A Major Gifts Mentality Part 1:
The Team

Ann Fitzgerald President AC Fitzgerald author

Ann C. Fitzgerald, President

Raising major gifts to build your nonprofit requires a team, a plan, and great execution. Above all, it requires a major gifts mentality that makes everyone focus on the interests and motivations of the donor, not solely on the needs of the organization.

In this three-part series, we will focus on each piece in turn.

The Team

Even if you have a small shop, avoid creating a “team of one” where a single fundraiser is responsible for all major gifts. Many people have a role in building a successful major gifts program:

  • The CEO is often the chief fundraiser. Our research shows that successful CEOs spend 50% or more of their time fundraising, even in large organizations. That doesn’t mean the CEO has to manage every relationship forever. S/he should focus on engaging the very top donors and prospects.
  • At many nonprofits, the board’s role in fundraising ranges from nonexistent to anemic. Board members may be wealthy or have access to wealth, but that often doesn’t translate into fundraising activity. Re-engage board members by treating them as individual donors, not a monolithic body. Discover what each person is comfortable doing—some members love to host events, and others will make phone calls or email introductions. Above all, don’t overwhelm board members with tasks. Focus on one request at a time.
  • Support staff are critical for executing on cultivation strategies. The more people you have meeting with donors, the more internal support you will need. Staff can schedule meetings, remind fundraisers about action items, conduct follow-up activity after meetings, maintain the database, and much more.
  • Program staff act as ambassadors by engaging with donors at meetings and events, understanding and articulating the nonprofit’s vision and mission, and identifying potential new donors.
  • Other donors and volunteers can be part of your “team” as well. Make it a habit to ask for referrals and introductions to their like-minded friends and associates.
  • Influentials in your nonprofit’s orbit are often powerful connectors. Think of the people who have name recognition or prestige. Ask them to make introductions, sign letters, or speak at small events.

A major gifts mentality means that everyone on the team – from the board and CEO on down – views fundraising as critical to organizational health. Moreover, they see donors as valuable partners, not financial transactions.

Ann C. Fitzgerald is Founder and President of AC Fitzgerald, using her decades of experience in fundraising, management, leadership, and sales to help nonprofits build their capacity and achieve success. She is a sought-after speaker, writer, and advisor.

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