Mary Hackett, a major gift fundraiser

Major Gift Fundraising: Secrets Every Major Gift Officer Should Know

major gifts Jun 04, 2024

 In the last 5 years, I've helped major gift officers secure (or closed myself) gifts from $10k to $10M from individuals.

I’m so passionate about helping nonprofits get major gifts so that they can make a HUGE impact in the world.

So here are some of the things I wish someone had told me…

--The most common question I get as a major gift coach is “When do I know it’s time to ask for a gift?” The answer is simple - when you've gotten permission to ask for a gift. There’s nothing wrong with saying to your prospect, “Next time we’re together, I’d like to talk to you about a gift, would that be okay?”

--The size of your major gift portfolio is important. Quality is more important than quantity so be okay with trimming those who do not have BOTH affinity and capacity.

--Understand your fundraising limitations and tackle them with everything you’ve got. Whether it is cold-calling, making the ask, or basic follow-through, get help to conquer these limitations.

--Your board members can be helpful in fundraising, but don’t rely on them. They might open doors, bring people to events, help get their company to sponsor an event, but they are not full-time fundraisers.

--Don’t over-solicit. Be proactive in your solicitation and make only one ask per year. That might mean thinking ahead and including gala tickets and a cash commitment and their company sponsoring the golf tournament. I promise that your prospect will be thrilled when you present their giving for the year, not going back every few months with your hands out. 

--Progress is better than perfection, so don't fiddle with a proposal or letter until it’s perfect. A sent proposal is better than one that is sitting in your computer. 

--The first meeting with a major gift prospect will set the tone for your relationship so make sure you ask the right questions and listen carefully.

--There are strategic times to utilize leadership and program experts in your major gift fundraising. Many fundraisers over-utilize their CEO or Director of Impact. Bring them in at the most impactful time.

--When doing major gift fundraising - be interested, not interesting. This means listening more than you talk. It makes a HUGE difference.

--Every interaction with a major gift prospect should move them toward the gift. You’re not their friend, so ensure that every meeting is strategic and furthers the relationship between them and your organization.

--Start your day with a stewardship call (or three!). Thank you calls are day-makers and will set the right tone for your day.

--The biggest complaint I hear from fundraisers is that they don’t have enough time to fundraise. Be a fierce projector of your fundraising time.

What are your thoughts? Would you add anything to this list?

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