The "Ask"SM Blog - Post

Major Gifts: It's All About Donor Impact

by Diane Remin | Fri, 20 Mar 2015

Donors don't care what you need. They care about their impact.

I had just finished presenting a workshop titled, "Opportunity Knocks: Major Gift Fundraising for Smaller Nonprofits." It covered the topics you'd expect: how to use donor research, setting up the visit, the case for support, making the "ask" and responding to, "Let me think about it." But I always add a segment about emotion driving individual giving, the power of storytelling to convey emotion and what donors want: to know they are having an impact.

The workshop ended. A participant came up to me and described her situation: Her nonprofit recently lost one of its larger grants. She was about to go out and meet with individual donors (that's good!) and make the case around the need to replace the lost grant with individual gifts.

I just started to say, "No.... " when another participant waiting to speak with me said, "I have to tell you this story."

And here's the gist of what she said:

We were near the end of a multi-million dollar campaign. Our Chief Development Officer went to a long-standing supporter and asked if he would donate $1 million to close out the campaign. The donor said, "no."

Shortly thereafter, the Chief Development Officer discovered that the donor had just made a $2 million dollar gift to the American Cancer Society. He calls the donor to see "what gives" (more politely than that, of course).

Here's what the donor told him: You asked me to close out a campaign. They asked me to help cure cancer.

And there you have it! Need vs. Impact. Impact wins, every time. 

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