Are your expectations of your board members realistic? Especially when it comes to fundraising?

Sometimes it’s hard to know. 

You may ask something of your board members. Then when they hesitate, you may wonder, “Did I expect too much?”

That is a common question we hear when fundraisers ask their board members to share the names of their friends and family members for fundraising.  

Maybe you made the request in a recent board meeting and everyone turned silent. Or shuffled their papers. Or responded enthusiastically, “Sure!” and then didn’t follow through with any names.

Now what?

Kathryn Gamble and I recently addressed that question in a livestream event. We discussed how we help our clients move through this roadblock. Our solution creates board members who are actually willing to open doors. You can watch the recording here.

The key thing to remember about asking for names: You need to approach your board members in the right way. And that means thoughtfully and sensitively.

Here are our recommendations:

1. Explain how their referral names will be used.

Remember, your board members are naturally nervous about sharing names of their personal friends.

If they don’t have enough information about how the names they provide will be handled, they may imagine the worst: Are you going to cold call these unsuspecting people? Ask for a big donation out of the blue? Are you going to drop the board member’s name into a request?

You can see why your board members hesitate. These are their dear friends! Naturally, they are protective of their personal relationships. 

What they need is more information and some reassurance. You need to explain how the fundraising process works.

It’s about the slow and steady nurturing of donors. You will be taking time to get to know each potential supporter and find out if they are interested or not. If they are, in fact, interested, then you’ll ask questions to learn how their interests intersect with your organization’s needs.

As you provide this assurance, many of your board members will feel more confident connecting you with their friends.

2. Find a board champion who can lead the charge.

There’s always at least one board member who understands fundraising and has experienced great success. Give that person the floor! 

At an upcoming board meeting, the champion can tell their story of how they invited one of their friends to become engaged with the organization. They may have made an introduction that led to a major charitable gift.

Hearing that person’s success will encourage other board members to do the same. And it’s a beautiful way to celebrate a win and recognize your champion for their part in it.

3. Set up one-on-one time with each board member.

Often board members will be much more forthcoming in private. Asking for names is never a group affair. That can make everyone feel put on the spot.

Rather, treat your board members as individuals when it comes to fundraising.

It’s very effective to reach out to the board member and ask for a meeting or “advice call.”

Here’s what we recommend that you ask: “Would you be willing to brainstorm with me about some potential donors?” 

See how that feels personal and non-threatening? The board member will feel pleased that you are asking for their input.

4. Bring a curated list of names to get the conversation flowing.

Coming to the meeting empty handed can feel intimidating to the board member. Instead, why not look through your current database and select five to 10 names your board member may already know? 

This list will get the brainstorming session flowing beautifully. Maybe the board member knows only a few of the names on your list. But that might prompt them to think of other people they do know who may be interested in supporting your organization’s work.

Isn’t that a nice way to create a back-and-forth conversation around names?

5. Do you have an activity or event that would make for an easy next step?

Sometimes the easiest way for board members to engage their friends is through an invitation to an event. Maybe you have a gala or golf outing coming up, or a service project that needs volunteers. 

Or a board member may be willing to host a small gathering (we call them “porch parties”) where their friends hear about the organization in a relaxed, social setting.

Another easy way for board members to open doors to their friends is with a storytelling tour. You can follow our recommended tour format here, for a powerful experience for visitors. 

Leading with an invitation helps your board members introduce their friends to your organization in a natural and non-threatening way.

6. Does your board need more training in fundraising?

When your board members are clear and confident in their role in fundraising, the enthusiasm follows. I’ve seen it hundreds of times after we finish a fundraising board retreat for a non-profit organization. The board members can’t wait to get started! 

They won’t just give you names; they will reach out to those friends themselves to tell them about your organization.

BOTTOM LINE: Be thoughtful and strategic when you ask your board members for names of their friends.

Remember, each board member is an individual. The whole team will shine when you tap into each person’s gifts and support them in their growth.

Do you need assistance getting your board members trained and motivated to help with your fundraising campaign? We have designed The Fired Up Fundraising Board Workshop, especially for that purpose. If you’d like to know more, reach out for a conversation. We’d love to contribute to your success.

If your organization is planning a capital campaign, we are capital campaign experts.  Email if you’d like to schedule a free strategy call with us.


How to Get Your Board Members To Help Identify Major Gift Prospects

The Important Role of Board Members at a Porch Party Friendmaking Event

Engaging Board Members in Major Gifts Fundraising

The Great Wealth Transfer: More Women Donors | Gail Perry Group

Are you ready for a seismic shift in fundraising? 

It’s the Great Wealth Transfer, and it’s going to change who we move to the top of our major gifts prospect list and how we approach them.

Who am I talking about? Women. 

Over the next 10 years, American women will gain control of much of the $30 trillion in financial assets held by baby boomers as their spouses or parents pass on. That’s more than the annual GDP of the United States!

That means we need to learn all we can about what matters to these high-net-worth women. What are they passionate about? What makes them want to give? And how do they like to be approached?

Today, let’s focus on four facts about women donors, and what that tells us about the future of philanthropy.

Fact #1: Women are more likely than men to give, and they give more. 

According to the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, women give away a larger percentage of their income than men as their income rises. That’s especially true of single women, who out-give single men.

Just take a look at recent headlines:

  • MacKenzie Scott, a novelist and ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has given away $14.1 billion since 2020. With no strings attached.
  • Ruth Gottesman, a former professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and widow of a successful Wall Street investor, recently donated $1 billion to the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx to make tuition free.

And that’s just two examples. 

Key question: Could there be a female donor on your list who could think that big?

Maybe not billions, but a six- or seven-figure charitable contribution? 

Believe me, there are budding philanthropists in your community—on your own donor list. As The Great Wealth Transfer takes place, we need to make sure we’re not underestimating women’s generosity. 

Fact #2: Women give where they are passionate and are especially motivated by empathy.

Did you know that women give differently than men? They are more often driven by empathy compared to men, who, studies show, give more to areas of self-interest. 

Women are more likely to select women’s and girls’ issues as one of their top three causes, including areas such as reproductive/health rights, women’s health and services to address violence against women.

In addition, woman-deciding households are also more likely to give to youth and family, health, and international causes,

That’s exciting for so many organizations. And remember, women care about other issues too. 

Key question: Have you taken the time to get to really know your major gifts prospects, especially the women?

You won’t know what’s motivating them unless you ask! 

That’s where discovery conversations come in. It’s our job to listen and then connect their personal interests to the good work our organization is doing. 

Fact #3 Women are significantly more likely to volunteer than men but not more likely to lead non-profit boards.

About four in ten (42%) women spent time volunteering in 2022, compared with three in ten (33%) of men.

When you look around your organization, can you see the incredible impact women are making? That has long been the case! Women are often the workers – maybe because they have the time, but also because they have the heart!

Now look at your board.  Nationwide, only 42% of nonprofit chairs are women while 48% of non-profit board members are women. That’s not bad, but it could be better – especially as we reach out to more women for major gifts.

Remember, people who volunteer tend to give where they spend their time. That’s especially true for women. 

Key question: Could some of those wonderful female volunteers become your next board members? 

To get ready for The Great Wealth Transfer, we need to have more women at the table. Those leaders will be the ones to lend their wisdom, expertise and passion to support your fundraising goals. 

And remember, women board members will know other women of influence (i.e. the ones inheriting wealth) and can open the door to very fruitful major gifts conversations.

Fact #4 –  More women are building their own wealth by launching companies and leading corporations.

In the last 10 years, the percentage of women in the upper echelons of management has risen exponentially. For instance, 44% of companies now have three or more women in their C-suite, up from 29% of companies in 2015.

Successful, educated women not only have substantial financial assets at their disposal, but they are more likely to be involved in charitable-giving decisions in their homes. 

They may also have influence over corporate philanthropic dollars that would take your organization to a whole new level.

