Major Gift Fundraising Takes Time, Just like Long-term Investing

May 7, 2022Donors, Leadership

Major-Gift-Fundraising-Takes-Time Donors Leadership

Major gift fundraising takes time. Easier said than done, right?

Let me share a story why nonprofit leaders should keep this tip to heart:

My dad, a dentist, always found interest in the stock market. Visiting with him recently, he reminded me of an investment story. He liked to invest in companies from his home state of Arkansas. He bought 200 shares of Wal-Mart’s original stock offering in 1970. In a short time, he had a nice gain. His financial advisor recommended he sell the stock and take the gain. He did.

Yes, you read this correctly. Early on, my dad sold original shares of Wal-Mart stock at the recommendation of his financial advisor.

When my dad inquired several years ago how much the 200 stock shares would be worth today, the answer was $70 million.

Those numbers are hard to swallow.

There’s a lot to learn here!

Let’s tie the lesson of long-term investing to fundraising. In major gift fundraising, we must focus on long-term investments in the form of relationships.

Major gift fundraising does not happen overnight. Securing major gifts from individuals is based on relationships, and relationships take time to develop and nurture.

Here are two main ways major gift fundraising takes time and is like long-term investing.

1.  Be Patient.

Patience can produce uncommon profits.” says American investor and philanthropist Charlie Munger.

That goes for major gift fundraising too! It takes time to build relationships with your current and potential major donors.

You must, first, identify your ideal major donors for your organization.

Read: 3 Most Important Criteria When Identifying Ideal Major Donor. 

It’s only once you have identified your ideal major donors you nurture and grow (cultivate) the relationships. Spend time getting to know your donors better. Give them time to learn more about the impact of your organization’s programs and services.  

Trust is built over time with your donors. They will become more involved and see firsthand the extent of your organization’s work. They believe more deeply in your work. They make an investment and entrust you with their funds. They see that the organization is a good steward of the funds. Donors see the differences their dollars are making – their ROI (return on investment). This all takes time.

When a major donor makes a gift, it is likely not their largest gift. They are slipping their big toe in the water as a test to see the impact of their gift and how you respond to them.

Stay connected with your major donors. Keep your major donors informed of their impact by visiting with them, updating them with breaking news, or sharing exciting advances.

Make your donors feel valued and appreciated!

Read more here: How to Nurture to Retain Major Donors. 

2.  Know your Donors’ Wants and Needs. Know their Values, Interests, and Passions (VIP).

With investments, a financial advisor should know if the client is looking for short-term gains or is interested in long-term investing.

Know the personal reasons a donor supports your organization. It helps you understand them and their values and interests.

When you know your major donors’ interests and passions, you know how to talk with them. You know the words and emotions that will resonate with them. You care deeply about your donors’ needs and desires to help the people or places your organization is serving.

Read How to Determine Your Major Donors’ Passions

Your major donors are like family. They are your new best friends. To deepen the relationship, know your donors’ likes and dislikes. Know what they value, what programs they are passionate about, and what interests them the most about your organization. Don’t make assumptions. Ask what makes them support your organization. You will know what programs to ask them to support in your next ask for a gift.

You don’t want to start over every year with your donors! They are investing in you, and you are investing in them. You want your donors to feel good about investing in your organization. Help them make a difference by funding programs and projects meaningful to them. They will help you advance the mission of the organization.

Share how their dollars are making a difference. They are savvy donors — they want to know their ROI! 

Always remember, major gift fundraising takes time. Be patient and know what matters to your donors. 


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.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Nov-FB-Ad-Option-1-1 Donors Leadership

Download FREE Major Gift Fundraising Plan Template to help you map out your fundraising for the year!

Receive weekly insights on major gifts fundraising and announcements of brand-new course offerings.

Be sure to add nancy@nancyrieves.com to your list of approved email senders! We’ll never spam you and rent or sell your information to anyone else, ever!

Most Popular Posts

FM®-colored Donors Leadership

PO Box 530102
Birmingham, AL 35253

Share This

Share this post with your friends!