Don’t you want to advance your mission?

Major donor wall at the Lincoln Museum in Springfield.

Major donor wall at the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois.

Why aren’t you building relationships with people who can significantly advance your mission?

One of the areas of concern I almost always encounter when I conduct a fundraising audit is a lack of sustained major gift cultivation and invitation. While major gift planning is often part of the organization’s history, 9 times out of 10 they have very little momentum and very little to show for it.

What is major gift planning? It’s a strategy that revolves around deliberately building solid relationships with your donors and prospects. The goal is to create honest and thoughtful conversations with people who can help you significantly advance your mission. And isn’t that what we all want?

A Major Gifts Officer is usually responsible for identification, cultivation, solicitation and stewardship of major gift prospects and donors. This has to be their only responsibility. If you give them anything more (helping with events, serving on committees, writing grant proposals) their success will be limited. Why? It’s too easy to get caught up in the day-to-day minutiae of a development office. They have to focus 100 percent on planning visits with and actually visiting (face-to-face) donors and prospects.

Steps To Take

In the beginning of a new Gift Planning effort, the initial action steps should be few with measurable results and deadlines.

  • Identify potential major gift prospects from your current donor base and other prospect lists.
  • Create written goals, objectives and tactics.
  • Develop short, concise action plans for each donor/prospect on the list.
  • Continue (for current donors on the list) or initiate (for new prospects) your action plans.
  • Invite them to join you in advancing your mission by making a major gift.
  • Show gratitude and involve them in the life of the organization.

If you do this right, you will create relationships that can last a lifetime.

I also recommend that you create a Major Gift Advisory Committee that assists in the creation of policies and procedures, makes periodic reports to the board of directors and helps acts as ambassadors for the Major Gift Planning Program.

The Advisory Committee can also help you identify and meet prospects, assist with prospect identification and connect you with professional advisors such as lawyers, accountants, insurance agents, tax, financial or estate planners, stockbrokers, realtors, etc.

One Caveat

It is important to understand that creating a major gift program may not create immediate results – major and planned gifts take time to cultivate and can take years to negotiate.

Do you have a major gift planning effort? How do you maintain your focus on creating opportunities for donors to help you significantly advance your mission?