Key question: Have you built relationships with the women business leaders in your sphere of influence? 

This is a great place for your board members to get involved. Why not ask them to introduce you to executives in networks – including women? 

Or, have your board member invite the executive to a special storytelling tour of your organization, where they will serve as their host. 

Bottom Line on Women and the Transfer of Wealth: It’s time to be more intentional about the way we focus on women in our fundraising.

Who might you be neglecting? Are there high-capacity women among your donors who would love some attention? I bet so!

How to Be Confident in Fundraising Discussions with Major Donors | Gail Perry Group

Do you want to develop more confidence when approaching major donors? 

Many Major Gift Officers tell us that they are nervous when they pick up the phone or email one of their assigned prospects. 

The challenge is this: We all need to be focusing on major donors and their gifts, but many of us lack confidence in what to do and what to say. 

Many participants in our Major Gifts Intensive tell us that they really want and need to develop more confidence. And we make sure that they emerge ready and equipped to successfully close gifts! 

Today we are talking about confidence.

Specifically, the kind of confidence your team needs to get out of their office and go make friends with major donors.

We hear lots of people – from the C-Suite to board members to entry level fundraising staffers – saying that they are simply nervous. 

We understand. This whole process of raising funds for a good cause can be intimidating.

But take heart – you CAN gain complete confidence when dealing with high-net-worth donors.

Even more, you can feel completely comfortable, friendly and at ease with them.

First, let me share my own story:

When I first started out in fundraising, like most newcomers, I felt a bit intimidated.

I would say to myself: “Why would these major donors ever want to spend time with me? I am just a staffer, and they are such Very Important People.”

It felt like the donors were high up on a hill. Far, far away from me.

The distance felt so great. The gap between us was wide. I was young. They were old and prominent.

Yet, as a Major Gift Officer, I had this huge fundraising goal hanging over my head!

Do you ever feel like this?

And, here’s another important challenge: this discomfort tends to keep many fundraisers in the office when they really should be out visiting with donors. 

That’s why we created the Major Gifts Intensive – so that smart, capable fundraisers could have the help they needed to thrive, to flourish and to actually have fun. 

And, what’s more – to be wildly successful in their fundraising.

How to Develop Your Confidence for Major Gift Fundraising Success

Here are our tips for developing more confidence so that you can be successful with your major donor relationships.

1. How to ask for an appointment so that your prospect will say “yes” to a meeting.

You want to come across well in your email or phone call when you request the meeting.

Your first communication makes a huge first impression, so think carefully about how you will present yourself.

Your request for a meeting needs to:

  • Present you to the donor as a likable, somewhat interesting person.
  • Show that you have lovely polite manners. (Major donors simply are not going to spend time with someone they perceive as boorish.)
  • Be cordial and friendly – and strike the right tone between social and business.
  • Show that you respect the busy donor’s time.

2. Learn what to say when you ask for a meeting.

Don’t say, “I’d like to update you on what our nonprofit is doing.”

That will probably bring you a “No, we don’t need to meet” from your donor.

Instead, use permission: “Would you like an update? Would you like to know more about such and such program that we are developing? 

Or you can approach this as an Advice Visit: “I’d like to know what you think about xxx or yyyy issue.”

Above all, let your donor know that you really do want their opinion.

And let them know that they are the ones who will do the talking, so to speak– not you. 

We also recommend that Major Gift Officers introduce themselves as their donor’s assigned contact at the organization. 

In this role, you can be prepared to help answer their questions, learn their donor story, and discover their interest area at your nonprofit.

3. Learn how to be properly prepared for a meeting.

Over and over, fundraisers tell me that when they are properly prepared, they feel far more comfortable. Being thoroughly prepared will give you confidence.

You want to:

  • Know as much as possible about your donors before you ever meet them – their personality, likes and dislikes (you can have a field day with this one), family, community activities, even their vacations.
  • What does your internal research tell you?  Their giving preferences and history, past relationships with people at your organization, projects they have supported?
  • What can you find from external research?  Community activities, awards, hobbies?
  • Try to find out their philanthropic track record.
  • Most importantly – you want to know what they are most interested in. That way, you can have a powerful conversation about their interest in your nonprofit’s mission.

4. Learn how to be properly social – but not too social.

This is a fine line, but you can quickly develop an instinct for how to walk it.

You are cordial, and you talk about the potential donor’s interests, right?

Some donors will want to spend 25 minutes of a 30-minute appointment talking about the latest sports event or their last vacation.

And you are sweating it out, wondering how to shift the conversation to business. (We’ve all been there!)

With practice, you’ll develop your skill to pivot and gently change the subject.

If you stay too social, your donor will forget what your real job is.

You must, must. always discuss fundraising issues with your donor. Such as:

  •       What does the donor think about your organization’s latest initiative?
  •       What’s your donor’s impression of your organization, your leadership, and your work?
  •       What is your donor most interested in at your organization?
  •       Why does your donor support your organization?
  •       What’s your donor’s personal philanthropic vision?

Bottom Line – How to be More Confident in Major Gift Fundraising:

Training in all these skills will help you build the confidence you need to be successful at major gift fundraising.

These skills will help you build lasting relationships with your new donors. 

You’ll be able to have relationships that create joyful generous donors that you can actually enjoy. 


5 Ways to Get the Appointment with Your Major Gift Prospect

How to Have a Successful Visit with a Major Donor

How to Develop Friendly and Authentic Relationships with Major Gift Donors

If your organization is planning a capital campaign or expanding your major gifts program – we can help. Email if you’d like to schedule a free strategy call with us.

The importance of honest questions to ask conversations about fundraising strategy.

Do you want to raise the kind of funding that not only funds your mission — but also has the potential to literally transform your organization’s work?

People ask us what it really takes if we want to pull off a major capital campaign or a big increase in annual funding.

And here’s our response:

Your nonprofit organization’s future depends largely on the decisions you make about fundraising strategy.

 So our question back to you is: “Are you willing to discuss the tough questions?”

Here’s what you need to discuss IF you want to make the leap from good to great fundraising.

1. Do we really want to create an internal culture that supports fundraising and philanthropy?

A true culture of philanthropy considers fundraising to be an important part of your mission and programming work.

When you consider that fundraising is the act of reaching out and engaging with your stakeholders and supporters, then everyone inside the organization can get involved. 

When everyone supports fundraising and plays a role in supporting various fundraising programs, then their organization is almost always successful.

Fun fact: The nonprofits that integrate fundraising into their core mission goals are the ones that achieve maximum fundraising results.

This is a classic culture of philanthropy – when everyone is supportive of fundraising. 

It takes every single person in the organization to be on board — from the folks answering emails and phones, to the CEO, to the board. 

Everyone needs to celebrate fundraising as an integral part of their mission. Even more, every single person in the organization can celebrate that reaching out to donors is a special and honorable endeavor.

When an organization does this, then ALL IS POSSIBLE.

This is what a true culture of philanthropy is — when every single person in the organization embraces their donors as important, valued, and worthy of attention and honor.

Some of your leaders may feel awkward or even embarrassed about fundraising, but they CAN get excited about your donors.

Your takeaway: An organization-wide commitment to your donors will lead you to transformational fundraising results. 

2. How do we make decisions about fundraising strategies?

We’ve worked with plenty of organizations that allow board members to direct fundraising processes and decisions. 

And, when well-meaning board members who have no experience in fundraising get involved, watch out! What we see is poor decisions that are driven by various individual’s personal likes and dislikes.

In some cases, there’s too much weight given to the opinions of the most powerful person in the room.

Sometimes it seems that decision-makers have their pre-set opinions about what they think is the best way to raise funds, and that’s that:

  • How about the CEO’s personal preference for email over direct mail?
  • Or, someone hates email and pushes the fundraising team to cut back on digital appeals. 
  •  Or, a leader thinks snail mail is outdated and expensive and insists on cutting those investments.
  •  How about worn-out fundraising strategies (your charity auction or gala?) that are protected by a powerful group of volunteers or board members?

