10 essentials for any major gifts program

Requesting gifts throughout the year can be a challenge for any nonprofit fundraiser. When it is time to ask for major gifts, those challenges can be magnified.

In “The Ask,” Laura Fredricks outlines ten essentials for any major gifts program to ensure smooth sailing.

Develop a strategic plan. Plans should span three to five years. For example, an organization’s plan might set out to increase its endowment by a certain percentage each year in order to reach $100 million after five years.

Have a base pool of prospects. In the cases of small or new organizations without major gifts prospects, time should be spent with leaders and volunteers to identify potential donors.

Appoint a single leader to coordinate prospects. Prospect management meetings can be a means of coordinating major gift activity by establishing the gift level suggested for each prospect, the target area for support, and who has primary and secondary responsibility for each prospect.

Utilize reliable computer software to store and track all prospect activity, proposals, pledges, and gifts. Such systems are only as good as those imputing into them, so make sure all askers supply such information on a timely basis.

Realize that it takes money to make money. Major gift fundraising requires a budget to cover travel, long-distance telephone costs, entertainment expenses, and gift stewardship. While some organizations may wait to see whether a program will generate major gifts before budgeting for it, one cannot cultivate gifts properly in the first place without the necessary resources.

Establish a strong finance system. Every organization should have an individual or department in charge of handing organizational finances, including the accepting and investing of major gifts. These efforts should be coordinated so that donors can be given notices of how gifts are invested and distributed.

Have planned giving expertise on hand. Ideally, all major gift fundraisers should have at least working knowledge of how bequests, charitable annuities, trusts, and gifts of life insurance work. Fundraisers should also be aware of how these gifts benefit the organization, are favorable taxwise for the donor, and the level at which they can be funded.

Prepare marketing materials such as brochures, newsletters, magazines, DVDs and flyers that advertise major gift opportunities. A picture is worth a thousand words and a donor testimonial on the benefits of making gifts to your organization is worth a million words.

Developing a gift acceptance policy is a must regardless of the size of the organization. For instance, an organization may offer charitable gift annuities starting at $25,000, but a donor may seek to set up an annuity with $10,000. Without a written policy, it could appear as though an organization is arbitrarily selecting which donors can make which gifts at which level.

* When it comes to asking for a major gift, promote a sense of inclusion, the prospective donor is part of a successful and winning team. The asker cannot speak at the prospect, the asker must speak with the prospect.

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