First in a six-part series: Truth Bombs About Major Gifts

This week, Richard and I officially launch our new book, It’s Not JUST About the Donor: The Ultimate Management Guide to Major Gift Success. We start the book, like we do with all of our materials, by telling you the truth about how this major gift stuff works. In celebration of the launch of the book, I’m doing a six-part series on what we believe are the essential truths (or “truth bombs” you may not want to hear) that all non-profits have to embrace if you want to continue to flourish and be successful at it.
The first truth is this: Leadership has to embrace major gifts. In all our years of doing this work, coming alongside hundreds of non-profits, working with thousands of mid, major and planned giving officers, we’ve found that without the support and engagement of non-profit leadership, major gift programs won’t work.
I mean, we’ve tried. We’ve worked with MGOs, helping them put a structure to their portfolios, coaching, training them and strategizing with them… but then it goes sideways because their leader or manager doesn’t buy into what we’re trying to do and it turns into a disaster. Or, the CEO or Executive Director says they’ll spend half of their time working with donors, but when we get into it, they barely give it 10%. That’s no good.
Then there are the non-profit leaders who tell us they want to create a culture of philanthropy and they want to provide the infrastructure to properly thank and report back the impact the donor is making… but when they realize what they would have to invest, they back out.
Or, the CEO and the president of the board tell us they’re committed to figuring out how to provide real major gift offers so MGOs can inspire their donors (with which means they have to bring together program, finance and development) – then they lose energy when it gets hard, and they drop it.
Your non-profit won’t be successful in major gifts without leadership embracing, investing in and supporting the program and team. In fact, here are 9 things a leader must do (this comes right out of the new book) if they want to see success:

  1. Devote half of your time to donors
  2. Bring finance, program and development together to create inspiring offers… and you stick with it when it gets hard.
  3. Demand that programs develop measurable outcomes
  4. Seek counsel from donors
  5. Lead on creating a culture of philanthropy
  6. Embrace return on investment and the need for overhead
  7. Balance short-term gains with long-term vision
  8. Ask donors personally for transformational gifts
  9. Get emotional about the need

This is the truth. Non-profit leaders and managers that do these things have successful major gift programs, which ultimately leads to more net revenue and expansion of programs and projects that are helping change the world.
As I said above, it won’t work without leaders who lead. If you’re a non-profit leader or aspiring leader, you make the difference here. Take responsibility and inspire your team.
PS — The first step in leading is to get yourself inspired and educated on how to conduct a successful major gift program. You can start by reading our new book, It’s Not JUST About the Donor: The Ultimate Management Guide to Major Gift Success.
Read the series “Truth Bombs About Major Gifts”

  1. It’s About Leadership (This Post)
  2. Fundraising is a Spiritual Endeavor
  3. You Must Have Alignment of Mission
  4. Major Gifts is Your Highest Net Revenue Generator
  5. No Structure, No Success
  6. There Has to be a Culture of Major Gifts