Not All Large Gifts Are Major Gifts: Part Two – Go-Away Money

Sections of this topic

    Hoping that, between last Tuesday and today, you haven’t used the four illustrations of bad fundraising techniques, we continue with the theme/intent of this three-part posting.

    Once in a while, the response to the cold Letter, the cold Call, the Invitation (out of the blue) or the Visit (not preceded by the appropriate education and cultivation) might be, “Of course, let me write you a check.”

    That check, whether in 4 or 5 figures, is a “gift” that most non-profits would consider “major.” E.D.s and D.O.D.s often look upon a 4-5 figure check as a “gift-from-on-high,” and don’t realize that, as good as it might feel to get that check, they’ve wasted (at least, misused) a lot of time and effort.

    If the contact was a suggestion by someone close to Mr./Ms. Gotbucks, the “gift” is likely to be a quid-pro-quo — a dilemma in which many Directors of Development and Executive Directors find themselves. The “prospect” knows that if s/he gives to his/her friend’s pet charity, then the friend will give to his/hers.

    That 4-figure-check, by some amazing coincidence, is likely to be for the same amount as the check his friend/partner/acquaintance wrote to the non-profit organization that contacted him/her at Mr./Ms. Gotbucks suggestion.

    If his/her name was provided by an acquaintance or was obtained from a “list,” there would be (much) less likelihood that Mr./Ms. Gotbucks will write a check — there would be less motivation, if any, to do so.

    Whatever the size of the check you manage to solicit/obtain/wheedle/beg from this “prospect,” it will be for an amount that the “donor” considers a token — doing-what-has-to-be-done-to-keep-the-scales-balanced, or just to get rid of you. It’s “Go Away Money.”

    In other words, “Here’s a check. It’s all you’re going to get. Now, Go Away!!” And, from then on, you have a donor who doesn’t return your calls, respond to your mail or show any interest in learning about or becoming involved in what you do.

    Now, don’t get me wrong!! I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t take the check, or even that you shouldn’t make the effort to get it in the first place. The point is, by the above method, you will not realize sufficient/appropriate value for your investment — you (may) end up with a check, but not a constituent.


    This three-part posting concludes next Tuesday … with an emphasis on “real” major gifts fundraising.

    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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