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Follow-up to Major Gifts for Small Shops Webinar

During yesterday's fundraising webinar, I received several questions I wasn't able to answer live. See below for my follow-up:

Amy Eisenstein Amy Eisenstein

Question: Should each board member be a "major giver"? Some of ours give $1,000; some give $50. Do they need to be making major gifts or just any gift of any amount? By "participating," do you mean an actual check or is in-kind giving appropriate?

Answer: Each board member should give a meaningful gift for his or her own family or personal budget. This means that some board members will give $200 and others will give $2,000 or more. Your organization should be among the top three charities that they give to each year. If he gives $1,000 to the local hospital, and to his church, he should give your organization $1,000 as well, not $200. However, it is not important that all of your board members are able to make “major gifts” to serve on your board.

In-kind-giving does not count as giving. A “gift” of professional services or computers, cannot pay the rent, the light bill or staff salaries.

Question: What if you have a Board that is not a Board of high rollers, and may not be able to afford to give a lot personally, but actively raises consistently? Why is that not 100%?

Answer: I did not mean to imply (or say) that board members need to be “major donors.” They need to contribute a meaningful gift for their own family or personal budget. That could be $100 or it could be $1,000.

The reason they need to “give AND get” and not just help with fundraising (get) is because many other potential donors or “investors” in your cause want to know that the board is investing first. If your own board members won’t give, then why should anyone else?

Question: What is the best way to transition my board from event fundraising only to major gift (individual) fundraising? I am the only staff member (executive director), with no development staff.

Answer: Culture change is often challenging, but can be accomplished. First, make sure that key players on the board (the board president and the chair of the development committee, for example) want to see the change you are looking for. Next, change your board job description or expectations, as well as your recruitment procedures to reflect this responsibility of board members. That way, new board members will join with the expectation that they need to help with fundraising, beyond events. Finally, provide training at an annual board retreat and at regular board meetings.

Question: What if you get advice and you realize the organization cannot do it? How do you keep them engaged in what you are doing?

Answer: I believe you are referring to when I recommended asking for a prospective donor’s advice as part of cultivation. I would go back to the individual to let her know that you took her advice seriously, and explain why it is not feasible at this time. It might be due to financial restrictions, or that it doesn’t match the mission of the organization at this time. Whatever your reason, make sure the individual feels like you heard her and took her suggestions seriously. It is possible she will be upset that you did not take her advice, but if that’s the case, she probably wouldn’t be a major donor anyway.

Question: As a small shop (I'm the only person in the development department), how many major gifts should we be soliciting during a 12 month period? Those 20 that we identified?

Answer: If a small shop starts the year off with a list of twenty prospective donors, I believe a staff member can probably solicit ten to fifteen major gifts prospects per year, in addition to his or her other responsibilities. Remember that not of the individuals on your list will be interested, and so they will drop off the list. Starting with twenty gives you space to drop to ten or fifteen. If you started with a list of ten, your list would shrink to almost nothing.

Above is a follow-up by Amy Eisenstein, CFRE, author, speaker, trainer, and owner of Tri Point Fundraising, a full-service consulting firm, to questions submitted by participant during the April 30, 2013, webinar about fundraising. GuideStar will have Amy's presentation recording of the webinar, available very soon on their webinar archives page here. Amy is a nonprofit consultant whose fundraising expertise has helped hundreds of local and national organizations. She’s raised millions of dollars through capital campaigns and major gift solicitations. Her “no-nonsense” approach to fundraising yields big results for her clients and followers.

Topics: Fundraising