Let’s be clear – this happens every day in nonprofits around the world. People who have no fundraising experience feel qualified enough to insist on specific strategies and programs. 

Many people would rather stage fundraising events to raise money. Why?  Because they are uncomfortable with the whole idea of approaching major donors and soliciting gifts.   

The issue is this: Are you making decisions based on established best practices founded in data, or on people’s personal opinions and preferences?

Please, can we look at the data and the research to understand whether certain fundraising strategies should be used or not? 

We’ve heard too much from decision-makers who complain about how they can’t stand phone calls or direct mail or email. But these strategies work. All the professionals know it.

Your takeaway: Set your fundraising strategy based on data and research. This is a must if you want to reach new, mega fundraising goals.  

3. What would happen if we invested more in fundraising?

Often, an organization wants more out of fundraising but doesn’t want to commit the resources to make it happen. What will be the result? Disappointing revenue returns.

We also see nonprofits setting wildly aggressive fundraising goals, but they do not invest in the staff team or consulting talent who can set up success.

If your organization invested more in fundraising and raising money, then you would raise more money to fund your mission. The ROI of fundraising is well established. 

Let’s break this down: when organizations invest more in fundraising efforts, the money raised will pay back its costs.

And, most importantly, the investment will bring in significantly more money than what was budgeted. 

Fundraising is not a cost center. It’s a revenue center.

Above all, we hope everyone understands that fundraising is not a cost center. It is not a black hole that eats up the budget. Instead, it generates revenue

This is a hard concept for many people to understand and apply. IF we spend more on fundraising, then we will raise much, much more.

Or conversely, cutting the fundraising budget will result in less money coming in to fund mission work. That means your revenue base will decline.

We saw too many organizations, during the pandemic, that cut their spending on fundraising. As a result, they saw a very serious decline in fundraising donations and revenue.

You can’t expect donors to continue funding the work if you don’t engage and ask them! It’s heartbreaking to see the sad results of these short-sighted decisions. 

They cut the fundraising budget and lost most of their revenue. Alas!

The Monks Decided to Cut Fundraising Investments

I once volunteered with a religious-based organization that was slowly building a productive fundraising process and program. They were spending about $60,000 to raise around $200,000. 

But the monks became uncomfortable spending scarce resources on communications and nurturing their loyal donors. 

So, what did they do? They decided the expenditures were not appropriate, fired their dedicated, hard-working staffer and eliminated the entire successful fundraising budget.

Alas, all the donors who had given before were never asked again. And the monies that were raised (annually $200,000) never came in the door again.

Again, if you invest more in fundraising, you will get huge results. 

Bottom line: Invest more in fundraising, and you’ll see an exponential return!

These three questions open the door to a bigger view of what’s possible. If you can bring them forward for discussion, you may be able to create a new level of insight and even internal change.

At the least, you’ll open the door for future discussions about policy, decision-making and investment decisions.

The truth about fundraising just may set you free!

But if your leaders can tackle all these, you’ll be on your way to amazing results that can transform your fundraising.


Major Gift Best Practices

Major gifts – those transformative donations that catapult your mission forward – aren’t plucked from thin air. They’re meticulously cultivated, nurtured relationships that blossom into extraordinary generosity.

But how do you navigate the delicate dance of major gift fundraising, ensuring genuine connections with your lovely donors, while at the same time, going after skyrocketing fundraising goals?

Fear not, fellow garden cultivators! We’re unearthing some of the hidden gems of major gift best practices, guaranteed to elevate your approach!

Here’s how major gift fundraising is like my garden!

1. Know Your Soil: Deep Dive into Prospect Research

Before planting your fundraising seeds, understand the landscape.

Research your potential major donors. What are their passions? Philanthropic history? Giving capacity?

Analyze giving patterns, board memberships, and news mentions to create comprehensive donor profiles.

Remember, when you are dealing with major donors, each prospect needs an individually tailored approach, based on their unique interests and passions.

And remember, the best prospect research is talking directly to your donor! You’ll find out everything you need.

2. Plant Deep Roots: Build Authentic Relationships

Major gifts blossom from genuine connections, not transactional pitches. People who think that you can secure a major gift with a slide deck and a great pitch are seriously mistaken.

We all say that developing relationships with major donors requires enormous amounts of time. You have to build trust and rapport with the donor. And at the same time, the donor needs to like you enough to spend time with you.

Conversation skills are so important too. You need to be well-informed and well-read, so that you can actually carry on a conversation with a sophisticate donor.

If you want to engage a potential donor, it takes with meaningful conversations, not just fundraising asks.

Invite them to special events. Major donors often enjoy learning more about your mission and program work.

You can also showcase your impact through intimate tours. Above all, actively listen closely to their concerns and aspirations.

3. Cultivate with Purpose: Align Mission with Passion

When it comes time to showcase your mission, don’t just “sell” your cause. Instead, you need to connect it to your donors’ hearts.

That’s why it’s so important to discover your donors’ personal values and philanthropic goals. People who are philanthropists all have a particular outlook and purpose to their giving. And you need to know what that is!

Our job as fundraisers is to find the match between the donors’ interests and our mission. Remember – these donors have a personal reason for their interest in your cause.

When you find out more about where they are coming from, it’s much easier to frame your impact stories around shared passions.

You can highlight how their contribution can be a catalyst for profound change. Remember, a mighty purpose can inspire and fuel generosity.

4. Tend with Patience: Respect the Nurturing Cycle

Major gifts rarely bloom overnight. It’s important to respect the natural rhythm of relationship building.

Often this takes time, as the donor gets to know and trust your organization.

And remember, the first gift from a potential major donor is (hopefully) never the largest! Their first gift needs to be an occasion of joy and celebration so that they will feel happy they made the gift.

Nurture these connections patiently. Never rush your donor. You can offer gentle, consistent value and engagement without pressuring for an immediate gift commitment.

Remember, trust takes time, and major gifts blossom from its fertile ground.

5. Prune Strategically: Segment and Prioritize

Not all potential donors are created equal.

One of our biggest challenges is to determine WHO to focus on. That’s when data comes in.

Analyze your research and engagement data to identify your most promising prospects. Those donors who are actively giving and engaging with you are likely to make a major gift sooner than later.

Learn the difference between a “prospect” and a “suspect” by asking discovery questions. You can discover whether someone is really interested or not, by asking a few simple questions.

Prioritize the donor relationships that show the strongest alignment with your mission and a genuine passion for your cause. When those two qualities come together, you have the making of a major investment in your work.

Remember, focusing resources on fertile ground yields the most significant harvest.

Bonus Tip: Leverage the Power of Storytelling! People love, love stories. And stories are the best way to share examples of the results your organization creates in the world.

A strong, compelling narrative employs emotion and drama.

You can weave a story where your organization(or the donor!) is the hero – able to give kids warm coats, or celebrate art in your community – anything that that showcases the transformative impact of your organization’s work.

Use data strategically, but weave it into stories that evoke emotion and inspire generosity. Remember, stories resonate where all those mind-numbing spreadsheets fall short.

Bottom Line on major gift best practices:

Tend your donor garden well. By implementing these major gifts best practices, you’ll transform your fundraising into a thriving garden of transformative philanthropy.

Remember, genuine connections, purposeful alignment, and patient nurturing are the seeds that blossom into extraordinary giving.

So, grab those dusty gardening gloves, carefully nurture your donors, and watch your fundraising goals reach new heights!

Useful Links

More Tips about Major Gifts from the Gail Perry Group
The Chronicle of Philanthropy

Year-end is the most productive time of the year for fundraising. So let’s take advantage of the generosity this season and make sure you bring in the year-end gifts to meet your fundraising goal.

