The Major Gifts Fundraising Myth

When I first starting fundraising I thought I would spend almost all my time talking to donors and out of the office asking them for money. Regardless of your size or position you should have opportunities to talk with donors, hear about their lives & interests, and thank them for their gifts. But you will probably not get to be the one that asks for the big gifts.

I was talking with a friend of mine about her fundraising experiences as a Major Gifts Officer and we started to lament that very thing. The most senior leaders of an organization traditionally do all of the asking. I imagine that some of this has to do with how important asking for a major gift really is. As my friend and I talked we both laughed as we realized that we had held in secret how many “real” asks we had been on. Both of us had cultivated, prospected, and stewarded lots and lots of donors but when it came time to ask them for something specific we did not have that chance.

Have you had this experience? If this is frustrating to you, I encourage you to talk with your boss. Let your boss know that you’d like to have and area that you can build. Come with a couple of suggestions as to what area makes sense to you. I often try and find an area that is relatively new and the organization has not invested a lot of time. This allows me to grow an underserved area and continue to refine my skills as a development professional.

Have you found this myth to be true? If so what have you done to respond to it? Maybe you are that executive leader; do you make a strong effort to provide opportunities for your staff to lead?

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4 Responses to The Major Gifts Fundraising Myth

  1. Chas Grundy says:

    As one of our board members put it, you never really ask. You tell stories, you make your case, and then you bring in the President/VP/Executive Director to take the check. By the time you bring in the real “asker,” there’s no need to ask outright.

    I guess it’s kind of symbolic; giving to a top representative is substantial and seems like better recognition than giving to one of the foot soldiers.

  2. Jason Dick says:

    Thanks for your comment. I agree that when you cultivate donors right the ask ends up happening really smoothly and can be almost second nature.

    However, if you never have an “outright ask” for a specific amount you are missing an opportunity. I have found that when donors are asked for something specific they will give 3 to 10 times more money than if they give without being asked.

  3. Nancy Keeler says:

    Yes, I have had the same experience. I like doing the legwork, building strong relationships between the donor and the organization. Even if I can’t be in on an ask, I like preparing those who will with strategy and scripts.
    However, in one organization I worked for, my boss, who was newer than me at the organization, did not give me any credit to senior management nor the board on asks that I set up for him. He eventually fired me and jumped ship six months later. It was a very hurtful experience for me. Have any other fundraisers had this experience?

  4. Hi,
    I love your posts.
    This one prompts me to add that in my experience, when the most senior people do the asking, even if I have been the one who cultivated the relationship, then the gift simply is bigger. Major donors, in my experience, like to feel connected to the most senior people at the organization they support.
    Thank you for blogging!
    Arlene Kirsch

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