Every non-profit wants to grow revenue. And they truly want to have engaged donors. I really believe that, but the problem is that most non-profits focus on the money when fundraising, not on their donors. When the focus is on money, while you may get some, you will lose the long-term relationship with a donor. Had you focused on the donor, the money (lots of it) would follow. So, with that in mind, let’s keep going through our list of all the things non-profits do that take away from their major gifts program:

  1. When stressed, non-profit leaders chase the money —

    Richard and I see this all the time. A non-profit leader talks a good game about being donor-centered. They say they have the patience to allow their fundraisers to develop relationships. But suddenly there is some kind of pressure or emergency, and they throw all that out the window and direct their fundraisers to raise money now for something the organization needs, regardless of whether the donor has any interest in it.

  2. Fundraisers are not aware of all the programs and projects the non-profit has that make up the budget of the organization —

    Therefore your fundraisers are asking donors for general operating funds or for the latest project the CEO says to raise money for, instead of matching the donor’s passions and interests with the projects and programs of your organization that they care about. I cannot tell you how many times MGOs tell us they have “nothing to sell” to a donor.

  3. You treat donors with an annual gift or membership renewal mindset —

    “If I can just get that one gift a year.” “I got their member renewal gift in last week; all I have to do now is steward that gift.” So many fundraisers think this way. Why? Mostly because leadership’s KPIs for them are all geared toward that annual gift or a renewal, rather than deepening the engagement with a donor and inspiring the donor to give larger gifts. This is why we see in our data assessments donors who give the same amount year after year, after year. No one is challenging the donor. No one is inspiring them or trying to get to know the donor’s passions and interests. So, what happens is that while this non-profit may get a $5,000 gift, the other non-profit the donor gives to is getting $250,000.

  4. You don’t have a clear path to salary increases or advancement for frontline fundraisers —

    And this is a major reason they move on to another non-profit so quickly. Which is why no one really knows your donors well.

  5. Leaders are too worried about overhead percentages —

    So they don’t hire major gift officers when they have the donors and ROI proves they could do it, they don’t invest in back-end office services, they don’t invest in assistants, they don’t invest in reporting back on impact to donors, and they pay people poorly. But they have that great 4-star rating they covet. For what?

  6. Staff becomes obsessed with personal or department “credit” for gifts —

    Many times staff and their departments will “hold on” to donors instead of moving them up or down the donor pipeline because they don’t want to lose revenue. The reason staff and departments get obsessed with this is because management uses the wrong KPIs to measure performance. Any KPI that impedes a donor’s ability to give at their capacity and on their timing hurts a major gift program.

  7. Donors are not qualified before they’re added to a major gift portfolio

    This is part of not having the right structure for major gifts, but this is so egregious that it gets mentioned again. Not qualifying your donors before you put them in your major gift officer’s portfolio is probably the worst offense any non-profit can make toward their staff. You will leave your MGO frustrated and anxious, and precipitate their departure because having a portfolio where most donors don’t want to be in relationship with you sets them up for failure. So many universities do this to their MGO’s. “Here are 300 alumni who have high wealth ratings… according to our analyst you should be able to get $2MM in revenue from this portfolio.” Awful.

  8. Filling caseloads with “wealth-screened” donors who have not given a qualified gift —

    So instead of working with qualified donors who have made a gift that meets your major gift metric and building relationships with those donors, many leaders are enamored with the idea of quickly finding “new money.” So, they scan their database with a wealth overlay and put the donors who score high into an MGO’s portfolio. The MGO then spends most of their time working with these donors and it’s a total failure, because not only have they not given a large gift, but they also don’t want a personal relationship. Now the qualified donors in that portfolio give less because the MGO has taken their attention away from building the relationship.

We’re over half-way there now. Tape these up to your wall or slip them under your CEO’s office door. More to come! Stay tuned.



Read Part One
Read Part Two
Read Part Four