Can You Capitalize on the Golden Age of Major Gift Fundraising?

What’s the fundraising outlook these days? I think it is GREAT.

Our future offers plenty of promising fundraising opportunities, especially if you are an enterprising nonprofit leader.

I think we just might be approaching the Golden Age of Major Gift fundraising.

But you do need certain perspective if you’re going to seize the opportunities that are all around you.

I’m seeing huge fundraising opportunities right now in major gifts.

Actually, I think even transformational gifts are more possible than ever for many organizations.

Why? Because the strong economic boom continues in the US and across the world. Clearly, with the economy at historical highs, there is plenty of wealth being created every day.

Of course, we all know that donors who are feeling financially secure will be more generous in their giving. So a strong economy creates a strong giving climate, and more generous donors.

Donors do have wealth. But it’s up to us to delicately work with these donors to inspire their gifts.

1. You have to approach your work from a sense of abundance and positivity.  

For we know that fundraising opportunities are really everywhere – it’s just up to us to seize them when we see them.

Fundraising – and life – can offer so much more when we approach them with a sense of possibility . . .  and even a touch of playfulness.

I’ve always thought that being “opportunistic” is an important trait for success.

Being opportunistic means that you’re always open to new ideas and possibilities. (It’s harder than you think!).

2. You have to be donor-centered instead of organization-centered.

If you want to capitalize on the new Golden Age, then you will need to approach donors correctly.  

Too many organizations are struggling to master a good, solid donor-centered approach.

When it comes to major donors, too many nonprofits simply miss the mark. 

They don’t know how to interact with donors so that the donors feel heard and nurtured.

They communicate with donors based on their organization’s needs, not on the donors’ passions and interests.

They blather on and on about the organization and how great it is. The tone is not friendly – it’s more like giving a speech than talking to a friend.

Our challenge as fundraisers is to listen deeply, take the time with our donors, develop their interests, and bring them joy.

That’s how transformational gifts happen.

3. You have to have big ideas.

A big-time fundraiser told me recently:

“There are more 7-figure donors out there than there are 7-figure ideas.”

What?? That implies the money is there.

But it is also saying that we are not bringing donors inspirational ideas.

Where are the big ideas?

Who is really thinking big enough to inspire transformational gifts these days?

I see many nonprofit leaders and boards who feel safer promoting small incremental change, rather than transformational change.

I remember years ago, when Stanford University raised a billion dollars in one of the very first mega capital campaigns. What was their secret?

I read that Stanford “has some very big ideas about who they could be and what they could do.” That’s what it takes.

4. You have to value donor relationships over a short term focus on money.

You can reach your true fundraising opportunities by sharpening up your current management practices.

A relentless push for performance metrics is focusing far too much on quick money, and not enough on long term potential.

Major gift fundraisers tell me that they are pushed to make an ask on the first visit.

Well before they develop a warm relationship with their donors. Well before the donors are even qualified in terms of interest and capacity.

The push to make metrics can ruin a major donor relationship.

The pressure to make metrics, and to bring in the money ASAP comes from short-sighted, poor management.

Who’s looking out for the donors’ interests?

Where is the long-term stewardship of donor relationships?

Why is the donor relations budget being cut back even as the pressure intensifies on front line fundraisers? This is a focus in the wrong place. 

Pulling through all these challenges won’t be easy.

And many fundraising shops will never stop focusing on the quick money. They won’t risk the brave ideas, or ever really nail a donor-centered approach.

But the ones who master these hurdles are the organizations whose success we’ll be studying in the future.

Want help so you and your team can capitalize on the Golden Age of Major Gift Fundraising?

Then consider joining our step-by-step Major Gifts Coaching.

You’ll have 10 months of training, coaching, structure and accountability.

And you”ll have direct access to me and another highly experienced major gift expert. We can get your leaders and board trained to help major gift fundraising.

And your organization can get organized to bring in the major gifts that are out there for you!

Find out more here. Let’s hop on the phone to see if this is a fit for your organization.

A version of this article originally appeared in Advancing Philanthropy published by AFP.