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Lightning Round of Questions Answered!

Development of large gifts is a long term strategy. What is one of the biggest mistakes you can make?

Success hinges on your ability to foster and sustain deep attachments with groups of high capacity prospects. Losing donor support prior to full maturation--however that happens--represents huge opportunity costs for the organization. Leaves everyone disenchanted.

To achieve better results institutions have to avoid four common mistakes (and I have seen each of these happen with very disappointing results)--what are they?

  1. Focusing only on institutional priorities--what happened to being donor centric?

  2. Assuming donors trust you--when you have not done anything to earn their trust.

  3. Giving too little back to the donors--primarily not providing enough information about how their investment with you has performed. Customization of benefits is important for everyone.

  4. Turning to donors just for money--we all know the difference on this one. Provide a wide variety of meaningful experiences. Stay in touch.

Bottom line: build your relationship with donors. Think about enjoying yourself with them and keeping them informed.

Are there any "born" development officers?

The answer is an emphatic no! It's all about hard work, not just going through the motions. The need to think creatively and consistently. The focus on building strategic relationships. The focus on teamwork. The belief in the mission and the determination to bring something very special to your community.

What will result when an outstanding development officer leaves for a new job?

Because many non-profits have no structure in place for such an occasion, it can happen that many major donors are never reassigned and then become unengaged. They are simply lost in the system. It is very important for a development officer to give plenty of notice and ensure as far as they can that this issue doesn't happen. But once they leave, the responsibility is on the organization. When no one is hired as a replacement for a long time the situation gets even worse. Potentially it can be hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars lost in the vacuum created. It takes a long time to recover the momentum.

I did a great deal of due diligence to get this major gift. Now what will my donors expect?

Bottom line: They will expect documented evidence that the investment generated impact, using metrics defined from the outset. They will expect access to the development officer, to the individual within the organization who was the recipient of the gift, and access to leadership. They will expect transparency into progress and challenges.

When someone has made a ten year gift, what does the impact-oriented donor relationship look like?

It looks like a very careful plan that ensures that the donor is pleased with the progress. It may mean that the investor during the ten years will begin to look at a larger proposal in order to advance the effort. It may mean that the development officer over ten years can build a template to report annually. And over time, perhaps some of the rigor will be reduced, because continued success will build a very trusting relationship.

I am simply overwhelmed with fundraising. What should I do?

Assuming that you understand the basics of fundraising, you should believe that there is an art and a science to fundraising. Sit back and get some distance. Review the fundamentals briefly. Get out from under the immediate stress. Take the break you need. Return to your work with a vengeance. Then you can simply fundraise with your heart and with your logic. It really works.

Do you ask your staff to do things that you wouldn't do? Do you criticize them afterwards?

Remember Theodore Roosevelt's Man In the Arena speech:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."


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