Private charitable foundations.
To the general public, they’re just those names they hear read off at the end of their favorite NPR show.
But to nonprofit development workers, they’re a valuable source of funding and support.
Many of these foundations pay out millions of dollars a year to deserving nonprofit organizations. Often times, the causes they support align with the values of the wealthy individual who founded them (even if he or she has long since passed).
So who are the biggest players in private foundations near you? I put together this handy spreadsheet breaking down the largest foundations by state, along with how much they distributed in the form of grants for the latest calendar year available (2014 for most).
Take a look to see who’s near you!
Major gifts are good.
But what happens when you pair up major gifts and matching gifts?
A match made in heaven, that’s what!
Alright, duh. Maybe that's an obvious statement. More importantly: how can you get more matched major gifts (say that 10 times fast).
Many times, we tend to think of matching gifts only in relation to small to mid-size donations coming from an annual appeal. An extra $100 here, maybe $500 there.
However, matching gifts can play a big role in your major gift fundraising. Even though many companies place a cap on matching gifts, some of these caps are as large as $15,000 for individuals while a few go as high as $300,000!
Three. Hundred. Thousand. Times two.
Your nonprofit should already be taking advantage of matching gifts in general, but pay special attention to how they relate to major gifts as well.
However, you can't sit back and expect these things to happen automatically. Sometimes, getting a major gift/matching gift pair going, you need to give it a little encouragement. A push, if you will.
Here are some best practices for pairing major and matching gifts.
When you're looking for an employee, it's not a decision you undertake lightly – especially when it's someone who will have as much of an effect on your organization as a Major Gift Officer.
The MGO is a big deal, because it requires a unique skill set: a love for people and – ideally – an authentic dedication to your cause, a knack for storytelling and listening, and, of course, a flair for fundraising. Most of all, you want to make sure that a potential gift officer is compatible with your vision.
So while your personal preferences may vary, the top qualities of a major gift officer are pretty consistent. They really like people, are dedicated and enthusiastic about your cause, great storytellers and listeners, have a real gift for raising money (of course!) and possess long-term compatibility with you and your plans.
But not all of these may be immediately on display when you're interviewing someone – so you have to ask the right questions to find out! Here are the top five questions to ask a prospective major gift officer.
When you're thinking up questions to ask a prospective MGO, directness and simplicity is key, says Ayda Sanver, a Maryland-based fundraiser and consultant to nonprofits, with emphasis on smaller and emerging organizations.
The most important question, she says, is the simplest one:
1) “Do you like working directly with donors and prospects, and are you comfortable asking for gifts?”
That's way better than talking around the issue, unless you're just curious and trying to get a feel for who they are as a person. If working directly with people isn't someone's cup of tea, then you shouldn't hire them – at least not for this position.
2) “What kind of experience do you have with large-scale fundraising?”
Of course, experience is important, but how they answer this question is just as important as what they answer with. In fundraising, there's more than just practicing “the ask.” There's also enthusiasm – although which to value the most is up to you and the position. Sanver said sometimes you can just go with your gut about a less experienced hire, as long as they're demonstrating enthusiasm.
“This depends on the level of seniority [and] supervision required in the position,” she said. “For a junior major gift officer, the above characteristics mean the person has a foundation to learn and be molded into a great major gifts officer, given that they are willing to attend training, read books/online articles, and be mentored by someone more senior, or develop their own network of other major gift officers to bounce ideas off of.”
So what if you want to get hired as a major gifts officer, don't have a lot of experience, but think you'd be really good at fundraising? According to Sanver, one of the best markers of enthusiasm is teaching yourself the ropes: attend trainings, watch webinars, read websites. If you're an employer and have a great feeling about someone with not much experience, ask them what they have done to learn about raising funds for charities.
3) “Why would you like to work here?”
This question isn't just asking for affirmation. It's asking whether they did their due diligence about your organization and know what it's all about, rather than just firing off a one-size-fits-all resume to every opportunity out there. This question can also be answered in a really good cover letter, Sanver said.
“For me, a good cover letter shouldn't be very long, but demonstrate enthusiasm to be considered for the position, a good understanding of the nature of the nonprofit's work, and how the applicant would be a good fit for the existing team,” she explained. “In other words, demonstrate you did your homework and actually know what the nonprofit is all about.”
4) “What was the best gift you ever secured for an organization, and how did you get it?”
Why you would ask this question of a potential hire is self-explanatory, because it gives solid insights into their fundraising process, as well as showing you what they're capable of.
The next question, though, should be equally important, if a little more uncomfortable:
5) “What was your worst fundraising experience, and what did it teach you?”
Everybody makes mistakes. How you react to them and how you learn from them is a key part of the experience you gain, not just as an employee, but as a person. How do they answer this question and tell the story about their worst experience? Is it something they can laugh about now, if only ruefully? Do they get frustrated? This question can go a long way for showing you how experienced they are and how they will react when there's friction on the job.
When you get to the point in your nonprofit's life that you're looking into hiring an MGO, it's not something that should be undertaken lightly. Approach your hire like you might approach any other important interpersonal relationship. If you find someone with the right combination of smarts, curiosity, and friendliness, as well as fundraising drive and verve, you, your new major gift officer, your donors, and your causes will be well on your way to a beautiful friendship.
The nonprofit sector is all about relationships. We all already know this, right? But nowhere are interpersonal relationships – with you and with people outside your organization – more important than with your
While every hire that you make is important, this is one that you'll want to pay extra close attention to, because it is a hire that can potentially make or break important relationships with individuals and organizations for years to come. If stewardship is like falling for your donors – and having them fall in love with you back – hiring a major gifts officer is like getting married. You're not just entering a relationship and having a crush any more!major gifts officer.
We're taking a brief break from the blog today to prepare for our webinar today at 1:00!
You haven't registered yet?
Get on that! This is your last chance to get in on our major gift webinar! It's all going down at 1:00PM eastern time today.
If you’ve kept an eye on the news lately, you’ve likely heard about the recent mega gift to Harvard University courtesy of John Paulson totaling $400 million.
Four. Hundred. Million. $400,000,000. A four with eight zeros after it.
He must have really small handwriting to be able to fit that on a check…
There’s been no shortage of opinions on the gift. In fact, in my Google Alert file I keep on major gifts, I saw one headline that read “Essay urges people to applaud Harvard's fund-raising success” and right below it another one that read “Essay criticizes the $400 million gift to Harvard.”
Everyone has something to say, and a lot of it is very compelling.
But aside from the Should-He/Shouldn’t-He debate, there are lessons to be learned for fundraisers.
It should come as no surprise that fundraisers have excellent people skills.
In fact, the best major gift fundraisers have a unique blend of skills that allow them to converse and carry on with just about anybody. They’re the very definition of a people person and conversationalist.
But major gift fundraising isn’t all schmoozing and conversing, and that’s where many fundraisers feel their weaknesses are.
So what scares fundraisers the most about major gift fundraising?
Our last webinar was a big hit. We had a super engaged audience that was double the size we had originally hoped for.
So how do we follow that up?
We do it again, of course!
We're pumped to announce our second webinar, "How to Close a Major Gift (Even If You've Never Done It
You've finally got that major gift prospect on the phone, and they've agreed to come in and meet you...now what?
We had the pleasure of talking to fundraising veteran Peter Heller, founder of Peter J. Heller Consulting about this very topic! Check out our video interview below, and don't miss these highlights:
- What to do before getting on the phone with your prospect (0:44")
- The 3 most important things to remember when meeting with a prospect (5:15")
- When you should turn down a $5,000 gift (6:15")
Topics: Major Gifts