you. So many times we find a major gift caseload filled with people who have never been asked if they want to have a relationship with a major gift officer. It will do neither YOU nor the donor any good to have a caseload filled with people for the sake of having enough people on your list. You must QUALIFY them first.
- Anyone working with major donors has to have talent to do it. You need to be honest about the major gift officers that are working for you. Should they be doing this job? Or, if you have an executive director with a caseload, do they know what they are doing? Or do they have a caseload just because they are the executive director? Spend the time and money on the right people.
- Creating the proper structure for a major gift program is paramount to success. Does every donor have a goal? Is there a strategic plan connected to that goal? How are people held accountable? What is the process to increase or decrease a caseload of an MGO? How do you bring a new donor into a caseload? If you have the proper structure you will be able to answer positively and knowingly to these questions.
- You must have an investment mindset. You cannot have a successful major gift program by being cheap. Wise, yes. Cheap? No. An investment now into this program will pay off in the years to come.
- Understand that it won’t happen overnight. Creating and building relationships with donors takes time. Yes, some donors will make large gifts quickly. But, more often than not, a donor will not invest in your organization without being able to trust that your organization can handle his investment. That takes time, persistence and patience.
I know what you’re thinking? You don’t have the time for all this nor the patience to wait. The truth is, however, that you must.
You must have the patience and persistence to build your major gift program, otherwise it will not perform for you in the long-term and you will find yourself in peril.
Here is the good news. Richard and I have seen many major gift programs that are thriving because they did it the right way. They weathered the Great Recession just fine. And, we’ve been able to help many non-profits turnaround or create new major gift programs that in eighteen months are already paying off tremendously.
Your major gift program can too. Do it the right way. It’s NOT an easy fix, but if done right, will take your non-profit to another level.
That’s what we all want.