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5 Red Flags to Look Out for When Raising Major Gifts

Terry Ibele 13 February 2017 0 comments

Red Flag Big GiftsThis is a guest post by Amy Eisenstein, ACFRE and one of the country's leading fundraising consultants, which was originally published on her blog.

Major gifts are large donations that can increase your organization's annual fund by 100% or even more.

The most successful nonprofits nurture their donors to receive major gifts on a regular basis, but unfortunately this isn't the case for everyone. I've seen many nonprofits set themselves up for failure when it comes to receiving major gifts, because they were unable to recognize the warning signs leading them on that path.

If your nonprofit struggles with getting major gifts, there are five red flags to watch for at your organization that can tell you why. Once you eliminate these red flags, you’ll be ready to raise major gifts in a major way.


1) The Development Director Doesn't Attend Board Meetings

From time to time, I receive a call from a development director looking for advice because they aren’t allowed to attend board meetings or speak with the board members. This is an indication that something is terribly wrong. It shows a lack of trust between the executive director and the development director, and there is no way to raise major gifts in this environment.

My advice is, generally, it’s time to look for another job.

2) Board Members Don't Give or Help With Fundraising

Board members who are able need to give leadership level gifts. All board members need to give something, and they also need to give early in the year.

Board members should be engaged and involved in the fundraising process, including helping identify, cultivate, solicit and stewarding donors. This is challenging for most board members, so it is up to you to create easy and engaging opportunities for them to get involved.

Another big red flag is the overwhelming sense of…

3) Needing Money NOW!

Every organization needs money, however there is a difference between being desperate — like not being able to make payroll, and having an urgent need — like finding a cure for cancer.

If your organization is desperate for money, you won’t be able to raise major gifts because you won’t be able slow down enough to focus on the donor’s needs.

Which leads me to the next red flag:

4) Not Focusing on the Donor

If you are more concerned about your organization than your donors, then you won’t be able to raise major gifts.

Recently, I got a call from one of my coaching clients who was frustrated because she was having a hard time securing a visit with a donor named John. John was unavailable to meet because his wife is terminally ill. The development director was frustrated because she was focused on her organization and her need to raise money. Instead, she should have been focused on John’s needs.

I recommended sending John and his wife cards and cookies made by her clients.

John is much more likely to make a gift in the future if he feels loved and supported during this stressful time in his life. On the other hand, if the development director continues to contact John for a meeting while his wife is ill, there is little chance of ever getting a gift.

Focusing on the donor is just as important as focusing on the needs of the organization.

And finally, the last red flag is…

5) No Compelling Case for Support

If your organization doesn’t have a great story, it’s going to be hard to raise major gifts.

Take 30 minutes at your next board meeting to ask board members key questions, including why your organization is important to them. Ask why they joined in the first place, and why they continue to serve. This will help reignite the passion and help you develop a compelling case for support.

Once you eliminate these red flags, you’ll be ready to start raising major gifts and join the #MajorGiftMoment.

Are you facing any of these red flags? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.



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Amy EisensteinAmy Eisenstein, ACFRE, is one of the country's leading fundraising consultants. She's raised millions of dollars for dozens of nonprofits through event planning, grant writing, capital campaigns, and major gift solicitations. She has a real talent for making fundraising simple and accessible for her clients and followers.
Terry Ibele [Learning Apricot]

Posted by Terry Ibele [Learning Apricot]

Published Monday, 13 February 2017 at 8:30 AM
Sorry, this blog post is closed for further comments.

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