PMA Consulting, LLC

What Does Your Donor Want?

The Association of Fundraising Professionals in Charlotte offers an excellent mentor program guided by  Linda Breen, the Director of Development for the College of Education at UNC Charlotte.  I co-presented  a session for this group on Major Gifts & Planned Giving with Chris McLeod,  Vice President for the Greater Charlotte Cultural Trust.  The presentation led to great topical discussions, fueled by a cross-section of newcomers to the field of philanthropy as well as development veterans.

One of the key points addressed in our presentation was the role of the development officer in establishing and implementing an effective major gifts program.  In this economy in particular, it is understandable that many development professionals feel increasing pressure to focus on what they perceive as their key objectives: “secure the maximum gift, in the shortest amount of time, for an institutional priority, in an ethical, professional manner, resulting in the donor giving with joy.”  Easier said than done!  In fact, our urgency as development professionals seldom matches the motivation of the major donors who support our organizations.

To help illustrate this point, we did an exercise where each individual was asked to consider the dream scenario of personally inheriting one million dollars, half of which had to be donated to a charity of their choice.   How would they manage the gift?  Interestingly, very few fundraisers suggested they would give their own major gift to operating “urgencies.”  The examples they gave were powerful statements as to what donors actually want: to make an impact, to create a legacy, to inspire others to give, etc.  This is a great reminder to professionals and volunteers in the field of philanthropy that – while there is indeed urgency around our needs – leading with that message may in fact detract from the major gifts we seek.  What are the reasons people make major gifts?  Studies show they are:

  • Belief in the mission
  • Confidence in the leadership
  • Personal involvement
  • Example by others
  • Magic of ideas

As you consider the appeals made recently by your nonprofit, are the messages above being communicated, or are they simply ones of organizational urgency?

Looking for a dynamic presentation for your next board or staff retreat?  Contact Patton McDowell & Associates.