Assuring Major Gifts Success

Major Gifts – Beyond the Solicitation Series – Part 1

David A. Mersky imageNonprofits across the United States are stuck in a cycle that hinders their ability to raise money according to a report commissioned by the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. fund and conducted by CompassPoint entitled, “UnderDeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising.”

The report asserts that the position of development director is incredibly unstable at many institutions. But this insightful report is not only about the development director upon whom far too great a burden is placed by organizational CEOs and their boards of directors.  The entire culture of philanthropy—or, more precisely, the lack of such a culture—is assessed.

Significantly, four key findings of the report indicate that

  • 23% of all nonprofits today have no fundraising plan in place;
  • a vast majority of boards and board members are simply not helping enough;
  • at least a quarter of the CEOs themselves don’t seem to do any fundraising; and
  • half of all development directors said they have no ability to control or engage the staff and volunteer leadership in fundraising.

After reading this report it is hard not to become depressed.  But, with great leadership and creative and innovative management, nonprofits can break the vicious cycle that threatens their ability to raise the resources they need to succeed.

Last year in this space—my monthly blog—I focused on the human resources in a year-long series on governance and leadership development.  This year, in response to the concern that is rampant in the nonprofit blogosphere about the struggle of many organizations to raise enough money to advance their vital mission, I plan to turn my attention—and yours, dear reader, to the most essential part of any development program, managing the major gifts process.  During the balance of this year, we will focus on creating the plan and managing the people and systems to increase revenue from the 10% of the donors who provide 90% of your organization’s revenue.

Among the topics that we will explore are

  • Creating and Executing the Plan—Be Disciplined to Succeed
  • Why People Give and Why They Don’t
  • Engaging Leadership—Volunteer and Staff
  • Overcoming Reluctance and Anxiety: Your Own and Others
  • The Art of Listening
  • Identifying Your Best Prospects—Closer than you Think
  • Getting to Know Them: Prospect Research
  • Tools to Track Who and What is Important
  • Moves Management—From Identification to Investment and Beyond
  • Stewarding Relationships

One caveat.  While this series will focus on assuring major gifts success, it will not deal directly with solicitation.  There are many resources that are available that focus on the fine art of asking.  We will look at everything else necessary to assure a successful major gifts program.

By reading this year’s series, you will position your agency among the high-performing nonprofits that meet the ever-increasing demands for their service with philanthropic resources to spare for emerging opportunities.  Moreover, development will be central to the mission of your enterprise led by a board and staff that experience great joy in the fundraising process.

NEXT MONTH: Creating the Major Gifts Plan—Be Disciplined to Succeed