Major Gift Conversations to Have with Your Executive Director

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A major philanthropic gift can have a transformational impact on your organization and those you serve. Of course, imagining all the exciting things your organization can do with the major gifts you’ll raise, and actually launching a rockin’ major gifts program are two very different things!

Before you jump in, take time to assess your organization’s readiness. Talk with key players to gauge who’s willing to help. A good place to start is by having these 3 conversations with your executive director (or CEO).

1. Is the Board on Board?

I have rarely seen a thriving major gifts program that existed without the involvement of a hard-working, philanthropic, engaged board of directors. If your organization is considering initiating or ramping up a major gifts program, ask your executive director (ED) – is the board on board?

If not, can you, your ED, or a few key board members bring along the whole board? How much of a champion will your ED be in this effort? Your board members are your link to prospects and a network of relationships in the community and your ED can help to motivate them. Their involvement—or lack thereof—can make or break a major gifts program.

2. Lone Rangers Need Not Apply.

Another truism about major gifts is that the work cannot be done alone. It’s too complex, unpredictable and the timelines are too long. You’ll need a major gifts team that includes your ED, board members, other volunteers/donors and a few key staff. And you’ll need these team members to commit to a high level of communication, information sharing, and collaboration.

It might be tempting for your ED to run off in solo pursuit of a prospect she (or he) knows well (especially if your ED is a founder who did all the fundraising before you came along). Part of your job is to help her see the benefits of leveraging the full creativity and strategic insights of your entire major gifts team for the cultivation and stewardship of major donors.

3. It’s Gonna Take Time.

After planned giving, major gifts is probably the slowest moving fundraising strategy with the longest time horizon. Major gifts are relational gifts and the relationships behind them take time to build. Successful major gifts work requires patience, tenacity, creativity and faith. It’s not a quick-fix mode to bring dollars in the door tomorrow. If your ED is expecting returns in 3 months, set him straight.

For more tips on involving your ED or CEO in fundraising, check out ED Won’t Ask? 4 Tips for Moving Fundraising Forward Anyway.

What other major gift conversations have you had with your CEO? Please share them in the Comments box below. Your fellow fundraisers thank you!

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