Is This the Reason Your Team is Not Raising Major Gifts?

sabotaging major gift success

All nonprofits want to excel at major gifts fundraising. Is this really true?

In our 30 years in major gifts fundraising, we’ve seen familiar roadblocks crop up inside organizations. Roadblocks that somehow get thrown up to keep money from flowing into the organization.

What?? You may ask?

How could any nonprofit not want to pull in the funding that is really out there?

Psssst: Let me share with you a secret.

In many organizations – leadership attitudes are holding major gifts fundraising back.

Here are 5 reasons that your major gifts fundraising efforts may not be operating at full steam.

Change these, and your team will probably be able to bring in so very much more money!

These reasons are why I created our Major Gifts Intensive program – to help nonprofit leaders understand how major gifts fundraising really works, and give them the training and support to implement and expand their major gifts programs. 

If your team is interested in joining the 2024 cohort, send in a Letter of Interest, and we’ll see if it is a good fit for you. Major Gifts Intensive 2024 closes out on February 16th, so don’t delay if you are interested. We’ll be starting our work together in early March. 

1. Attitude: Your leadership does not think major gift fundraising is important.

In some organizations, fundraising is the last thing people want to discuss. It’s the yucky stuff.  We’ve seen too many organizational leaders look down on fundraising as “dirty and demeaning work.”

There is NOT a culture inside the organization that supports philanthropy and fundraising.

A true culture of philanthropy is like this:

The organization as a whole believes that fundraising is important to the mission,

and they believe that donors themselves are important partners in your work.

If people believe fundraising is an important component of your overall mission, then fundraising staff, strategy, and programming are not relegated to the last thing on the list.

Instead, they are near the front, and on everyone’s mind.

2. Staff and board members fear in-person major gifts fundraising.

Could it really be that it’s attitudes — and people’s thinking — that hold us back?

Somewhere underneath it all, there is this huge fear of fundraising – particularly major gifts fundraising.  Especially fear of “big money “and fear of person-to-person discussions about funding.

A true culture of philanthropy is like this:

People who think fundraising is distasteful and demeaning – are silenced!

When the organization’s leaders understand how major gifts fundraising works and how it is not so much about “asking”, they are willing to embrace it and fully participate.

3. There’s no organization-wide commitment to the major gifts program.

We see a lot of lip service to the “idea” of major gifts.

Leadership often talks a good game. But the people in charge don’t make the time. And/or they don’t commit the resources. They burden major gift officers with too many prospects, too many meetings, and too much other stuff to do that is outside fundraising.

A true culture of philanthropy is like this:

Everyone helps out. The board members help open doors, engage with donors, and even ask when appropriate.

CEO enforces an organization-wide commitment – and participates fully.

Fundraisers are not just left out there in the cold and expected to do the job by themselves.

Program staffers help by sharing about their field work with donors.

4. Leadership misunderstands major gift fundraising.

I find that so many organizational leaders don’t understand how major gifts fundraising works.

I recently worked with the board of a large hospital system.  There were lots of sophisticated, connected people in the room – who were really nervous about major gift fundraising.

When you have a true culture of philanthropy, your people understand:  

Major gifts is a long term process. It takes patience and time.

It is not about “selling” or “arm-twisting.” Instead it’s about listening to the donor.

Even more, there are many roles that leadership can play in the major gift process. They don’t have to all be engaged in soliciting.

5. Leadership is reluctant to commit the resources to major gifts.

Major gift fundraising is proven to be the most effective way – and the most efficient way to raise money that funds your mission.

We all know the data:

  • Fundraising events are the most time-intensive, least profitable way to raise money.
  • And major gifts fundraising is THE most highly profitable way to bring in funding.

What’s more, major gifts fundraising takes the least effort and brings in the biggest return.  So it just astonishes me to see nonprofit leaders who refuse to invest in major gifts. :(

They’d rather focus on events and mailings.  And you know why? It’s because they are afraid.

And they don’t understand that major gifts fundraising is fun and even joyful!

Bottom Line: What Does Successful Major Gifts Fundraising Really Need?

Perhaps some attitude adjustment will help people get over their fear and realize that this can really be fun!

It might just be people’s attitudes that are holding you back!

What do YOU think is holding your organization back?

And don’t forget about our upcoming Major Gifts Intensive. There’s a special workshop just for organizational leaders and board members on how they can get involved and help bring more major gifts into the fold. Don’t miss out this year- check out our updated curriculum and send in your Letter of Interest.