I think one of the most frustrating things about major gifts for leaders, managers and major gift officers is that a successful major gift program takes time to develop.
Richard and I have written ad nauseam about the fact that major gifts is a long-game proposition. Yet we are reminded almost daily that many people don’t have the patience to let your program develop.
I can tell you story after story of major gift fundraisers who are lost in the world of chasing the money, or of leaders and managers lost in the world of demanding the money right now!
We’ve said it over and over again: success in major gifts doesn’t happen overnight. And neither does your personal success as a major gift officer.
Why is it this way?
Because major gifts is all about developing long-term relationships with donors. To develop those relationships properly takes patience, persistence, strategy and attention to detail.
Richard and I know so many leaders and managers who get very impatient. They put pressure on major gift fundraisers to “get the money” because they have lost sight of the big picture view of the successful program they’re aiming for.
Here is what a successful major gift program is:
Everyone in the non-profit views their donors as part of their mission. In doing so, they develop relationships only with donors who have told the organization that they want to be in relationship with them. Because of this mutual relationship, the organization understands the passions and interests of the donors so well that they inspire the donors to invest in specific programs and projects that help the organization change the world.
Notice I didn’t mention that major gift success was about increasing revenue or moving donors to six- and seven-figure gifts. That will end up being another effect of the great work you do in developing a mutual relationship with your major donor.
Like all strong, healthy relationships, this takes time, effort and care. So here are some simple reminders of what you can do to be successful as a major gift fundraiser and help your entire program grow exponentially over time.
- Only develop relationships with donors that want a deeper relationship with your organization. This point right here will save you time and frustration, and it will make your work much more enjoyable. (See this resource for how you identify these people.)
- Create revenue goals and strategies for every donor in your portfolio. This allows you to focus properly. It also honors the donors and helps them develop trust in you if you are consistent in your communication. That comes with having a plan and executing it. (Here’s a resource to help you set goals and make plans.)
- Show your face to the donor. Let the donor know who you are. Let them see your face. Urge a donor to meet with you. Show up for events your donors are attending, and let them know you know them by appropriately asking questions and giving them opportunities to invest in the work they love about your organization.
- Tell the truth. Be honest with donors. Don’t be anxious with a donor. Show that you honestly care about them, not their money. Challenge a donor when appropriate, because that is real. Never be fake.
- Serve your donor. Look for opportunities to “go above and beyond” for your donors. Thank always. Show compassion and empathy. Go out of your way for her.
As you can see, this doesn’t happen overnight. If you are a leader or manager, allow time for your major gift fundraisers to develop these types of relationships with their donors. Support them in this effort. And if you are a major gift fundraiser, be patient with yourself by taking the necessary steps to develop those relationships with your donors.
Don’t take shortcuts. Don’t allow pressure to circumvent the correct process of building relationships. Richard and I have been doing this work for many years, and we know the outcome if you do this right. You can experience amazing success… it just doesn’t happen overnight.