Major Gifts in Strange Island: Nonprofit Fundraising Plan

Sections of this topic

    How to Develop a Fruitful Nonprofit Fundraising Plan on Island

    A Reader wrote: “Even after 18 years in development, and earning the CFRE credential, I still have a hard time making the mental adjustment from thinking about our clients’ and organization’s needs to thinking about the needs of the donor. And it’s a totally foreign concept to my Executive Director.

    “I also have difficulty understanding how one can ask for a major gift that is not for construction, renovation, major equipment, or some other kind of one-time expense.

    “We have only asked for unrestricted operating support from our donors, and for program-specific support, we write grant applications.

    “Our donors are wary of making a major gift because they fear they will then be expected to give at that level from then on. How do you deal with that, when, in fact, we do hope that the long-term effect will be an increased level of ongoing support.”
    One thing that the CFRE program/process doesn’t teach/emphasize is that the development operation at a nonprofit organization is different/separate from the program side.

    The focus of development/fundraising is and must be to create the relationships that will produce the funding to support the programs. (And, by the way, I held the CFRE credential for twenty years … and taught preparation courses for the CFRE exam.)

    As a development officer, your focus must be on the needs of the donor, and how satisfying those needs will result in the funding needed to satisfy the needs of your clients. If you can’t show a donor how, by making a gift to your organization, s/he will be satisfying his/her own needs, then you can’t come anywhere near reaching your fundraising potential.

    Everyone at a nonprofit should be an “expert” in the areas in which they function: program officers, those who provide service to clients, must have the experience and insight to be able to deal with the needs of clients… and how to satisfy those needs. That is not the role of the development officer.

    A development officer does not provide direct service to a nonprofit’s clients. A development officer provides “service” (cultivation/stewardship) to an NPO’s (potential) donors.

    The attitudes/perspectives you describe for yourself and your executive director don’t deal with all of the realities. From what you said, above, there seems to be a lack of understanding of the role/purpose/focus of development (see: “Development” and “Fundraising” Are Not Synonymous

    Also, in the CFRE process, there is no discussion to the effect that all major gifts should be restricted to capital/emergency purposes. Major gifts are, very often, part of an organization’s unrestricted operating support. (See: “What Is A Major Gift?”)

    That your organization relies solely on grants for program support is, at the least, shortsighted. With a proper development program, you could likely identify other potential clients who would benefit from your service … and provide them with that service.

    And, finally, that you believe that your donors are wary of making major gifts suggests that they are not motivated to do so – that their needs are not being identified/considered/addressed.

    To readers of this blog, let me add one additional thought. The CFRE credentialing process is available to those with a minimum of five years in the field. The credential is designed to be “evidence” that the holder has demonstrated (by passing a written exam and meeting other criteria) an understanding of the basic principles of development. “CFRE” does not equate to “expert.”
    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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