Paul and Rebecca (not their real names) started giving to a social service organization in the early 90’s. They were a conservative couple from an average neighborhood. But they wanted to do good in their community, so their first gift was $50 to a direct mail acquisition campaign.
I can imagine that back then no one would have imagined how this relationship would turn out. They were just regular folks who gave every now and then.
But as the years progressed their smaller gifts became more frequent. By 2009, their annual cumulative giving went above the $2,000 mark. That was when Andy, the MGO for the organization, started to notice. As Andy dug into the details of Paul and Rebecca’s journey with the organization, he discovered a couple whose interests and passion perfectly matched what the organization was trying to do in the community.
So he sent them a letter of introduction as part of a major gift qualifying process, and then called them to thank them for their gift. This interaction launched a series of touchpoints from Andy which had two objectives:

  1. Making sure Paul and Rebecca clearly understood that their giving was making a difference.
  2. Thanking them for their giving, and building relationship.

Then in December, Andy was invited into Paul and Rebecca’s home and had a very warm and engaging visit. Andy thanked them again for their generous giving and gave them more details on what a difference their giving was making in the lives of people who desperately needed their help.
It must have been a pretty happy and fulfilling time because two weeks later they mailed in a check for $10,000. Andy became a frequent visitor in Paul and Rebecca’s home and their annual giving increased to $21,000 in 2012. With an objective of increasing the amount of program information flowing to these good donors, last year Andy brought along the program director on one of his visits.
Paul and Rebecca’s giving increased to $25,000 annually.
Then Andy learned that Paul and Rebecca had named the organization in their will. So on one of his visits he brought along his Planned Giving Director. They had a great visit over soup and sandwiches and learned that Paul and Rebecca now plan to leave the organization approximately $1.5 million.
Here’s what I get from this true story:

  1. It is not readily apparent what a donor will do. You must search for information and qualify donors for a caseload. And don’t be swayed by low initial giving. Look for capacity and real connection from the donor with what you are doing. You can see that Paul and Rebecca really did have a heart and passion for what this organization was doing. And Andy served that passion. He served it well.
  2. It takes time. Many managers and leaders don’t realize this. We have a situation right now where the manager has told the MGO they need to get results in the next six months or it will be curtains. Whoa! This is one ignorant manager. Major gifts work takes time.
  3. Building relationship instead of just asking for money is what matters. Andy knew this and did it right. His visits were often about reporting on what Paul and Rebecca’s giving accomplished. He wasn’t always asking for money. He became a trusted friend and counselor who was often welcome in their home.
  4. The sheer joy of it all resulted in something significant. Jeff and I have been saying this over and over again in our writings and talks: it is NOT about the money. This whole major gifts thing is not about the money. It is about bringing joy and fulfillment to donors. As Jeff says, “It is about being brokers of love.” THAT is what it is about. Andy knew this. And the ever increasing joy that Paul and Rebecca felt resulted in increased giving. That’s how it works.

Spend time this week bringing joy to the good donors on your caseload. It will not only fill up the hearts and lives of your donors, it will result in increased giving.