Not All Large Gifts Are Major Gifts: Part One – How Not To Go About It

Sections of this topic

    In our definition, we suggest that, no matter its size, unless a gift met certain parameters, it wasn’t “major.”

    We emphasize the requirement that the process that obtained the gift had to be based on a plan/strategy that included face-to-face cultivation and solicitation components, and that the gift had to significantly help in attaining fundraising goals.

    We also provided our definition of major donors, people (for the most part) who feel passionately about wanting to see your mission achieved, and who derive satisfaction from using their wealth to advance that mission. They are people who have a level of involvement with your organization and/or its programs, and they have a need that will be satisfied by making a significant gift in pursuit of your mission.

    These definitions exclude all large/significant gifts that don’t meet those parameters.

    Why?? For the same reason that “Development” is not a synonym for “fundraising.” “Fundraising” is what happens after sufficient cultivation and involvement — it is the “asking” part of the Development process.

    How often has a friend said to you, to your executive director, or to a client, that they know someone who would probably (want to) give your NPO a bucket of money, a real Mr./Ms. Gotbucks that you should contact immediately?

    And, how often did it become, “Let’s-drop-everything-and-focus-on-this-prospective-‘major-donor’”? So much time and energy got invested in acquiring this “guaranteed” major gift that other processes/projects/systems were deprived of what was needed to achieve already established goals.

    Efforts to acquire this gift usually take one or more of the following forms:

    A. The Introductory Letter (with “package”)– “Dear Mr./Ms. Gotbucks. Your friend/business partner/acquaintance/etc. suggested that you’d be interested in learning about all the good things we do. We are enclosing a brief 53 page description of all the wonderful things we do for society. Please use the enclosed return envelope to send your extra-large check to help us continue to do all those good things.”

    B. The Introductory Call — “Dear Mr./Ms. Gotbucks. Your friend/business partner/acquaintance/etc. said that we should contact you, and that you’d be interested in learning about who we are. I’d like to stop by and tell you about all the good things we do.”

    C. The Invitation to See/Visit (by phone or mail) — “Dear Mr./Ms. Gotbucks. Your friend/partner/acquaintance/etc. said that we should contact you, and invite you to an upcoming meeting/program/event….”

    D. The Visit to the Prospect — ….more of the same….

    Bottom line, the end result of going into the “drop-everything-else” mode is, most often, a rejection, a delay, or an, “I’ll get back to you.”


    This posting continues next Tuesday; but, just to be clear, we are not recommending the four “approaches” described above. To the contrary, they are illustrations of how so many NPOs waste their time and resources in misguided, ineffective fundraising efforts.

    Have a comment or a question about starting, evaluating or expanding your fundraising program? With over 30 years of counseling in major gifts, capital campaigns, bequest programs and the planning studies to precede these three, I’ll be pleased to answer your questions. Contact me at
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