By Mary Moss, Founding Partner.
In my experience, there is not much luck in major gifts work. I believe that you make your own luck. I have been in this business for four decades, as staff and consultant, and I have witnessed comments such as: “Wow, they just got lucky with that big gift. I work with that same donor and didn’t get that kind of gift,” or “That gift just came out of the clear blue” or “That donor had no history with that organization. Wonder why they left their estate there?”
In most instances of “gettin’ lucky,” there is a solid connection with the donor and strategy behind the gift. I have had a handful of happy occasions where “true luck” happened, and have always wished for more (don’t we all?).
Nothing replaces a compelling vision, a strong plan, and meticulous execution in securing major gifts.
(1) Dream big: A powerful and life-changing vision. Think about your “why.” What difference will a donor’s gift make? How will this project impact your nonprofit’s mission in profound ways? Big vision attracts big donors, because they believe in your vision and your ability to live into it. Put in the work to develop a clear strategic plan, followed by a compelling vision for the impact of your project. Look for ways to match donor interests with your vision.
(2) Plan well: Solid strategy. Once you have your vision, you will need a major gifts plan – in writing. You then need to articulate the vision in the form of a case statement and share it with the right audiences. Identify volunteer leadership, beyond your board, to support you. Then map out who will be the best person to connect with the right prospect; create talking points that will interest that particular funder; and then show the prospective donor what their gift will do. Follow your plan for as long as it takes to achieve your vision.
(3) Execute with perfection: Laser focus and attention to detail. Don’t forget the details. Your donors and potential donors want to feel connected to the mission and its leadership. They want their gifts to make a difference. The staff and leadership volunteers are responsible for ensuring there is ongoing communication with donors about the impact. And, if you are expecting to ask a donor to make a six- or seven-figure gift, you have to nurture that relationship, reach out frequently and personally, and communicate the impact of their gift or potential gift. Donors are part of your nonprofit family, and you will be building that solid relationship through these connections now and for decades to come.
If you follow these three strategies, and add a heavy dose of patience and hard work to the equation, you will make your own luck. The major gifts you receive will come naturally and authentically from the relationships you build. Someone else might think you got lucky, but you will know differently. If you need help creating a major gifts program, please connect with us. We love to make luck happen to strengthen nonprofits in our community.