Think, Feel, Do Major Gift Magic

I just finished re-reading “Deep Dive” by Rich Horwath, a book about strategic thinking. It reminded me how important that competency is to successful major gift work.

There are lots of conversations on and offline about the importance of donor engagement. More recently, tons of talk, thank goodness, about donor retention, loving and wowing your donors. What is missing, for the most part, is the role strategy plays in “major gift magic” – an inspired, joyful, generous yes to your request.

Strategy requires raw material, the fodder needed to create a thoughtful, success donor plan.






It starts with a discovery visit that uncovers the donors’ philanthropic profile. This is a visit where you ask strategic questions and listen to understand. If you’d like a list of strategic questions designed for discovery visits and tailored to your organization’s mission, send me an email.

Philanthropic Profile














Suite of Engagement Opportunities

Another set of raw materials is enough productive ways to engage the donor. Engagement leads to increased giving but you need the RIGHT engagement that increases personal motivation, over comes potential obstacles for all decision-makers. If your list consists of:
1. Fundraising
2. Special events
3. Serving on the board
4. Going for a tour
5. A visit from staff or a board member

Than you have a long way to go. You need far more sustainable, productive ways to engage donors that will be meaningful to the donor. Tap into his or her professional expertise, seek advice, invite to head up or serve on a task force, have a family day of service, invite to a vision meeting hosted by a board member.

The same is true for a suite of stewardship communications and experiences that demonstrate impact and outcomes as well as appreciation.

Letters, photos, contact with recipients, videos, webinars, and events to name a few. Different mediums and messages are key.

Think, Feel, and Do

Once you have your building blocks in place, you use them to craft individualized, smart, strategic major gift donor plans.

Each step you take should have a measurable objective.

  1. What do you want this family to think about the experience, your leadership, transparency, accountability, mission, vision, values and work because of this interaction?
  2. What do want them feel?
  3. What do we want them to do?

Sending out a great impact video is not enough. You have to turn it into a strategic step that advances the relationship. How is this going to raise her giving sights or deepen her engagement with your mission, vision and work?

Inviting to a tour to learn all about the organization is not enough. What are the thinking, feeling, and doing objectives? How will that increase motivation and overcome or neutralize a potential issue?

Four to Seven Strategic Steps over Six to 18 Months

By and large, it takes four to seven strategic, goal-oriented steps over six to 18 months to reach major gift magic – an inspired, joyful, generous yes for an organizational priority close to the amount requested.

Each step should be interactive – not passive. Engagement is active, two-way.

Lay the groundwork. Be ambitious for your organization. Build the relationships strategically and with care. For more: //

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