I had a rare opportunity to see a major gift officer interact with a key donor/investor in 2023. On a Saturday morning, in jeans and a pullover, the ministry representative greeted the donor couple with a big hug. They started chatting about how family members and family businesses are doing, then reminisced about shared experiences on a ministry vision trip. I watched as they laughed, talked, and got teary-eyed. It was evident they were invested in one another’s lives.
As I reflect on that experience, I think it demonstrates the goal of major donor development: to look at each other not through the lens of fundraising, but the lens of friendship.
I think deepening friendships should be on all our lists of goals for 2024. It is an ever-present part of development work. As you work to set other fundraising goals for this year, here are four steps I have found helpful to choose those goals and stick to them:
Begin with the end in mind.
This is a longstanding concept and one of seven habits Stephen Covey included in his book over 30 years ago. Before you set goals, take time to envision your desired outcome. Find your vision statement.
Andy Stanley’s leadership podcast in December 2023 puts it another way when he asks: What do you want to be known for? As a nonprofit leader, what do you want your organization to be known for? Considering this objective will help chart your course going forward this year.
Set goals that reflect the end objective.
What do you want to be true of 2024? In The 4 Disciplines of Execution, the authors say to focus on the Wildly Important Goal (WIG). In other words, keep the main thing the main thing. Don’t divide your team’s attention between multiple different goals and risk mediocrity in all of them.
What will the main thing be this year? Is it to grow major donor program from 10 percent of overall budget to 20 percent? Will it be to grow the average gift per donor? Is it to institute a monthly giving program, a legacy circle, or other kind of giving program? Determine the goal that is most important to get the organization where you want it to be.
Implement a system.
Put a system in place to create the structure that sets you up to achieve your goals.
“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”—James Clear, Atomic Habits.
The challenge for any leader is to execute on the most important goal amidst the urgent. Call it a plan, a goal ladder, a roadmap, or time blocking on your calendar. Call it what you wish but find a method to write down both your strategies to accomplish and your scorecard to measure success.
Count the cost.
What’s at stake if you don’t succeed? Here’s the thing about nonprofit work: It is the most important work. Ministries around the globe are solving the world’s greatest problems. So, what’s at stake if you don’t grow donor relationships, expand generosity, and fuel the mission effectively? Too much. Depending on your cause area, maybe it’s physical lives, flourishing, spiritual lives, justice, education…the list is long. There is much at stake, so press in and do what it takes to accomplish your Wildly Important Goal.
Back to the major gift officer and donor family I shared time with. I watched them not only greet each other, but also say goodbye as each traveled back to their home state. They hugged and said, “I love you,” with authenticity.
This may be hard to measure, but as a nonprofit or ministry leader, the true objective in major donor development is this demonstration of hearts bonded together because they share a deep commitment to solving a problem together.
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