Anyone who has sat in a room rating prospects for an upcoming capital campaign knows that it is hard to determine the right number for the ask. We can guess what a person is worth, determine what they have given to other organizations, examine their relationship with the organization and estimate what the person will give, but it is always questionable whether a person will give that much to this organization. How do you ask someone for a meaningful major gift?
If the intent to give a substantial gift is there, it is worth educating the prospect on what it means to give an impactful or meaningful gift.
For each person, a meaningful gift is different. Consider your own circumstances for a moment. Let us assume that there is an organization with which you are involved, and for the purpose of this exercise we’ll call it Bounce. You have given to Bounce on an annual basis for the past 5 years. You believe in their mission and have gone to a few events. Because they are good fundraisers, you are on their radar. Since you understand the process, you know that you are being stewarded for a larger gift. Maybe they have even included you as an interviewee in a feasibility study.
Now that the study is over, they schedule an appointment to talk to you about the upcoming capital campaign. You are no surprised when they ask you to make a meaningful gift by giving $XX,XXX. They consider that a meaningful gift, but do you?
Meaningful Major Gift: The Definition
A meaningful major gift is not necessarily the amount that Bounce has asked for, nor is it automatically twice that number.
It is one that you would only give to a few chosen, special organizations. Maybe its payment is spread out over 2, 3 or 5 years to make it achievable within your budget. But you know that it is a meaningful gift to you if the amount makes you feel a little uncomfortable, on one hand, but comes with the understanding that this gift will truly help—in fact, is crucial for the organization to reach its goals, on the other hand. A meaningful gift will give you the knowledge that you truly did all that you could do financially to help Bounce’s campaign succeed.
A million dollars may not be meaningful to some and $1,000 may be meaningful to others. But encouraging donors to think about what will be impactful and meaningful — to the organization and to themselves — will help strengthen the relationship between the donor and the organization, as well as encourage the donor about their future giving.
Concerned about making the ask? Consider reading one of the these articles?
How to Ask Someone to Donate $1,000,000
Why You Shouldn’t Take It Personally When a Donor Says “No”
8 Reasons That You Should Not Feel Bad About Asking For Donations For Your Nonprofit
Note: this post was originally published in 2012