A ‘magic porridge pot’ for those new to major gifts

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by Charlotte Grimshaw

Charlotte reviews The Tiny Essentials of Major Gift Fundraising, by Neil Sloggie

Major gift fundraising has been the ‘next big thing’ in a number of fundraising markets around the world for far too long. By this I mean that, although there is excellent work being done in this area by some not-for-profits, too many are held back by fear and lack of understanding.

In this succinct volume, Neil Sloggie takes us through the process of starting a major gifts programme from scratch. His narrator, Daniel, is a fundraising manager, new to major gifts and keen to learn. We follow his journey as he learns the basics from other fundraisers and from seminars, and as he puts them into practice in his own charity.

This format makes for an engaging narrative and makes it easy for Neil to include examples of things that, put simply, do and don’t work. Through the eyes of Daniel, Neil explains the most important principles in identifying and approaching your potential major donors. First, we learn about the importance of ‘CIA’, establishing a potential donor’s:

  • Connection with your organisation
  • Interest level in your cause
  • Ability to donate.

One of the most important things that fundraisers often forget is that the best place to look for potential higher value donors is not a list of millionaires with no known interest in your cause – it is actually your existing donor lists and networks. We see how Daniel screens his existing lists and networks for potential major donors and identifies his key prospects for a larger gift.

Once he has his list of prospects, we move to the development of a case for support. We see how Daniel involves the chair of the board in approaches to the donors and making the ask. We learn too about the all-important follow-up and continuing engagement with the donors, which follow the initial gifts.

Along the way, Daniel finds answers to the most common questions that fundraisers ask about major gift fundraising. For instance, ‘Who should ask for the gift?’ ‘How much should we ask for?’ And ‘What do we say in the meeting?’

Each chapter concludes with a useful summary of Daniel’s learnings from that stage of the process. These include the vital point that any donor meeting must have plenty of opportunity for you to listen to the donor, not just for you to talk to them.

Much of the material that has been written about major gift fundraising has been about running a capital campaign. Neil does include ‘A Word on Capital Campaigns’, but his book mainly focuses on making major gifts an integral part of a charity’s ongoing fundraising for its programme work, which in my view is the right approach.

I first met Neil Sloggie many years ago when he took over from me as Greenpeace International’s regional fundraising manager. At that first meeting I knew we had found a talented and knowledgeable individual with a real commitment to the sector. These days he advises a number of charities on their fundraising programmes and I know his advice in this book is based directly on his own practical experience.

This is the second book Neil has written in the Tiny Essentials series, following on from the equally useful Tiny Essentials of Fundraising. Like all the books in this series it is a magic porridge pot – you can’t believe something so small can contain so much good stuff! The beauty of these books is that they summarise all the basic information on a particular area of fundraising, in an easy to read style.

The Tiny Essentials series of fundraising guides is a great resource for any time-pressed fundraiser – and what other kind is there? At a mere 52 small-format pages, the Tiny Essentials of Major Gift Fundraising will provide exactly what’s needed for any fundraiser wanting to understand how to get a major gifts programme underway – clear, uncomplicated guidance with practical steps to follow.

Charlotte’s company Fundraising Research specialises in prospect research, training and donor development consultancy for not-for-profits. Charlotte has twenty years’ experience in the voluntary sector in Australasia and the UK, with Greenpeace UK, David Dixon Associates, The Phone Room, The Future Foundation, and in Australia with numerous charities and other not-for-profits. You can contact Charlotte by emailing her here.

This review was first published by www.sofii.org.

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