Some fundraisers shy away from their donors in December. On the contrary, we think you need to be visible. It’s important to ask them if they’d like to consider a leadership annual gift.

This one activity could make the largest difference in your year-end fundraising results.

Here are two terrific reasons to invite your major donors to make an annual gift – at any time of the year.

1. Participating in the annual campaign will create an even deeper connection with your organization.

Recognizing them as leadership annual donors sets up these lovely people to be THE philanthropic leaders in your stakeholder community.

Now you have more access to them: you are able to honor them as the true VIP’s that they are.  Even more, you can use the annual gift opportunity to engage them and bring them even closer to your organization.

So the year-end annual gift is important. It becomes yet another step in their cultivation and engagement – leading to a much, much larger major or campaign gift.

Their ongoing participation promotes “buy-in” on their part. Even though they might help with a campaign gift later, they can enjoy their relationship with you right now.

Above all, you want to make their annual gift an “Occasion of Joy and Celebration” on BOTH your part and your donors.  You have the chance to make your donor feel joyful about their gift and their overall relationship with your cause.

Don’t miss this special opportunity!

2. These year-end gifts are super easy to close.

Why are these the easy gifts? It’s because these donors are pre-sold. You won’t need to educate them, or spend a lot of time developing a close relationship, because it already exists.

Above all, at year-end, focusing here is the most productive place for you to put your energy.  Especially if you evaluate the return on your investment of time.

And if you consider the annual gifts that all your major donors might consider, it adds up.  We bet it could be a substantial part of your year-end fundraising goal.

All fundraisers know that it is the higher dollar donors who make the most difference in our totals. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to zoom over your year-end goal with some easy, large gifts? :)

It’s not too late to make it happen.

Here’s our simple call to action:

  • Identify your top 10-15 major gift donors who have not yet made a gift this year – and connect with them.
  • Find out what is on their minds and invite them to support your organization this year with an annual gift.
  • Spending your time with these funding sources is clearly the absolute best place for you to be in late December. So connect with these wonderful donors who already believe in you and have supported you in the past.
  • Spend your time where the pockets are the deepest, if you want to raise the money you need.

Bottom line on year-end gifts:

If you don’t do anything else in your year-end campaign, you must do this. Visit with your major donors and invite them to invest in your cause.

Looking for more support on equipping your team to close record-breaking major gifts? The 2024 Major Gift Intensive is open for enrollment – click here to learn more or book a discovery call.

One of the biggest challenges for major gift fundraisers is in the area of prospect management. When you have a whole list of projects in your portfolio, how do you prioritize your assigned prospects? That’s where the concept of a Backburner List comes in handy.

It’s a matter of organizing your portfolio.

How do you sift through many names to find the right people who want to get more involved?

With over 100-150 donors to manage, how can you organize yourself so that you are focusing on the right prospects at the right time?

How can you make sure you are spending your time at its highest and best use?

Each day, major gift fundraisers are forced to make choices. Which donors will you choose to spend time with and which donors can you safely ignore? You only have so much time to go around, and you have too many donors for the amount of time available. 

 The trick is to ensure you spend your time with the right people. Your time is just about the only thing you can control (you certainly can’t control donors!), so you want to be super smart about your own time management.
And yet, you don’t want to overlook a prospect simply due to lack of time and/or the prospect isn’t responding or available.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of only seeing your “favorite” people – the easy prospects who are always game for a call or visit. But this may not be the best strategy.

What Can Go Wrong?

A lot. While you are chatting up your most available prospects, you might overlook that more elusive donor. You know them – the ones who are hard to get a meeting with, the ones who take weeks to call you back, the ones with whom no one at your organization has a relationship.

But that prospect may just be worth your time. They have the capacity and a solid giving history to your organization. They do have potential, and you don’t want to forget about them. What is a major gift fundraiser to do?

Your Top Secret Strategy.

Every day, you must evaluate your list of prospects and decide who you will focus on. Which donors need to be priorities, and which ones can simmer in the background?

Then you need an organizing scheme that allows you to segment your portfolio. Create your top ten and then your next group, etc.

What Should You Do with Elusive Prospects?  Create a Backburner List.

Your Backburner List includes prospects who are not a priority right now. For example, they may not be ready to discuss a gift – yet. These donors are simply “simmering” on the back burner while you focus on the prospects who are warm or hot.

Who Goes on the Backburner List?

  • People you don’t want to forget about – they are promising, but their timing is off. They’ll need attention later, but not now.
  • People who may merit a closer look. One day you will be able to have more discovery conversations with them, so you can find out how interested they really are.
  • People who may have given recently and who (of course) need continued touches and attention.

Why Have a Backburner List:

1. Lowers Stress.

Trying to pay concentrated attention to a large number of donors is simply impossible. You are spread too thin. You will end up feeling stressed because you’re not “covering” your portfolio of donors well enough.

2. Organizes Your Prospects.

The Backburner List allows you to organize your prospects. Everyone needs a workable prospect management system that guides you to set your priorities.

3. Bless and Release.

How wonderful! You can even bless and release prospects who are not responsive, who are rude or unpleasant, or are simply not interested in a closer relationship. You can put some of them on the Backburner so you don’t forget them later.

4. Makes You More Productive.

Yes! Let’s make everyone on the team more productive. You have a system that helps you focus on the right prospects. You’re not spreading yourself too thin. Instead, you’re concentrating on where you see the highest gift potential for right now.

Remember, it’s all a judgment game. We are not saying, “ignore half of your portfolio.” Instead, we recommend a system that lets you sift through everyone on your list so you can set priorities efficiently.

Bottom Line: Create a Backburner List and you’ll save time by focusing on the right donors. And, you’ll raise more money.

Even more, you’ll also lower your stress level, and sleep better at night!

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you. 

If your organization is planning a capital campaign or launching a major gifts program – we can help. We’re with our clients every step of the way, inspiring their teams and board, building confidence, driving action and measuring success. Send an email to if you’d like to schedule a strategy or consulting call with us.

Yes, there are many more major gifts fundraising mistakes to discuss! The activity of engaging with a potential donor, face to face, or person to person, can create fear and anxiety in many people. At best, it can feel terribly awkward. On the other hand, if you are really interested in the donor as a person and want to know more about them, the encounter can be enjoyable and highly productive. We shared four top fundraising mistakes last week here, and this post shares three more common blunders we see every day.

Major Gift Fundraising Mistake #5: Talking Too Much!

Too many nonprofit leaders blather away at their donors, thinking they need to “sell” the donor on a big idea or opportunity. Yes, you do want to share your ideas, but don’t forget that your donor has a lot to say too, and also wants to share THEIR ideas with you. They don’t want to be talked “at.” Instead, your donor wants to be heard. Imagine that! And it’s your responsibility in a donor visit, to hold the space, so to speak, for the donor to share that’s in their head and in their heart. If you do all the talking in a donor visit, you accomplish nothing.  In fact, if you are talking more than 50% of the time, you are shooting yourself in the foot! My motto has always been: “When in doubt, shut up.” If you are not sure what to say, I can promise you that your donor will fill the silence and say something. And you really want to know what is on your donor’s mind!

Mistake #6: Not Upgrading Donors

How do you upgrade a donor to give at a higher level? So many fundraisers are stuck and don’t know how to bring this up without feeling awkward or pushy. In fact, fundraisers are often so nervous about asking for a higher gift amount, that they often leave money on the table. But the reality is that your donor may be absolutely willing to give more – but you don’t know how to bring it up! It’s easy. First, be sure to ask for permission to bring up the topic of a gift. All you have to do is ask your donor if they’d like to do more. Or if they’ve ever considered doing something more. Your donor will surprise you! You can say, “If I may, can I ask you if you ever thought about doing something more?” You just may be surprised! 

Mistake #7: Missing the most important prospects. 

