Think Bigger

Maybe you have never thought about asking for major gifts or perhaps your ministry isn’t really structured to invite major gifts. However, I am going to suggest the main reason you might not be structured for major gifts is because you have siloed yourself from receiving them. Simply put, you do not raise money the same way you spend money. Individuals want to give to outcomes, impact and vision. But when you raise money the same way you spend money, you are only raising off of inputs (and almost nobody wants to provide for inputs, unless the result of the input is clear and tangible).

The only way to effectively raise money on inputs would be to make very clear what the result of the input will do. For example, we once helped a client raise money for three vans – specifically to go into villages and provide counseling for 3,500 former child soldiers. They simply could not reach these children unless they had the three vans. We can probably all agree that purchasing those vans was a fairly significant need and something most every donor would want to give to. But there are other inputs like salaries and office space that nobody really cares about giving to. So, in general, we do not raise money the same way we spend money.

When I referred to not being structured in a way that allows you to invite major gifts, I am suggesting you may not be structured around impact, but rather, you are structured around expenses. To change your structure, you will need to think differently about what the money being given will do, and create systems supporting your vision. We call this system a "vision-based budget" versus an “accounting-based budget”.

Structure for a Major Gift

You may not be structured to receive a major gift because you have not yet created the right size package for your donor to give to. Let's say your budget is $250,000 per year. Your largest gift will generally be about 10% of your yearly budget, if you are doing things right. So that means, your largest gift will be $25,000. But what if you had a donor who could give $50,000? If you have not created a scenario in which that donor can give $50,000, they never will! You need to think bigger! Allow them to give $50,000 by providing an avenue for them to do so by asking them for $25,000 twice in a year (with a $300,000-$400,000 budget).

Another issue may be that you may not have grouped your giving packages well. You want to group the giving options in a way that says, "This part of your impact costs $250K, this part will cost $50K, this part $30K, and this part will cost $10K." So often, there are people who are already giving to your ministry who have a much higher capacity and might be willing to give more if you simply asked and gave them a way to do so. Just make sure those packages include the total-cost-of-impact (both direct and indirect costs).

If you are raising more than $30-$40k per year, we recommend you have some level of major giving. In general, this is someone who has the capacity to give a single gift of $1,000 or more (for larger organizations that might be considered a mid-level gift, but for many organizations that is considered a major gift). Asking for major gifts needs to be closely linked with impact. Rather than just thinking about your fundraising goal in terms of a monthly amount, start to think about your goal for the year and the impact that is going to come from this year's giving. Then, ask for major gifts around those areas of impact.

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How Do I Identify Major Donors?

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