Answer 3 Questions to Assess Board Readiness for Major Gifts

Image: David Castillo Dominici

Image: David Castillo Dominici

Thinking about starting a major gifts program? Good idea. Major gifts can have a transformational effect on your organization’s work and mission. Plus a successful major gifts program yields a much higher return on investment than other, arguably more popular, fundraising tactics like events or direct mail. 

So why isn’t every nonprofit going after major gifts? One reason could be board readiness, or lack thereof. Your board of directors’ buy-in to major gift efforts is critical to its success.

To see if you’re ready, ask yourself and your board these 3 questions. 

Is there an organizational vision that the board understands, agrees with, and supports?

Your organization’s vision answers the question ‘What are we trying to achieve and why?’ If your board has gone through a strategic planning process, they’ve grappled with this question – and an answer. 

Major gift fundraising is about the future. It’s about what CAN be, rather than what is. Without a vision and strategy for where your organization is going, it’s tough to make the case to major donors that your cause is the right place for their investment.

Does the board understand what major gift fundraising is?

Don’t assume that your board understands the long timeline and the relationship-building steps with top prospects and donors required to be successful in major gifts. Provide them with resources and allow time for them to gain this knowledge. Consider bringing in an outside trainer to lead board meeting exercises or daylong retreats.

One of your jobs as a fundraising staff person is to support the work of your volunteers and help them to be successful. Your board’s up front understanding of what’s involved with major gift fundraising is critical, and will spare you headaches down the road.

Do board members themselves make major gifts?

If the answer is ‘no,’ are they willing to start? It is very difficult to win support from others when the inner circle leadership of an organization does not demonstrate its own financial commitment. 

Your prospects might think, “Why should I give if your board members are not?” 

You don’t need every member of your board to make large gifts, but for those who have the capacity to do so, the power of that gesture will provide momentum to your efforts.

What other tactics have you used to help your board gear up for major gifts? Please share your ideas, successes or challenges in the Comments box below! 

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