Should you be Asking for Major Gifts During the Crisis?

Apr 23, 2020Donor Ask Language, Donor Communication, Donors, Fundraising, Fundraising Success, Leadership, Mindset, Nonprofit Funding, Nonprofits, Philanthropy

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Should you be asking for major gifts now?


Absolutely YES!

It is appropriate to be asking for major gifts for your nonprofit organization in this crisis. In fact, you owe it to your mission to not only survive but thrive during these uncertain times.



A not-for-profit organization may be thinly run and live donation to donation (paycheck to paycheck). At most, a nonprofit can survive 6 months without having to take drastic measures.

First and foremost, nonprofits are established to solve a problem or address a need. That’s why they exist! Committed and passionate individuals, like you, are hired to oversee nonprofits. How fortunate we all are to have leaders, like you, deeply dedicated to good works and making a difference in the lives of others or to our communities.

Without a doubt, your passion keeps you laser-focused on offering programs uniquely targeted to serve the mission.

On the flip side, if you are a board member, you can provide direction to the business side of running the not-for-profit. During a crisis, you, a board member, are needed to step up to the plate and provide direction.

Many organizations have lost revenues from earned income – such as fees for service, ticket sales, memberships, for example. That has likely disappeared.

Certainly, nonprofits could use help in knowing how much cash is on hand, how much is needed, when is it needed, and from what revenue source will it come.

Board members can help and provide advice in these matters.


Right now, there are nonprofits in dire need of funds to survive. Some small nonprofits may have to close their doors – for good.

Clearly, the PPP loan is a huge help and welcomed funding for nonprofits. But it will not last long enough for many nonprofits.

The tendency for many organizations is to deeply cut the budget rather than raise more money.

That is not a good strategy.

Definitely, the last thing you want to do in a financial crisis is to wait it out or make cuts too early. There should be no hunkering down allowed if you are a nonprofit board member or leader. Indeed, your nonprofit needs contributions right now to survive.


If you have not already, it’s time to roll up our sleeves, map out a plan, get creative, and ask for gifts. Large gifts.

As a leader or board member of a nonprofit, here’s what to do:


Most importantly, nonprofits in urgent need of funding to survive must go back to those who have supported them in the past. It’s not a time to hold back. It’s not a time to be shy. It is a time to contact those individuals, corporations, businesses, and foundations that are able and voted for you with their pocketbook before the crisis.

People can say no. Allow them to do that.

Besides, it’s not your job to decide for a donor to say no to a gift. Allow them to be a part of the solution that serves your mission, a mission for which they are deeply committed.

Donors want to ensure their nonprofit survives or a program continues to serve an important need in the community. If a donor has the capacity, why would they not support you now in a crisis? Why would you not ask them to help?

Additionally, a donor recently offered to me how delighted she was to donate to an organization after being ask for a gift. She shared that she received a call from a nonprofit she has supported for years. No doubt, she said “yes!” to making a gift because “it was the perfect ask and exactly that special combination of my heart and mind.” She “felt grateful to be included in being ask.” Obviously, she was thrilled to be able to help “her” nonprofit.


As an executive or CEO, do not try to get through this crisis alone. Continue to meet with your board leadership often and keep them informed. Certainly, garner advice and recommendations in determining your cash flow and budget projections. Board members agreed to serve; this is when you need them most.

Now, if you are a board member, stay by the side of your executive director/CEO through this crisis. They need you more than ever. You have business acumen and can provide invaluable assistance, knowledge, and guidance at this time.


In summary, in listening to CEOs and executive directors of nonprofits, you are scared and a somewhat paralyzed.

But know you are not alone.

Your loyal supporters want to help you. They need a way to help you. Help make that possible.

More reads on fundraising during the current crisis:

4 Reasons you Can Secure Large Gifts Without Being Face-to-Face

Nonprofits Seeking Big Funding in Crisis: A New Set of Rules

What Nonprofits Need Right Now: 5 Ways to Help

Why You Must Ramp up Donor Communications Now

5 Steps to Donor Thank-You Calls: Show You Care During a Crisis

The Coronavirus Threat to Fundraising

Nancy Rieves, Ed.D. is a fundraising coach. She provides executive and development directors with a roadmap to maximize and sustain major gift fundraising. She prepares leaders to be confident and successful in raising money. Reach her at nancy@nancyrieves.com.


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