Fundraising leaders tell us that their teams are often confused and lack focus. MGO’s don’t understand how to find the right donors. They fritter away their time on the wrong people. When that happens, no one raises money!  Many MGO’s have up to 150 prospects in their portfolio.  How do you manage all these people? How do you set priorities? It can be a confusing morass.  We believe in the Top 10, Next 20, Next 30 approach. You can be successful if you organize and prioritize your donors in this simple format. Your Top 10 donors get the most attention. Your Next 20 donors are in line next. And, your Next 30 donors can fill in when you can’t see the other top ones.    This structure has worked for many of our clients and we strongly recommend it to you.

Bottom Line: Avoid These Major Gifts Fundraising Mistakes!

Don’t feel alone! We’ve made these blunders before ourselves. Let these videos guide you and your team to major gifts fundraising success!

Major gifts fundraising mistakes are everywhere! Dealing with major donors can be so challenging – and the entire effort is subtle, full of nuance. You’re trying to make friends with someone who expresses interest in your cause, but what to do? How to do it? What to say, and when? What not to say? And then, how do you coach C-suite executives on appropriate behavior with donors? They are the ones who tend to “talk at” the donor rather than allow the donor to do the talking. Each of these videos outlines a key mistake that happens all too often.

So today, we’re laughing at some frequent major gifts fundraising mistakes that we often make.

Don’t forget – in our Major Gifts Intensive coaching and training program, we are teaching everyone the correct way to work with major donors. Your visits will have clear objectives and you end up with a happy donor making a huge investment. And you won’t waste time in endless cultivation. This year’s Major Gifts Intensive registration closes out next week on Feb 15th, so if you are interested, let us know asap!

Major Gift Fundraising Mistake #1: Rushing the Ask  

Asking before a donor is ready to be asked is rushing the ask. Remember that major gifts fundraising is not transactional! It’s all about how the donor “feels” about your work – are they committed, are they enthusiastic? When you make it all about a quick, ask when the donor is unprepared, you will put off your donor and you’ll get a NO!

Mistake #2: Making it All About Money  

Remember that your donor supports your cause because they’re passionate about your mission, and dedicated to making the world a better place. When you talk only about money and not about the donor’s commitment, you’ll leave your donor cold. You might get a gift but it’s only a token. Not what the donor could really do. 

Mistake #3: Confusing Suspects and Prospects  

If you’re going to be successful you have to sort your portfolio into suspects and prospects. Suspects are people who are not yet qualified – which means you don’t know if they have the passion and the capacity to make a major gift. Prospects are those lovely people who are qualified. To be successful, spend your time with well-qualified prospects.

Mistake #4: Messing up the Discovery Process  

Discovery is your friend. The Discovery Process happens when you ask your prospective donor questions to find out if they are really interested, have wealth capacity, and are available to be cultivated. You ask questions like, “Would you like to know more? Or, would you like to get more involved? The donor will tell you whether they are interested – or not.  And you’ll “discover” whether the person is really a prospect or not.

Bottom Line: Avoid These Major Gifts Fundraising Mistakes!

Don’t feel alone! I’ve certainly made plenty of bloopers. And, I just wish I knew way back when I was a front-line fundraiser, all the things I know now. We’ve all bungled important meetings with key donors. We’ve all missed cues or rushed the Ask or talked too much. It happens every day with key donors all over the world, unfortunately. You can find three more of our top fundraising blunders here. Let these videos guide you and your team to major gifts fundraising success!

Have you ever tried to reconnect with major donors who have lost touch with your organization and your team? Here’s a quick video we posted to Linkedin yesterday, where we discussed success stories from the Major Gifts Intensive. Our guests where sharing stories of how they put their new skills from the Intensive to use. And one of Alexandra Lippert’s colleagues was able to reconnect with a major donor who had drifted away. Now, this particular donor is so engaged that they are actually discussing a million-dollar gift!  Can you imagine, bringing a former major donor back to the fold – and then having them ready to discuss a seven-figure gift? This is a success in my book!

Linked In Live Image

I want to personally thank these wonderful fundraising pros who joined me Wednesday on Linkedin: Craig Nason, Development and Communications Director of the Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking, and Alexandra Lippert, Director of Development for Major Gifts at the University of Waterloo, Canada. Hope you enjoy watching our conversation! The story of Alex’s colleague who was able to bring a donor back to the fold is at the end of this 12 minute video. To share a sneak peak about the video, here are some of the overall skills, key takeaways and successes they achieved in last year’s Major Gift Intensive:

  • Permission-based fundraising to open the door to key donor conversations.
  • Rigorous prospect management – to determine your top 10 and next 20 prospects, and focus your time and energy at the top.
  • Talking less and listening more to your donors, to delve into your donor’s true interests.
  • Building a true major gift plan – step by step to build a program with focus and strategy unique to each organization.
  • The art of growing a relationship with a donor.

Reconnect Major Donors Who Have Drifted Away

Many organizations have major donors who once were enthusiastic and on board – yet now have disengaged and are not involved at all. We see this happening all the time. For example, you may have five, six, and even seven figure major donors who once were enthusiastic supporters – but they’ve disappeared. Here’s another example: what happened with your former capital campaign donors – particularly the ones who funded your last building campaign? Are you still in touch with them? Where did they go?  What about those former loyal board members who gave so much to support your work? It may have been years ago that you connected with them, but their emotional ties may still be strong. 

Trying to Reconnect Major Donors 

Just about every organization has supporters who were once quite passionate but now have lost touch. In the success story above, our client at Waterloo University had lost contact with a certain former major donor.   

Here’s the Process We Recommend to Reconnect Major Donors Who Have Drifted Away

Step One: Try a “Get in touch” phone or zoom call.

If you have a donor who has not been engaged for a while, consider a “get in touch again” approach.  Just think, your donor might actually welcome your phone call or email. Especially if they’ve been involved in past years, they might really like to know the latest news. They might like to meet any new leaders who may have joined the team. Or, they might welcome a personal update about an area they used to fund.

Step Two: Try a “Thank You” phone or zoom call.

Many former donors appreciate a “thank you for all you have done for our organization” phone or zoom call. In fact, if you think about it, they probably deserve a thank you call, however, belated. It’s the least you and your team could do – to reach out to people who’ve been so very supportive in the past and acknowledge everything they’ve done. Thank you’s are always in good taste and appropriate. It’s a feel-good moment for both you and your long-lost donor when you reach out (even if it’s been years) to say thank you again.

Step Three: Ask them why they supported your organization – what was it about your work that appealed to them the most?

This is the question that starts to reengage them. Asking them for their Donor Story can be like opening a treasure box. Your long-lost donor probably has deep feelings about your organization’s work. Likewise, they have a strong personal connection to your mission. This is heart-centered work – when you ask the donor to share how they feel about the mission. Ask them what resonated with them about your organization’s impact. Remember, when a donor’s deeply held personal values are really tied in with your organization’s work in the world, they will talk and talk about it. We advise our clients to simply let them talk! You open up a whole new world when your donor shares their personal thoughts and feelings. Here’s when they often start saying, “How can I help?”

Step Four: Ask them if they’d like the next step – a personal update on what’s happening now.

  • Would they like to get involved again?
  • Would they like to meet the new leadership?
  • See the new initiatives or programs that are being launched?
  • Would they like a personal tour?

This is when they become re-engaged. Remember, you are using permission – you are asking them if they’d like this or that. Using permission allows the donor to feel like they are in charge – they never feel pushed or like they are getting a pitch.

Step Five: Invite them to get involved. But use permission.

Consider using these questions: “Have you ever thought about getting more involved?” “Would you like to know how you can help?” “Would you like to know more about your favorite program and its current challenges?” When your formerly disconnected donor says “YES!” then you can literally move to a Gift Conversation.

