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As a fundraiser, securing major gifts is a key aspect of your role. Major gifts can provide significant funding for your organization and can help to establish long-lasting relationships with your donors.
However, it’s important to remember that the process of securing a major gift is somewhat delicate.
7 Ways Fundraisers Can Sabotage Their Major Gifts Program
Here are seven ways that fundraisers can inadvertently sabotage their major gifts program, potentially damaging relationships with donors and board members alike.
1. Failing to Build Relationships
One of the most common mistakes that fundraisers make is failing to build relationships with their donors. Securing major gifts requires establishing trust and developing long-lasting donor relationships. It’s important to invest time in getting to know your donors. This can include regular check-ins as well as personal conversations.
Failing to build relationships with your donors can result in a lack of trust and can make it difficult to secure major gifts in the future.
2. Not Understanding the Donor’s Motivations
Another common mistake that fundraisers make is not understanding the motivations of their donors. Major gifts are often given because a donor has a personal connection to your organization, or they believe in your cause. It’s important to understand why your donors are giving, so you can tailor your approach and messaging to their specific motivations.
If you fail to understand your donor’s motivations, that can result in a lack of engagement and can lead to a lack of support for your program.
3. Being Too Pushy
Many fundraisers make the mistake of being too pushy when trying to secure a major gift. This can include constant follow-ups.
Remember — there is a fine line between following up and harassing someone. This type of behavior can be seen as aggressive and can damage the relationship between the fundraiser and the donor. It’s important to approach major gift donors in a respectful and professional manner, and to be mindful of the donor’s schedule and priorities.
4. Not Seeking Board Support
Board members can be a valuable resource when it comes to securing major gifts. Board members can:
- provide insights into the community;
- help to make introductions;
- and provide support during the solicitation process.
A deficit of board support can result in a lack of resources which can limit your ability to secure major gifts. It’s essential to involve your board members in the fundraising process, and to provide them with the tools and information they need to be successful.
5. Not Being Prepared
One of the biggest mistakes that fundraisers make is not being prepared when soliciting a major gift. This can include failing to have a clear and compelling case for support and not knowing enough about your donor.
Being unprepared can result in a lack of confidence and can lead to a lackluster discussion. So always do your research, prepare a compelling case for support, and do your best to familiar with the donor’s background and interests.
6. Ignoring the Donor’s Feedback
Another common mistake that fundraisers make is ignoring the feedback of their donors. Major gifts are about partnership, and it’s critical to listen to the feedback of your donors. This can include:
- suggestions for improvement;
- questions about your program;
- or concerns about the impact of their gift.
Ignoring the feedback of your donors can erode trust and, over time, it can sour your relationship with them.
7. Failing to Follow-Up
Finally, one of the biggest mistakes that fundraisers make is failing to follow-up with their donors. This is the opposite of #3 above, being too pushy. You need to strike the right balance — an email in the first week, a phone call in the second week, and perhaps another follow-up email within the first month. If you haven’t received a response by that point, it’s probably best if someone else from your organization follows-up a few months down the road.
Securing major gifts for your nonprofit is a process, and following up in a timely and responsible way is an important part of that process.
Be Kind, Curious, and Respectful with Donors
The truth is, if you try hard and do your best, it’s extremely hard to sabotage your major gift program. It’s unlikely you will say or do anything stupid enough to cause real damage. Be honest and vulnerable if you do make a mistake. Admit to your donor that you’re nervous and learning — they will give you more leeway than you think.
Don’t let this list of seven missteps discourage you. Instead, my hope is that it encourages you to get out there with the confidence of knowing what not to do. Fundraising is mostly common sense and persistence:
- Be kind.
- Be curious.
- Ask for gifts.
If you do those three things, you’re not likely to sabotage any part of your fundraising efforts. So keep on keeping on!Return to Insights & Events