Overcoming the Reluctance to Seek Major Grant Gifts

Adapted from: Suzanne Irwin-Wells, The Fundraising School at Indiana University Center on Philanthropy.
“Planning & Implementing Your Major Gifts Campaign”

ISSUE: We don’t have any prospects.

FACT: Most organizations that have individual donors have at least some who are able to make significantly larger gifts than they have been asked for.

COMMENT: “Mining” your existing donor database for who those people will give you the major gift prospects’ names.  Then use a resource like the Wealth Engine to gather additional information you need, conduct a peer review on each of those names.  Even if it’s only 10 names and they double the size of their gift due to your efforts, it can be significant.

ISSUE: We don’t have any volunteers who will ask for large gifts.

FACT: Many volunteers are willing to participate as long as they are properly trained and supported and, especially important, as long as they are enthusiastic about the purpose of the campaign and feel the dollar goal is realistic.

COMMENT: At the very least, get yourself trained so that you can train your volunteers or hire a trainer to train your volunteers. Recognize that some of them will play other roles than actually asking. Facilitate the process so that each volunteer is well supported.

ISSUE: Our staff is too busy.

FACT: It often takes less time to manage the solicitation of 100 major donor prospects @ $1,000 or more than it does to implement a large fund raising event or many other fund development activities.

COMMENT: t’s a matter of deciding how to get the most ROI (return on investment) for the resources you have. Major gift campaigns have a high ROI.

ISSUE: We are too small (or too grassroots)- only large organizations can raise big gifts.

FACT: Size is not the most important factor. Most organizations with strong missions, appealing cases, and well-though-out plans can raise major gifts.

COMMENT: A small organization’s major gift campaign might only involve 10 key donors who are already linked and are asked for larger gifts; then ask each of them to host a home social for other organization donors to introduce them to a higher level of giving.

ISSUE: We don’t have enough money in our budget to pay for a major gifts campaign.

FACT: Major Gift campaigns are more cost effective than any other fund raising effort.

COMMENT: Many major gift campaigns are conducted on very small to zero budgets!

ISSUE: We’re in a financial crunch and need income urgently.

FACT: Soliciting major gift prospects can be the best way to secure immediate funds and avoid future cash flow problems.

COMMENT: Mining your database and filling out the information you have on your top 25 donors may, in fact, provide enough prospects for you to meet your immediate “crunch” goals

ISSUE: We won’t succeed.

FACT: Realistic goal-setting will contribute to enthusiastic staff and volunteers and a successful campaign.

COMMENT: A positive attitude by staff will spread to volunteers and donors.

 For assistance in helping your organization overcome its reluctance to seeking major gifts, contact Eisenhart & Associates.

Capital Campaigns: The Bottom Line

87% of organizations that do without Feasibility Studies FAIL.

97% of organizations that conduct Feasibility Studies SUCCEED.

The reason for the dramatic difference between success and failure is that the information gathered during the study is assimilated into the organization leadership’s decision-making process as they move forward from that point on.  The benefits of conducting a feasibility study include:

  • The organization’s plans can be established within a context of rational financial goals.
  • The study tests the reality of the project’s contributed income requirements.
  • It uncovers valuable insights into community perceptions of the organization.
  • Interviewees help identify potential volunteer leaders with the peer relationships needed for the campaign to succeed.
  • Interviewees also help identify potential major gift donors and new prospects with whom the organization might not be familiar.
  • Potential leaders and major gift donors will become more familiar with the organization’s programs, aspirations and need for the capital project.
  • The study includes recommendations that enable the organization to strengthen, position and organize its internal and external resources to meet the challenge of a major fundraising campaign.
  • If the organization is not yet ready for a capital or endowment campaign, the report will contain specific recommendations concerning the steps needed to strengthen its position within the philanthropic community.

If you’ve been waiting for the economy to improve to start your campaign…….you may be waiting too long.  Nonprofits are raising capital funds NOW….perhaps you should be too!  Contact Eisenhart & Associates to discuss your capital fundraising plans.