Keep it simple.“Is that all you can come up with? Seriously? Don’t you have anything new to share? I mean, there has to be a new idea, isn’t there?”
Jeff and I have heard this angst-ridden line of questioning almost every week for years. Yes, every week – sometimes multiple times a week. Like finding that new “magic bullet” is going to solve all the problems a MGO or Development leader has.
I understand the impulse. It is always good to figure out another way – to find a better way – to be more efficient or effective.
But there are some things that do not change in major gifts. And here’s what they are:

  • A donor has a set of passions and interests.
  • Those passions and interests drive their behavior and gift-giving decision-making.
  • How well you serve and satisfy those interests and passions will be the key reason the donor will stay with you and upgrade their giving.

These three truths will not change. Ever.
So don’t look for a new angle here.
And two other things that will not change:

  • You may be able to craft and present a donor offer (what you offer the donor in exchange for their gift) a number of creative ways, but if that offer does not match the interests and passions of the donor, you will not be successful in securing the gift or the donor.
  • You might come up with some super-creative, new, ground-breaking idea for how you talk back to the donor after they give their gift – but if you don’t show that donor that their giving made a difference, you will not retain or upgrade them.

We all want to self-express, to be creative, to demonstrate our sophistication and experience in fundraising. I get that. I want that as well. I want to be known as a thought leader, the guy that did the new thing, etc.
But certain things are true no matter what.
Serving donor passions and interests is the first main thing. Proving to them that their gift made a difference is the second main thing.
Fine. Go ahead and have your head spin around with all the creativity, new thoughts, award-winning ideas and programs. Just make sure you have these things in place.
Having them in place will keep you grounded – it will keep you in reality vs. fantasy land, and it will keep what you are doing simple, basic and effective.
And, oh, one other thing: please do not pound on, minimize, shame or put down others who are sticking to the basics. Your quest for significance is best served by getting results, rather than coming up with new things. Simple does not mean stupid or simplistic.
Serving a donor’s interests and passions is both a simple and yet very profound and complex thing. Be sure that everything you do, either on the front end of an ask or on the back end, keeps that donor’s passions and interests front and center. It will bring them tremendous joy. It will cause your success. And yes, you will be regarded by others as a key contributor.
PS — If you want to read more about the basic things you need to cover in major gifts fundraising, request our free White Paper, “Building on Bedrock: Indispensable Work in Major Gifts.”