Why Capacity Doesn’t Always = A Major Gift

Capacity Doesn’t Always = A Major Gift

There was an article in the Advice from Donors column in Chronicle of Philanthropy that popped up in an email. It is behind a paywall so for those of you don’t have a subscription, I will give you the gist.

  1. Tell a simple story
  2. Don’t treat donors like an ATM
  3. Donors want to be partners
  4. Big capacity doesn’t always = a major gift
  5. Be appreciative of whatever you receive

This struck a chord with me because I had a similar conversation during a recent feasibility study interview.

The donor said, “I could give easily give a million dollars. But I won’t. The last time I gave $250,000 the Executive Director looked at me as if ‘that’s all?’ And I have never felt the same way about Organization ABC.” Maybe that’s not an exact quote. The name of the nonprofit is not Organization ABC. But the story is true.

This donor is not alone in feeling like their capacity doesn’t always = a major gift. Even to organizations with which they are close.

The reasons they might not give a major gift can include:

  • Other current priorities
  • Seeing how the nonprofit responded to a previous gift
  • They don’t support the current project or vision
  • They are not as close to the organization as you think they are
  • The story was too complicated, and they didn’t understand what they were giving to at this point (Read: the case for giving wasn’t clear)
  • They felt like they were treated like an ATM
  • They were told how they should feel about the organization and then asked for the donation
  • No real research was done beyond cursory prospect screening and so the ask was not focused on what really interests the donor currently

And this is just the start of where things can go wrong. There are just as many reasons that capacity doesn’t = a major gift as there are donors who didn’t give what was expected. Because each donor is unique. And wants to be treated that way.

By following the basic guidelines to understand and retain your major donors will start you in the right direction. What are some of the basics?

  • Treat people like people, not ATMs.
  • Be in touch throughout the year – not just when you want money.
  • Thank them many times for each gift.
  • And acknowledge them in ways that they appreciate.

If you would like to talk about how we can help you deepen your connection to your major donors, give me a call 800.361.8689 x3 or email me by clicking here.