Bottom Line: Reconnect Major Donors Who’ve Drifted Away

This approach may sound simple. But it’s deliberate, strategic, and utterly donor-centered. You focus on the donor, showing appreciation, listening, and sharing impact. This is how you rekindle a fire in your donor’s heart – and then the magic door to a wonderful gift opens. You end up with new resources to fund your mission, a happy donor, and a renewed relationship with a passionate supporter. 

The Three Success Principles for a Profitable Major Gifts Program

Are you and your team ready for a prosperous and productive year? And, most importantly, are you all planning for wonderfully generous major gifts to flow into your organization? 

We think this year will be an interesting year for major gifts fundraising. With the uncertain economy, we’ve even heard that some fundraising pros are not sure about meeting their fundraising goals this year. 

That means you need to organize and focus carefully to be successful. You need to be systematic to make the most of your valuable time and energy – while raising the money your institution needs. 

There may be roadblocks keeping you and your team from reaching your true major gift potential. These success principles will guide you through any economy, to profitable success – for you, your organization, and your mission. 

Here are the top three major gifts it \\success principles that we teach. You need these elements working together in order to be successful in raising major gifts in good times and also in volatile times: 

There’s no way around it. There are specific steps you can take to move quickly, find the right high-net-worth donors who really care, have direct conversations with them, and then close gifts. 

1. Closing major gifts takes know-how and training.

It can be done, and it’s done every day. 

However, many fundraisers tell us that they are unsure exactly how to approach donors. Even more, they feel awkward having conversations with prospects. Many say they feel lost when they try to identify the right prospects to focus on. Worst of all, they feel alone and overwhelmed. 

Your team can learn all the analytical and soft skills they need to be successful major gift fundraisers. They don’t have to guess their way along. 

We can teach them advanced conversation and discovery skills to help them feel comfortable with donors. Every fundraising professional needs to learn how to hold a conversation that lights the fire in a donor prospect and moves them to a gift. 

Your team can learn how to listen for a donor’s personal values, passions and interests. And how to take the next steps to move a donor closer to a gift. And we gently push them out the door to go visit their prospects. :) 

Your team also needs to understand data analysis. How do you keep up with and sort through all the information they learn about their donors? Most of all, they need to know how to put it to use to predict major gift outcomes. 

We believe strongly that working smarter, not harder, helps busy fundraisers raise more money. Knowing how to put your data to work for your leads to success. 

2. Successful major gift fundraising takes a team. 

The smartest professionals don’t try to go it alone. Silos in major gifts fundraising never work well. It’s essential to have other people involved in helping in the major gift effort. 

The team members don’t need to be out there soliciting, but they DO have to help identify prospects and help think through strategies to reach and nurture donor relationships. We find that you can be much more creative in coming up with ideas to cultivate donors when you are brainstorming with a team. 

In smaller organizations with limited development resources, the ED or CEO often steps in to help lead the fundraising effort, often aided by a staff member and/or a board volunteer. 

You would not believe the successes we have seen with this type of smaller team. Two of our million-dollar gifts came in in the Major Gifts Intensive when the ED called on one of their top donors. The Executive Director knew the questions to ask – and, because of our coaching, they knew how to create the setting for the donor to offer a 7-figure gift. No kidding. 

If you are in a small organization, know that you will never be super successful in major gifts fundraising with only one dedicated person. You should never be alone in this effort. 

In the Major Gifts Intensive, we ask for a full team of at least four people to register together. It’s best when a group of people from one organization takes the program together. That way, everyone learns the same systems, skills, vocabulary, and approaches – and can reinforce each other. 

3. Successful major gift fundraising takes a solid system.

Raising money from major donors is not rocket science, but it takes a very carefully organized structure. As we’ve said many times, you will never be successful without a structure – you’ll be just shooting from the hip. 

Systems are everything when it comes to identifying and managing prospects. You need a great rating system to measure your prospects’ potential. In addition, you can use Wealth Screening or even AI to determine who your most likely prospects are. 

We’ve written about prospect management systems that are the basis for managing your pipeline, workflow, priorities, and who you plan to see when. 

And remember, it’s your prospect management system that lets you and your team know what the potential cash flow looks like – and everyone is interested in that! 

The Major Gifts Intensive will help you implement all these success principles.

We can help you with skills training, help you set up the systems that will work for you and your organization, and introduce major gifts success principles to your entire board and management team. 

Our goal is to help you lay down the infrastructure, systems, and thinking inside your organization that will take hold permanently. We want your organization to enjoy major gift success not just this year but for many years to come. 

Every organization can raise much more IF you seriously tackle major gift fundraising. We are here to help and support you. Check out the Major Gifts Intensive here, and send us a Letter of Interest if you’d like. 

Registration closes on Feb.15th. Make sure you register soon, as space is limited and we are filling up fast.

We’ll hop on the phone with you and decide if this program is right for you and your team. It may not be for you. But then, it may be just the thing that will help you and your team catapult your organization to financial security! 

Let’s make the upcoming year awesome and close many major gifts for you and your cause! 

As capital campaign consultants, we’re often chatting with potential major donors about their philanthropic interests. 

Why are these major donors so important?

One of our key questions in our feasibility studies is asking donors who they are feeling about giving in today’s economy.

It’s important to remember that these are individuals who have significant assets, particularly in real estate and investments. They are six, seven, and eight-figure donors, who typically are not feeling the impact of inflation, and are not particularly worried about their future income. 

More importantly, these are the donors who tend to make or break capital campaigns. They’re often the top lead donors to capital campaigns – and they are the people we want to be involved in our campaign projects.

Are these mega donors still committed to their favorite causes?

What we’re finding out is that, regardless of the murky economic outlook, these donors remain deeply committed to their favorite causes. Nothing seems to have changed in terms of their commitment. 

This means that, as long as they are engaged, passionate, and committed to your organization’s work, you have a strong opening for a major or even a mega gift.  

Your team’s personal mission for the upcoming year.

So, the real question for you is – how can you be sure that your organization’s mission is still one of their favorite causes? 

How can you keep pulling these key individuals in, engaging them in your work, and helping them see the beautiful impact their gifts are making in the world?

 That needs to be the personal mission of your team today – to make your project a priority for these donors personally.

Top Takeaways From Real-Time Conversations with Mega Donors

Here are what donors are telling us in our feasibility study interviews right now. These are recent, real-time, gentle gift conversations with donors about making major gifts. 

  “We give through our Donor Advised Fund (DAF) and this project is a priority to us.”

Many donors already have money for philanthropy set aside in their personal DAF or private foundation. That means, the DAF funds are available for gifts, no matter what is going on in the economy.

Your takeaway: When a gift comes in from a DAF, your team should be on red alert, because it indicated you have a major donor prospect.

 “I am concerned about economic and political uncertainty. But we plan to support this project.”

Even though the economy is uncertain, most major donors whom we interview tell us that they’re so committed to the organization and the project that they will support it anyway. 

Notwithstanding the uncertainty, they are steadfast in their support. Those are the kinds of donors who stick with you when the going gets tough. 

Your takeaway: Keep these special supporters close!

“We must do this project – the new building is needed.”

Again, these donors know how much their community needs the new building. The donors understand the need, and why it “must happen.” They are super committed regardless. 

“Any economic downturn makes the work of our organization more vital.  

These donors feel that the current economic uncertainty is a trigger for even more giving. This means that, in a down economy, they are MORE loyal, not less. 

Your takeaway: These donors just might be your capital campaign champions. They can spread the word among their peer philanthropists that your organization’s mission is more important than ever.

 “I think the proposed goal is attainable, but we need to work smart.”

These donors are still bullish on multi-million dollar campaign goals. We want the donors to feel confident about the campaign’s ability to be successful.

Your takeaway: You want campaign leaders who have confidence in your ability to raise money. This confidence will spread to other top donors, your board and other important campaign volunteers.

