Think big!Think small. Get small.
It’s true in major gifts. If your vision for what your organization can do is small, careful, fearful and short-sighted, your donor will immediately sense it and give in line with that – a small token gift.
Small thinking is everywhere. Jeff and I run into it almost every day in our calls, meetings, emails and speaking engagements.
I was speaking at a conference for one organization that had many small affiliates and chapters. They were small in terms of budget and current impact. But their cause was huge. And they didn’t know it.
So, when I was talking about millions or hundreds of thousands of dollars they said, almost to a person: “this doesn’t apply to me. It’s too big.” I responded: “OK, take some zeros off and apply the concepts.” Some could – many couldn’t.
And that, my friend, is why they stay small.
We have plenty of examples to prove this point:

  • The donor who rejected a $400,000 ask and told the MGO to come back when she had something with “a bolder vision in the million-dollar range.”
  • The $4-million-dollar organization who presented a bold vision and asked for $9 million from a donor – and got it.
  • The MGO who carefully matched the donor’s passions and interests to a need in the organization and presented a bold plan – she converted that donor from a $5,000-a-year donor to one that gave $4 million in one year and $8 million the next.
  • A MGO who presented a bold plan to a donor who gave $250,000. The year before that, the donor had given $85,000.

I could go on.
What is your organization trying to do? Are you just talking about things in a one-year budget time horizon, or do you have a plan that states a bold vision for the future?
Small vs. bold.
Believe me, there’s plenty of money out in the marketplace to fund anything you want to do. The only thing missing is a bold vision and plan. (Tweet it!)
Here’s what you can do about it in your organization.

  1. Persuade your Development Director or VP of Fundraising to see the need to have a bold vision and plan.
  2. Suggest that they convene a meeting of leadership to create such a plan.
  3. Start the meeting by taking away all restrictive thinking. Say: “If money were no object, how much would you need in the next three to five years to make a major impact in [INSERT PROGRAM CATEGORY]?”
  4. Once you’ve landed on that number – and it had better be big – have the group or program people create a roadmap to make it happen. This is more complex than I’m making it sound, but this is the concept. Your organization needs to have a bold vision and plan.
  5. Once you have that plan, be sure that the plan’s short-term horizon – the one that matches the budget – can be executed by your current donors. You don’t want to create a situation where you’re using current donor assets to fund things outside your budget, or you’ll run the risk of creating budget deficits. If a donor has the ability to fund more than what you expect from that donor for the current budget, then be sure that when you ask the donor for the larger gift, you’re clear that “this is above and beyond your current giving.”

This is the conceptual framework of planning for a bold vision and ask. Take steps to do it, and start moving toward bigger thinking. It will be good for you, your organization and the donor – who now will get to more fully express their passions and interests through you.