What's Next for Major Gifts? Part II

Amy Schiffman and Erika Moczulewski
June 9, 2020

Last week, we launched our blog series about “What’s Next” in fundraising with Part I of What’s Next for Major Gifts. In an ever-changing world, filled with constant uncertainty, we recognize how hard it is to find all of the answers. Our team at Evolve is staffed with veteran nonprofit professionals who have experienced ups and downs throughout their careers and are poised to help organizations like yours answer the tough questions. 

As we move toward the second half of 2020, we want to ensure you are able to secure critical funds for your annual campaign, so we are back to address some more frequently asked questions about major gift fundraising. 

Can I ask board members to help?

Yes! Enlist them to converse with donors. You will need to help them determine the right form of communication for each donor. I would encourage them to start with the phone or send an email to ask for a good time to call.  It’s also helpful to give your board members a script or some talking points to make them feel at ease when reaching out. You can offer to host a video practice session with them in advance of making calls to provide feedback and ease their fears. 

I’ve always heard that you MUST ask for major gifts during a face-to-face visit. Based on what you said about holding off on visits a bit longer, does that mean I should not be soliciting gifts?

Don’t be afraid to ask for gifts on the phone or by video right now, especially when you’ve been in regular contact with your donors and updating them on how your organization has continued to provide value and service during this time.  Fundraising cannot come to a full halt – you must continue to ask for support if it’s appropriate. Again, this is a situation that calls for a change in thinking and doing things differently. You’ve already changed the way you offer programs, so your fundraising strategies should follow suit.

My fiscal year ends in June and I’m at a loss for how to approach the budgeting process, especially when it comes to major gifts.  What do you recommend?

I’m a big believer in taking a name-by-name approach when it comes to setting a budget (and stretch goals) for major gifts. It’s a more time intensive approach than a straight percentage increase (or decrease) from the previous year.  

Review your list of donors and prospects with colleagues (or your board), starting with a three-year giving history and the most recent gift. If you’ve been making your check in calls, you will likely have a sense of their financial or employment situation and be able to determine if you can solicit for the same or an increased amount.  

Also, remember that your donors who are giving through Donor Advised Funds (DAFs) have already set money aside and making a gift to your organization does not impact their personal financial security. Therefore, it’s important to track which donors use these funds to support you.

What about planned giving? Should I be asking for planned gifts now?

This is an excellent time to think about your planned gift prospects and  donors. While it’s an uncertain time and some donors may hold on to their wealth for the time being, planned giving is a terrific way for them to feel good about knowing their gift will make a difference long into the future. The global pandemic and widespread protests calling for an end to racial injustice may have influenced American donors to think about their future plans and legacy. It is important to keep those who have already made planned gifts to your institution engaged in your work even if you can’t see them in person.

What other questions do you have that we can help address about what is to come in the next few months? Please reach out to Amy with your questions. We are always here to help.

Our team continues to offer nonprofit professionals and volunteers complimentary 30-minute coaching sessions during this uncertain time to help keep your fundraising programs on track.