Has your charity fallen into the trap of accidental major gift fundraising?

“We have done some major gift fundraising, but more by accident than design”.

This is a message I’ve heard from a range of charities of varying size.  They have received some larger gifts, but there has been little plan for developing relationships with these supporters, and for considering their major gifts fundraising overall.

All charities can benefit from major giving, as can the supporters themselves but only if the charity takes a deliberate, concerted approach (rather than an accidental, ad hoc one.)  Without a planned approach – which will look different for each charity – there are a range of problems and risks:

  1. Your charity misses out on income

This income could help your charity get closer to achieving its vision.  It is proven that the value of philanthropists’ giving is not fixed so if you manage your potential major donors and current major donors effectively you will raise more money, including from repeat gifts.  Committed supporters at this level can also help the charity in many other ways, not just with funds.

2. You may be damaging supporter relationships

Imagine you have donated a five figure sum of money to a charity, and you get the same formal standard thank you letter that you received when you sent in a £10 gift to a mailing appeal.  This was my experience following the loss of my father, when I decided to give some of my small inheritance to the incredible charity who cared for him, me and my sister, at the most difficult time of our lives.  I didn’t even work in fundraising back then but I remember it.  I remember it being such a personal and significant decision for me, and receiving such an impersonal response back.  Imagine if I had received a handwritten thank you card from a staff member who worked with the patients and their families? Or from the CEO? Whilst I have no means to give a bigger gift again now, they would certainly have been top of my list if my circumstances changed in the future.   Instances like this are often by accident, due to a lack of planning and process for major gifts.

3. A scattergun approach ‘chasing the money’

Some charities are chasing ‘big money’ – they will try and approach those who are wealthy, who they believe to be wealthy, or who they have seen on a Rich List. However, they haven’t considered if that person could be interested in giving to their charity, if they give to good causes, or if they know anyone involved with the charity. Don’t lose sight of the supporter themselves.  What is the supporter interested in? And remember to focus on your existing supporters and networks, rather than chasing cold cash.

4. “Not just a case for support, but a compelling case for support”

A fundraiser recently said the above to me and it rings true particularly for major giving. Many charities operate a number of programmes and different areas of work, some that could be particularly well suited to someone donating a larger gift.  But is the project presented in a way to be compelling enough for an individual to commit to a larger gift?  Is it the right project for the right individual, connecting with their passions and interests?

5. Lack of internal understanding and support for major giving

A charity needs to understand major giving, from the top of the organisation to the bottom.  A potential supporter may have an interest in the front-line work, and you can fuel their passion by them meeting a staff member who works with your beneficiaries.  All staff and volunteers need to introduce contacts who may be interested in the charity’s work and able to give at a higher level.  This doesn’t happen by accident but by promoting a culture of major giving.

So consider if your charity has fallen into the trap of accidental major gift fundraising and if you need any help to plan or improve your high value giving programme, do get in touch.
Louise Morris
Major Gifts and Capital Appeal Fundraising Specialist

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