Bottom line: Mega donors are still giving. Their philanthropy does not seem to be impacted by the economy.

Don’t hold back!

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly insights with you as we cover important fundraising strategies.  If your organization is planning a capital campaign or expanding your major gifts program – we can help. Send an email to if you’d like to schedule a free strategy call with us.

It was just over two years ago that our fundraising world seemed to come to a roaring halt with the onset of the pandemic.  No one was prepared.  The questions and SOS calls poured in.

How do you raise major gifts without donor visits?Should we pause our campaign?What about our events?  How do we make up those losses?

Fast forward to today. 

We learned a lot in those early pandemic days.  One important key learning is that the nonprofit community is resilient.  

We mastered zoom, picked up the phone, and became more authentic and transparent in our communication with donors.  

So, what did we learn from the past two-plus years that is useful to the post-Covid fundraising era?

We’re hosting a free webinar next week that you won’t want to miss. “How to Jumpstart Your Capital Campaign and Achieve Early Success Today.”We will share how the capital campaigns we’re guiding now – in the post-COVID fundraising era, are triggering mega donors to unlock early gifts. Find out more here.

Post-Covid Fundraising Gives Us More Options

The new hybrid approach – in-person and virtual – is here to stay.  Donors are equally comfortable with the virtual environment.  

This gives us options for meeting with donors that create efficiencies and positive outcomes.  

Gone are the days when your donor or board member who spends summers at the coast is unavailable for months.  Zoom provides you and them with the option to stay in touch and keep moving the relationship forward.  

The bottom line is we have more options for meeting with our donors.  And donors like having these options that allow them to meet with their favorite nonprofit from the comfort of their favorite armchair. 

Post-Covid Fundraising – Donors’ Philanthropic Priorities Have Shifted

Donors responded to needs made more urgent by the pandemic such as food insecurity, affordable housing, and social justice issues.  Many nonprofits experienced record fundraising results during the second half of 2020 and 2021.  

Donors who were at home seeing long food lines and other critical needs reported on news outlets responded with contributions.  Their motivation – to help others in need.

The challenge for these organizations was – could they hang on to these donors?  How much to invest in retention?  Would these donors shift back to their previous philanthropic priorities or not?

Fast forward to today and we are seeing donor retention numbers down.  People are going back to a more pre-pandemic life.  Donors are focusing on organizations they have traditionally supported.  

One takeaway from this experience is that each organization must understand what motivates their specific donors to give.

Donors who understand the need and how your organization is impacting that need will give to your organization.  That was clearly demonstrated during the pandemic when donors were seeing needs demonstrated on nightly news programs.  

This means you should invest in good donor communications and donor loyalty strategies.  Are you telling the story of your organizations impact in clear and understandable ways?  Are you helping your donors feel connected to the work? 

Major Donor Fundraising Has Changed

Entertaining donors has never been particularly effective in moving donors to make a gift commitment.  During the pandemic, clearly, there was no entertaining at all! 

Many of our regular fundraising tools such as coffees, lunches, and other entertainments, were simply not possible.

Frankly, we thought this downturn in socializing with donors was an opportunity – a silver lining of sorts. 

Direct Conversations with Donors.

As we shifted to the new pandemic environment, we begin teaching our clients a new approach – how to have a Direct Conversation with a donor.   

To move the donor relationship forward to a gift commitment requires:

  • understanding what motivates the donor
  • what they value
  •  what is important to them is how they seek to help others through their philanthropy

Direct Conversations focused directly on the donor and learning more about them.  The beauty of Direct Conversation is that you can have it in person, on the phone, or on Zoom.  

You can have a Direct Conversation anytime and anywhere.

No longer tied to face-to-face coffees and lunches, we have the freedom to get to the point quickly and support the donor’s desire to help.  The donor is happier, and we are more successful with our major gift fundraising.

Feasibly Studies for Capital Campaigns Have Changed

We experienced very successful campaign planning and campaign execution during the pandemic.  As we move into a post-pandemic era, the changes described above are impacting feasibility studies and campaigns as well.

The virtual options are here to stay in post-COVID fundraising.

We see the majority of feasibility study interview participants opting for a Zoom meeting over in-person.  The ease of scheduling and accessibility makes it easier for your donor to say yes to an interview.  

And the donors are perfectly willing to have a frank discussion with us over zoom. Nothing has changed in the nature of the feasibility study interview.

We will likely be unpacking our learnings from the pandemic for some time.  And we will likely see further changes as we learn more.  

Bottom Line on Post-COVID Fundraising – change can be a good thing.  

Adapting to new ways of doing things can result in better fundraising results, improved donor relationships, and successful campaigns.

Don’t forget our open free webinar next week – “How to Jumpstart Your Capital Campaign and Achieve Early Success Today.”

We will share how the capital campaigns we’re guiding now are triggering mega-donors to unlock early gifts – especially in the post-COVID era.

We look forward to seeing you!

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly insights with you as we cover important fundraising strategies.  If your organization is planning a capital campaign or expanding your major gifts program – we can help. Send an email to if you’d like to schedule a free strategy call with us.

What Will Trigger Mega Donors to Unlock Early Capital Campaign Gifts?

What Will Trigger Mega Donors to Unlock Early Capital Campaign Gifts?

This is the question that many nonprofit leaders ask – over and over. For every capital campaign that we advise – this is often a huge question hanging in the air.  

If you want to take a deep dive into this question, sign up to watch the replay of our open webinar, How to Jumpstart Your Capital Campaign and Achieve Early Success Today.

Do you know where the lead gifts for your next capital campaign will be coming from? That’s the first question that I often ask: How close are you to the 7 and 8-figure donors on your prospect list?

Why do we focus on these mega gifts and high-net-worth donors?

Because it’s the largest, early capital campaign gifts that are often the most important. These are the gifts that set the pace for other gifts that follow. They set a giving standard that can inspire other donors to step forward.

Even more, a very large gift from a well-known supporter helps to build confidence in an institution’s campaign. Another reason these lead gifts are important is that the gift can trigger interest from similar philanthropists, and even open doors to new donor relationships. 

So, focusing on these early, lead gifts is one of the most important, most strategic activities of early campaign planning. 

What does it really take to trigger early capital campaign gifts from high-net-worth donors?

There are several factors that come together to trigger an early, substantial capital campaign commitment. Among these, one of the most important causes is the magic ingredient of Influence.

What do we mean by Influence?

We want to know who can influence the donor. Who on our team or in our inside circle knows them?

Most importantly, who do we know or have access to, who CAN influence the donor?

What (or who) will incline and influence the donor to think kindly about our project – among all the other causes they like to support? What will help us rise to the top of the donor’s radar screen, so to speak?

We are trying to weave a web of influence to get the right people in the room at the right time. For example, if we can secure the support of one key influencer in a community, then that person can encourage several other people to support us. 

Why is Influence so important?

It often boils down to a matter of trust. For example, does the donor trust the people running the organization?

Many gurus in the past (check out “Asking” by Jerry Panas) have found that mega-donors will not give unless they know, trust and even like the organization’s leaders. 

That means that board members matter.

If you are planning a capital campaign, you want to build your board with people who have excellent networks in the philanthropic community.

In addition, you want them to be trusted by major donors in your community.

Best of all, if you have board members who are major donors themselves, they can help open doors to other philanthropists. 

Laying out an Influence Strategy to unlock early capital campaign gifts.

It’s like assembling the pieces of the puzzle. Who needs to be involved, and when, in order to influence a very special lead donor?

Here’s a case in point: For some of our capital campaigns around the country, we’ve been able to secure the help (and endorsement) of a former state governor. 

The plan to get in front of the governor was laborious and exacting. We had to have the right person call the former governor and ask them to make a key phone call. The retired governor understood how important influence can be to secure an important supporter.

An Influence Strategy is a step-by-step process.

Our clients often have many calls with other people before they ever approach a lead donor.

