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How to Get Started with a Major Gifts Campaign

I bet you have more needs at your nonprofit than you can shake a stick at. You have programs that need to be funded, special projects to undertake and maybe equipment or vehicles you’d like to have. Sometimes you can get a foundation to fund those particular needs, but most of the time, the most effective and efficient use of your time is creating a major gifts campaign to raise that money.

Yep, I’m talking about getting face-to-face with a donor, telling them the story, then asking for a gift. As far as return on investment, there’s not much you can do that will bring in more results for the investment of time you put into it.

The biggest question most people have is “How do I get started?” They know there’s a right way to go about putting a major gifts campaign together and they want to know what it is. Here are the basic steps you need to take in planning for this unique type of fundraising.

  1. The first thing you must do is determine the need. Be specific here. What is it that you need to raise money for? Is it a new program? Or an expansion of an existing program? Do you need a specific piece of equipment? Get very clear about the specific need you want to address with a major gifts campaign.
  2. Next, outline the cost. What will it cost for the program or project? Be sure to include both direct and indirect expenses. In other words, if you need a new vehicle to transport clients, don’t just include the cost of the vehicle – also include tags, title, license, insurance, maintenance, and the staff driver’s time.
  3. Finally, before you approach any donor, get your case for support ready. Be ready to answer the donor’s questions about the program or project and why they should support it.

After planning, you’re ready to target the donors you want to approach then go talk to them. And it’s that simple. It doesn’t have to be hard or complicated. I’ve found over the years that many of us want to make major gift work much scarier than it really is. Just remember this: these donors care very much about your organization and WANT to see you be successful. Treat them like the best friends your nonprofit has and you’ll soon be beaming with pride at your winning major gifts efforts.

3 Responses to “How to Get Started with a Major Gifts Campaign”

  • Hi Sandy!
    We ‘Connect kids to nature and wildlife through the ‘ARTS’! Exciting hands-on projects with live animal models in the classroom or we take the kids out in the wild with us!! Founded in 2005, struggling to support the programs, everyone told us if we were a 501c3 non profit we would be eligible for all kinds of grants! Wildlife Conservation Grants, Education Grants, ABC Grants, because we fall under such a wide range, but after several ‘YEARS’ of writing grants and being turned down, the wind is going out of our sail, sadly…I’ve spent my own money to keep us alive this year. I’ve read every free piece of advice you can give, can’t afford the big stuff. I’m just at the end, everybody loves Painting With Pat, the kids are becoming future wildlife conservationists, their eyes are opening to the world around them through our projects, and I don’t want to shut the door. What do I do?
    Pat

  • Pat, you need to find a few folks who believe as you do in the importance of the work you’re doing. They’ll be willing to help you. And the way you find them is to talk to lots of people about the work you’re doing. When someone seems interested, invite them to take the next step to become more engaged and support your work. Be careful not to come across as desperate – that will push people away.

    Sandy

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