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Building a High Revenue Major Gift Program

Resource Center - Foundation

Gail PerryMajor Gifts are the goal of most nonprofits, but trying to figure out a successful formula or system for acquiring those gifts, and the pitfalls to avoid, can be tricky. 

AFP had a chance recently to chat with Gail Perry about overcoming major gift obstacles and building a successful program, which is the subject of her upcoming webinar, Building a High Revenue Major Gift Program:  The 5 Major Hurdles that are Holding You Back and How to Overcome Them, on January 30.    

Q.  Reading through the learning objectives for your webinar, a lot of this seems to be just shifting your thinking – is that right?

A.  Mindset has a lot to do with major gift success, for sure! You have to think opportunistically, creatively and always think big. Many people hold themselves back through their thinking. People sometimes have personal issues about money and wealthy people. Whatever your thinking is, you must understand this: if you want to raise big money, you need to find some courage, brush up on your manners so you won't come across as pushy, and then be cheerfully aggressive. 

Q.  Do you think there’s a prescribed percentage of time a development office should spend on major gifts?

A.  No, I don't. Every development office is different, and many fundraisers have multiple responsibilities. But we all know that major gift fundraising brings in the biggest return on your effort. So focusing here will give you the quickest payback in terms of money raised. Too many people put everything ELSE in front of major gift fundraising. Many things we do have hard deadlines like board and committee meetings, newsletters, etc. So it’s easy to put major gift fundraising at the bottom of the to-do list.  

Q.  How important is your board in raising major gifts?

A.  The board is pretty important but not essential. You actually can raise major gifts without your board's help. But it's just much harder. The best way to get board members engaged in major gift fundraising is to tell them they don't have to ASK. Ease their fears. Help them find easy ways to open the doors and make introductions for you. That's what most executive directors tell me they want from their board—to simply open doors. 

Q.  As the political climate changes, do you feel there will need to be a change in tactics for soliciting major gifts and philanthropy in general?

A.  Well certainly major gift fundraisers need to stay away from talking politics with their donors. And in this divisive climate, it's hard when everyone wants to talk about it. As we see wealth concentrated more and more with fewer people, we'll certainly know who our prospects are!  

Regarding philanthropy in general, there's a lot of uncertainty now about how proposed government cuts will impact many nonprofits. Budget cuts can certainly fuel even stronger fundraising calls to action. I think we will probably see more engaged and passionate supporters. It will be important for us to frame the right messages in order to capitalize on this energy. 

Q.  What are the causes you support with your personal philanthropy?

A.  Wow, I have tons of causes that I support. Since I'm active in politics in North Carolina, I’m giving to tons of my favorite candidates and causes. I support liberal advocacy organizations such as Planned Parenthood and I also serve on Raleigh's City Arts Commission and I'm a strong supporter of many local arts organizations.  I also support safety net organizations such as the Interfaith Food Shuttle and organizations that support women. My philanthropic causes range far and wide! 

To find out more about building a major gifts program for your nonprofit, join us for Gail’s webinar on January 30 at 1:00 PM Eastern, Building a High Revenue Major Gift Program:  The 5 Major Hurdles that are Holding You Back and How to Overcome Them

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