These were advice visits and calls, brainstorming the appropriate process – who, what, when and where? In what order? Who calls whom first?

Working through Board members.

Often, we will have advice visits with key board members, bringing them a specially curated short prospect list for review and discussion.

What I mean by a curated list, is that we select about 5-10 specific prospects whom we think the board member can help with.

So the short prospect list is customized specifically for each board member, usually with the names of donors who may be in the board member’s sphere of influence.

Bottom line: Unlock Early Capital Campaign Gifts

It takes a lot of strategy to close early capital campaign gifts. An Influence Strategy can help secure the support of your mega leadership donors.

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly insights with you as we cover important fundraising strategies.  If your organization is planning a capital campaign or expanding your major gifts program – we can help. Send an email to if you’d like to schedule a free strategy call with us.

Are you familiar with that feeling of endless cultivation with a donor? Let me tell you a story:

Over the past nine months, fundraiser Kim Washington has been diligently cultivating her #1 donor, Olive Robinson. 

Kim has zoom coffees with Olive. They have lunch. Even more, Kim makes sure Olive has regular email and phone contact and keeps her informed all the time. 

In the back of Kim’s mind, she keeps wondering. “Is Olive ready for a gift conversation? Have we warmed her up enough for an ask? It feels like I’m stuck in endless cultivation.” 

Bad News – The Donor Slips Away

One morning over coffee, Kim scrolls through her phone reading the local news. . . and mulling about her next contact with Olive. 

“Oh no!” Kim is aghast.

There, in the news, is a gift announcement from another nonprofit where Olive has just made a $2 million gift, in memory of her husband.

Alas. There goes Kim’s hoped-for major gift. Her donor slipped away. How could it be that Olive, who was so interested in Kim’s organization, would surprise everyone with a gift to that other organization?

Why Does Your #1 Prospect Suddenly Disappoint You? 

Here is why this happens fairly often in the world of philanthropy. It’s because the fundraiser gets stuck in “cultivation” and does not bring up the topic of a gift.  

In reality, most donors do not fit into a clear stage in the donor journey.  You can’t pigeonhole them.

We fundraisers limit ourselves by how we define these stages. 

Some donors may be willing and eager to make a major gift now, but fundraisers miss the signals, because they are defining the donor in a box.

Here’s how to move the donor from an endless round of feel-good conversations over into a discussion about their potential support. 

Escape Endless Cultivation – Move from Discovery to a Gift Conversation in 15 Minutes 

At Gail Perry Group, we are coaching our clients in a new approach with donors – one that helps to identify those who want to help with a gift right now. 

And let me just say that our clients are seeing remarkable results with this approach. Donors are coming forward early in the donor journey and wanting to make a gift right now. 

We have found that we can literally move a donor from a series of discovery questions – right into a gift conversation.

Here’s an example of a typical conversation flow:

Question One: “I’d love to know more about how you came to be a donor.

When you are able to get your donor to share their Donor Story, you can really open the floodgates. You’ll find your donor probably has a deeply personal reason for supporting your work – something that resonates with their personal values of what is important in life. 

This is a powerful question to ask. Your job as a fundraiser is to sit tight, and perhaps say, “Tell me more.” 

Question Two: “I know you’ve been supporting our work for a long time. May I ask, what kind of impact do you feel that you are making through your giving?” 

By asking the donor to describe their feelings, you are helping the donor literally talk themselves into the idea of giving more.

Even more, your donor will tell you what you need to know at this stage. 

Question Three: “I can see that you are deeply committed to this work. May I ask, have you ever thought about doing something even bigger?”

With this question, you politely move directly into a Gift Conversation.

Now, you are using permission to place the issue squarely on the table with the donor. And remember – they are engaged, active, excited, and sharing more and more! 

Your donor just may say, “Wow, I never thought about that. And yes, I might actually like to make a bigger impact. Let’s talk about it!” 

Bottom Line: Don’t Get Stuck in Endless Cultivation

Here is the hard truth – don’t let yourself get stuck in endless chit-chat with your donor.

Instead, ask them why they give. Ask them how much they care. Ask if they’d like to get more engaged and make an even bigger impact.

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly insights with you as we cover important fundraising strategies. 

If your organization is planning a capital campaign or launching a major gifts program – we can help. Send an email to if you’d like to schedule a free strategy call with us.

Has your team thought about getting set up for accepting cryptocurrency gifts? Have you wondered if it is really worth the bother? 

We weren’t sure, either. All this cryptocurrency talk was too speculative for us.

That is, until we chatted with Ariel Rogers, the Executive Director of Friends of Bonobos, and a former member of our Major Gift Intensive cohort. (In case you have not heard of bonobos, they are a type of ape, and are our closest genetic relatives.)  

What we found out. 

Ariel and her team raise money and awareness to help save endangered bonobos in Africa. After one of her donors suggested they take cryptocurrency gifts and offered to help and donate, she decided to do some research. 

Ariel found The Giving Block (we wrote about them three weeks ago), an organization that helps nonprofits accept cryptocurrency donations. After asking her donor for advice, and including them in the decision, Ariel’s team made the leap. They registered with The Giving Block, got set up to accept cryptocurrency gifts and immediately that same donor donated $10,000. 

$90,000 in less than two weeks.

Not only did her donor promptly come through with a $10k gift, but an NFT community also gave them $77k shortly after they registered with The Giving Block. Plus, even more money flowed in. 

A major gift from an NFT Community.

Apparently, there is a crypto group that focuses on apes. These enthusiasts hang out together on social media, mostly twitter and instagram, sharing their interest in all types of apes. As part of their activities, they decided to make some gifts to charities – and Friends of Bonobos made their list.

Using social media to connect to donors.

Ariel and her team constantly focus on building awareness on social networks. For this reason, they make twitter, instagram and facebook a priority, and have built a social reach from 10k to over 120k followers in only two years. 

So this is how this major donor crypto group found out about Friends of Bonobos. 

Ariel’s team is out there every day on social – sharing stories of their mission, their impact and the cute, but endangered Bonobos. They are chatting with other enthusiasts and building relationships with potential donors.

Why social reach is so important.

Get this from a fundraising standpoint: At Friends of Bonobos, their team sees social initiatives as a way to identify new friends for their cause. In other words, social serves as the first step in the fundraising funnel. 

For this reason, the building of awareness is a serious business. Social media covers the functions of what traditional marketing used to do, and it works.

From social followers to becoming donors.

It’s clear that you can transition your social followers into donors. In the case of Friends of Bonobos – all social followers are invited to share their email and sign up for the newsletter. 

Once followers start receiving the newsletter, they may become more and more interested and invested in the cause. And as you might expect, interest and investment often lead to donations. 

And chances are, some of these highly active followers might be crypto investors. 

Connecting with crypto donors via social media.

When we interviewed Pat Duffy, co-founder of The Giving Block, last June, he described a general profile of people who are most vigorously investing (and donating) in cryptocurrency: 

These investors are usually under 40 years old, 84% are male, they are highly financially literate and they are very active on social networks. 

So, it makes perfect sense that you need a strong social media presence if you want to position yourself in front of wealthy young crypto donors. They are clearly out there, and the cryptocurrency market is only growing. 

Bottom Line: Research cryptocurrency gifts – one nonprofit says it is definitely worth it.

As Ariel said – she did her research, she had a little help, and she took the leap for her organization. And it paid off – $90k and counting. 

Want to start accepting crypto donations? Gail Perry Group highly recommends The Giving Block. Find out more here.

We are always looking for ways to help nonprofits succeed in their fundraising efforts. Make sure you do your due diligence before saying “no” to accepting crypto donations. It might just be worth it.

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you as we cover new fundraising trends. 

If your organization is planning a capital campaign or launching a major gifts program – we can help. Send an email to if you’d like to schedule a free strategy call with us.