Making and KEEPING Major Gift (and Personal) New Year’s Resolutions

Published by Karen Osborne on

aaaa1I do it every year. Think about what I want to do differently in the months ahead.  Lose weight. Exercise more. Learn a language.  Be a more effective manager. Listen. January finds me strong and determined. By February, however, life and work begins to overwhelm my good intentions.  Then March blows in and I sink back into my old and comfortable ways.

My experience is more common than not.  So, why bother making resolutions? They don’t work. Right?

Wait! Don’t we all want to be better, do better? Setting goals and working toward them is a good thing.  The trick is setting them and working toward them in ways that will stick.

According to expert Judith Beck, often we set goals that are too demanding, vague or unrealistic. We need to set goals that will have an empowering effect, that are concrete and achievable.

Here are some personal and major gift goals to inspire you and tangible strategies for achieving them.

  1. I will MOVE every day. This one works on both a personal and professional level.  Have you heard of the sitting disease?  For every hour we sit, we lose 21.8 minutes of life expectancy.  Yikes! Get up and get moving!
    • Beeld KarenI walk instead of sit whenever I’m on the phone. During long meetings, I stand in the back. Waiting on line is an opportunity for calf lifts (raising up on my toes). Ok, sometimes people stare at me but usually someone else starts moving as well.
    • Moving is also critical for MAJOR GIFT work. Relationship building at its best happens face-to-face. Who are your critical few?  When was the last time you visited them?  Who on the staff is essential to your fundraising success?  When was the last time you met with them? Email, text messages and phone calls are not as powerful as in-person strategic conversations.
    • I will visit with donors every week (every other week) (several times a week).


  1. I will carve out time for what is urgent and “important or important and not urgent” (Peter Drucker). Okay, this is a hard one.  We’re so busy.  Other people suck up our time. You find it hard to say, “No.”  Maybe you’ve taken lots of time management workshops and still, you can’t find the time to do what you know should.  Judith Beck suggests put your goals in the “no-choice” category.  Every time you climb into your car, you automatically buckle your seatbelt. You don’t think about it. You made the decision a long time ago. Non-negotiable.  Well, what in your life needs to land on that list?
    • Maybe it’s exercising every morning, or meditating, or not eating sweets except on the weekend. Mentally, place it on your no choice list.
    • From a major gift perspective, let me suggest, I will write and update donor strategies every Monday and Friday.
    • Major gift work is strategic. We are not “cultivating” without purpose, concrete, specific steps that advance the relationship of the donor with your organization. Your actions should increase donor motivation to give, overcome potential obstacles PRIOR to solicitation, and deepen engagement with the mission, vision and work of your NGO.  Your goal is to get to all of The Rights (right amount, right purpose, right solicitation team, right time) lined up. Winging it slows progress and usually results in smaller gifts.  Writing donor strategies deserves a spot on your “no choice” list.


  1. I will steward all of my important relationships. This is a powerful, empowering resolution! On a personal level, the pluses are many. Deeper understanding, less conflict, closer ties, just to name a few.
    • Saying thank you is the first step. Being openly grateful and appreciative. But then, take it to the next level.  “Karen, I wanted you to know how much I appreciated your help last week. As a result of your advice, I’ve….”  Be specific. What was the impact of his or her help? We all want to know we matter and that we’ve made a difference.
    • For major gifts, this is essential. Sharing IMPACT and outcomes of donors’ investments of time, talent and treasure inspires larger investments and lifetime loyalty.  Stewardship is at the heart of relationship building.
    • Judith Beck offers a tip for keeping this resolution. Imagine your major gift program three years from now. You’ve been making personal visits, getting others involved (mission staff, board members and your CEO), you’re writing and implementing your donor strategies (if you’d like a major gift strategy worksheet send me an email karen@theosbornegroup.com) and you’re stewarding your donors beyond thank you notes.  What results do you see?  How many more people are you serving? What is your success rate? Now, think about an alternative future. It’s three years from now and you’ve not added these important behaviors to your program. What results do you see? This exercise raises the stakes. Keeping your resolutions because more important and therefore motivational.

Move, strategize, steward. New Year’s Resolutions for a better life and major gift program.


Karen Osborne

Internationally recognized as an expert consultant and excellent presenter, Karen receives invitations from all over the United States and the world to make presentations and consult with NGOs, universities, justice, social service, and health organizations. The Council for Support and Advancement of Education (CASE) awarded Karen the Crystal Apple for outstanding teaching and Ashmore Award for Outstanding Service to the Profession. Published and often quoted in industry books, newspapers and magazines, Karen serves on the board of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation and teaches a graduate course on philanthropy for Johns Hopkins University.


Karl Howell · March 1, 2023 at 23:18

Your efforts should have the goal of increasing donor motivation to donate, overcoming any impediments PRIOR to solicitation funny shooter 2, and deepening engagement with the purpose, vision, and work of your non-governmental organization (NGO).

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