In my last post, I introduced a series about all the ways that non-profits are stunting their major gift programs. Today, we’re going to continue making our way through this list. Let’s get right into it:

  1. Lack of investment into the major gift pipeline from acquisition to planned giving —

    When we do our data assessment with organizations, we can quickly tell if the investments in each area of the donor pipeline is sufficient at each stage. Sometimes we see way too much investment in donor acquisition and barely anything invested in mid or major gifts. Other times we see they are so top heavy with major gifts, they forget about acquiring new donors. Either way, not properly investing at each stage of the donor pipeline will negatively affect major gifts at some point. You cannot function properly without understanding how to invest in each stage of the donor pipeline.

  2. Not knowing what relationship-focused means —

    If you asked any non-profit if they were relationship-focused, they most likely would say “yes.” But we know that while most non-profits talk a good game, in practice they’re failing in this area. Are donors part of your mission? Do you have prompt receipting and thanking processes? Do you have a way to report back on impact? Do you include donors in your community? Do you tell donors the truth when a project goes badly? Do you see donors as partners? Does everyone in your organization understand the role of donors in your ability to carry out your mission? Failing to focus on relationships will breed a transactional mindset. Major gift programs can’t thrive with transactional gifts.

  3. Your database is in shambles —

    This is huge. Too many times we have started working with organizations and the database is jacked up… meaning it doesn’t fully support a major gift program. In fact, most databases don’t support major gift officers’ work because they are mostly designed for direct-response programs. Can you enter revenue goals and cash-flow them? Can you enter a 12-month strategic plan for every donor? Can you put in detailed notes about your communication with donors? Can you send your emails and texts through the database, so it records your communication automatically? Rarely do we see this function work. This is why we had to create a special spreadsheet called our Donor Engagement Plan so that major gift officers can actually create a goal and plan for their donors.

  4. The back end of your non-profit operation is not sufficient —

    Just recently, one of our coaches shared a horror story about an organization she used to work with that would take up to TWO WEEKS to open envelopes with gifts in them. This is a major issue that impacts your donor’s trust and makes them feel like an ATM. Can your non-profit receipt a gift within 48 hours? When a donor in your portfolio makes a large gift, are you notified immediately? Do you thank donors PROPERLY and promptly? Does your program team have the ability to report on the impact of a donor’s gift? Is Finance able to help you understand the cost of programs and projects? If you are going to have a successful major gift program, all of the answers to my questions have to be a resounding yes!

  5. Your development team works in siloes —

    Too often the direct-response team and the major gift team seem to reside on separate planets. They never talk to one another. Or the planned giving team doesn’t talk to major gifts. Instead of doing what’s best for the donors, the non-profit does what’s best (or easiest) for them. It’s ironic because a strong major gift program helps the direct-response team justify its budget to acquire donors at a loss. And, without a strong direct-response team, major gifts will be hurting for donors. Yet, most often these teams do not communicate. We’ve made it mandatory for Veritus clients to sit down at the table with everyone in development to understand the important role each have to play in helping a donor fulfill their interests and passions with the organization as easily as possible.

  6. Donors and staff are not considered part of the mission —

    Therefore, you don’t properly invest in them. To leadership, staff and donors are just a means to fulfill the “mission.” The result is high value attrition and staff burnout and turnover. It seems so easy to understand this, yet it’s rare that non-profits value staff and donors in meaningful and actionable ways.

  7. Departments within the organization don’t understand the role that the others play —

    If you want a thriving major gift program, then MGOs have to understand how Finance can make their jobs easier. Finance has to value why MGOs need to know the true cost of a program. Program has to be available to talk with donors. MGOs have to develop relationships with program people. Every department within a non-profit is essential to sustaining a donor pipeline that leads to major and planned gifts. Yet, too many times, these departments are so organizationally focused they lose sight of how everyone plays a role in getting their programs funded.

  8. No culture of philanthropy —

    This is exactly why these departments I just described above don’t value each other… there is no sense of a culture of philanthropy, where everyone in the organization understands the role of the donor and how it’s the donor, through their giving, who allows the organization to carry out their mission.

Okay, I’ll leave it there today. Lots to chew on. We’re really just getting started. More to come!



Read Part Three