Back to where it started: getting your leaders involved

While in the good old days the MT and board members brought in the big money, knew all of their major donors and took care of their needs, nowadays major donors are mostly the responsibility of a fundraiser. And often this job is just one of the things he or she is taking care of. Fundraisers are struggling between the ‘bulk’, and the personal attention one special donor needs and definitely deserves.

But this is slowly changing: more and more NGO’s start to expand their fundraising team with dedicated fundraisers, solely focusing on the needs of major donors and legacy plegders, increasing the group of (potential) major donors. Some of the biggest NGO’s in Holland even have a whole team responsible for gifts from major donors, sometimes with the help of a prospect researcher. Major donor working-groups are being born, master classes are being followed, books are being read, agencies specialized in major gift fundraising are founded. Fundraisers transform into ‘Relationship manager’, or ‘Special gift advisor’, strategic plans on increasing major gift income are written. But, when all this hard work is done, at the end it comes back to the one thing it all started with: getting your leaders involved in your major donor fundraising. Why? Because, no matter how dedicated and trustworthy the fundraiser may be, at the end (or should I say, at the beginning of your major gift cycle) your best prospects want to talk to your board members, your directors, your ambassadors.

How can you make this happen? In my case, the best way to make leaders get involved was to get practical with them. Of course, I have read books like A sense of urgency (John Kotter), Raising big gifts in 60 minutes (Hans van der Westen) and many more. But doing it is easier than knowing it, I’m telling you. So, step away from your books and computer, and make your leaders part of the major gift-successes you have booked when you run into them at the coffee machine. Split activities and make a board member responsible for legacy pledgers and your director for major donors. And be transparent: tell your leaders at the beginning of the year how much time they will spend on major donors and on which activities (events, face to face meetings, thank you calls). Find out what they like (talking in public?) and don’t like (thanking donors by phone?), and train them where and when needed. Need more prospects? Your leaders are probably not aware of the important prospects in their own network. So instead of asking them for a list of names, you can present a list of prospects to them and ask them how many people they know. From my experience, you’ll be surprised how many links there are between the top of philanthropists and your board and MT members. And make them solicit for a gift in a case you are a 100 % sure they’ll get a YES. In no time they will understand what we already know: major gift and legacy fundraising is a lot of fun.

I can go on and on but I think you got the picture. There are a hundred ways to get your major gift fundraising back to where it started. You just have to take the first step, tomorrow morning at the coffee machine!

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Elsbeth Takkenberg (10 blogs on 101fundraising)

Elsbeth works as senior fundraiser at VUmc Cancer Center Amsterdam. She has previously worked for Medecins Sans Frontieres, Plan Nederland and the University of Amsterdam. She is specialized in major gifts and legacies and is passionate about building strong and long lasting relationships between NGO's and donors.


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