As I See It | Missy Gale, CFRE | President & CEO

Raising Major Gifts Is Not Only Possible During A Pandemic, It’s Vital

Recently I’ve had several nonprofits ask about raising major gifts during the pandemic. Concerns range from being sensitive to donor’s potential negative financial circumstance to how to make an ask when you can’t meet in person. Last month we shared results from a survey we conducted with North Texas nonprofits on the impact of COVID-19 on their fundraising efforts. Some 60% of respondents said that major giving had been negatively affected during the first few months of the pandemic. Does this mean that major giving is going to sit on the sidelines for the foreseeable future? In a word, no. 

My theory about successfully garnering major gifts is this – people who are generous are generous whether or not they have a lot of money to give. Generosity encompasses an array of a donor’s resources — their time, their talents and their money.  During an economic downturn, donors may have less money to give, or they may be giving more conservatively for any number of reasons. Additionally, their giving focus may have changed, either temporarily or permanently, based on where they see the greatest need.  

So how do you find major donors now?   

The size of a major gift is qualified differently from one nonprofit to the next.  For purposes of this article, a major gift is one that requires a personal ask. To make a personal request of someone, you need to have a relationship with him or her. You need to know his or her circumstances and how she or he is feeling about your organization and its needs. We’ve seen in just three months how quickly families have learned to adapt and unite using virtual video platforms. While never as good as inperson meeting, we’re all staying connected via telephone, email, regular mail and video. This certainly applies to donors as well. 

The way you move into relationship with a donor has not changed due to the pandemic. It may be more difficult because physical venues like tours of your organization, special events and on-premises volunteering have been paused. But, that’s where creativity and tenacity become important.  

Here are my tips for making major gift asks: 
  • Start with those you know well. From stewardship calls to check in on your donor’s wellbeing to providing ongoing communication on what your organization is doing, you can gauge interest and keep your donor involved.   
  • For those you don’t know well, you will need to ask your leadership volunteers to help you connect.  You may also need to do research to find other community connectors. This may take time and you will need to be patient as you garner their trust and give them appropriate support What will be extremely beneficial to you and your organization is a new relationship will be forged authentically and at a peer level.  
  • Make a personal ask.  If you are in a relationship with your prospective donor, you both will know when it is time to make the ask. You will know because your donor will give you indication of interest, involvement and cues that he or she is ready to invest. You will have paved the way for the ask by giving him or her a clear path on how to invest, why and when.  There is no need to wait, this can be done now.   

Remember, the donor is the only one who can determine the size and timing of his or her gift. Your role as a professional, is to build a pipeline of supporters whom you know are eager tsupport your nonprofit’s ability to fulfill its mission.  

Advocating for fundraising during emergencies: How to respond to arguments that fundraising is ‘inappropriate’ during the Coronavirus pandemic*, published by Rogare – The Fundraising Think Tank, presents an interesting perspective on this topic. What are your thoughts about asking for major gifts during this challenging time? Email me, Missy.Gale@MGaleAssociates.com

About the Author

As president and founder of M. Gale & Associates, Missy Gale has dedicated almost three decades to crafting unique strategies and solutions to complex fundraising projects and organizational issues, resulting in transformational fundraising success for her clients. With more than ten years at the helm of M. Gale & Associates, Missy has assisted nonprofits in North Texas and the Southwest in healthcare, arts and culture, social services, and education. Missy is a graduate of the University of Texas at Arlington and holds the Certified Fundraising Executive credential. She has presented at numerous international, national and regional conferences. In 2014 Missy was honored as the Outstanding Professional Fundraiser by the Association of Fundraising Professionals Fort Worth Metro chapter. She has also served as national chair of the Association of Philanthropic Counsel (APC).

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*Source: Smith, V., Gallaiford, N., and Locilento, J. (2020). Advocating for fundraising during emergencies: How to respond to arguments that fundraising is ‘inappropriate’ during the Coronavirus pandemic. London: Rogare – The Fundraising Think Tank.