SIG Review – Structuring your Major Gifts Program

SIG Review – Structuring your Major Gifts Program

By Jackie Dalton

Director of Philanthropy, Frensham Schools

Structuring your Major Gifts Program, 3 June 2021

An excellent presentation by fundraising consultant Pamela Sutton-Legaud from AskRIGHT. The webinar addressed the Major Gifts fundraising cycle, and most importantly:

  • How to ask for money
  • Overcoming objections

Pamela pointed out a key difference for fundraisers in schools—there is a whole different constituency that you don’t have in a normal charity, and that is parents. They are well connected and want their children and grandchildren to do well now, as well as in the future. Leverage that.

A key consideration in structuring a Major Gifts program, from the beginning is to ensure that you have:

  • Policies and Procedures in place ahead of time—you do not want to make Policy “on the run”.
    • What gifts will you accept? How? When?
  • Delegation and decision making—be clear on this before you have to deal with a Major Gift.
    • What is the most expedient way to accept and process a Major Gift? What budget do I have to work with so that I can be the decision maker? Can I have a copywriter? What control and authority do I have over the fundraising program?

People don’t “hang around” once they’ve made an offer of a Major Gift. If you can’t manage the gift in a timely manner because you are considering policy, procedure or delegation, they may go elsewhere.

The fundraising cycle involves Identification of Prospects, Qualification, Cultivation, Solicitation and Stewardship. Within that, the most important element to focus on is L.I.C:

  • Linkage—what is their link to your organisation?
  • Interest—what is their level of engagement with your organisation?
  • Capacity—what is the right level of gift for them? What should be the Ask in the first instance?

Private Ancillary Funds (PAFs) are a key potential source of Major Gifts—how many of you parents and alumni are Directors of a PAF? They are already philanthropic, so a key prospect for any Major Gift program.

“The Ask”—rehearse it beforehand. Practice is vital. Anticipate questions and answer them. And when it does come time to make the Ask—don’t say anything. Wait for the donor to reply, even if the silence seems interminable.

If it’s “Yes”, you move straight to stewardship. If it’s “No” that is not the end—it’s often “not now” and again, you move into a stewardship plan.

And finally, resourcing—you need skilled people, who can do this job, right now. If you do this, it will help deliver a better outcome. Don’t allow your fundraisers to be directed to jobs other than fundraising in a school. This would never happen in a commercial environment.

Note that the full presentation is available on the Educate Plus website, for Members only, and can be accessed here: NSW/ACT Fundraising SIG