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Last week I called a client to clarify something about an upcoming tax appeal. During the conversation, he informed me a major donor had just made a gift of $200,000 to the current appeal we had worked on together.

This gift, he said, had the office high-fiving and whooping with joy. I have to admit I, too, was very excited for them.

This $200,000 windfall represented a significant proportion of the income budgeted for the year for this charity. In other words, they’re not a multi-million-dollar non-profit.

BUT… I wanted to point out a few lessons about this particular gift. I hope they will encourage you.

1. The donor was an individual – He was not a corporate or a government department handing out grants. He was sitting right there in their database… with a previously highest gift of $20,000. This already made him a major donor who had indicated his considerable interest in the charity.

2. The donor was nurtured – In the lead-up to the $200,000 gift, the CEO of the organisation had met and talked with the donor several times. The charity had taken the lead in building a relationship with this donor. Rather than leaving him to the standard thank you letters and quarterly newsletters (although I’m not saying these are not important).

3. The donor then received a compelling ask in the mail – The direct mail pack we produced arrived after all this lovely nurturing. I think we can safely assume that this donor’s meetings with the CEO, together with a strong ask, compelled him to make a larger than usual gift.

My point is, this is not about a fundraising consultant and copywriter like me coming in and dazzling the charity with my brilliance.

Yes, I wrote the pack that prompted the gift. But would this donor have given $200,000 without the personal touch from the CEO?

Probably not. He most likely would have left off a zero. Or perhaps not given at all due to neglect.

Ouch. Think what a difference NOT getting that $200,000 would make.

This major gift was about all of us working together. Each of us playing a part that encouraged this donor towards a big donation.

This should be encouraging for all of us trying to raise funds for worthy causes. Getting big gifts IS possible for your charity. You don’t have to be a large organisation. You don’t need an unlimited budget. You don’t have to ride on a unicycle upside down playing the trumpet.

But you do need to take steps towards getting those big gifts. Identify possible major donors right there in your current database. Spend a little time on them.

So the question is: how much money are you leaving on the table by NOT finding the time to nurture your most valuable givers?

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