Hush and Go-Away Gifts

Learning.

Many nonprofits actually ask for gifts that encourage others to give once, then walk away.

“Are you kidding me?” you say.

No I’m not.

In the rush—the urgency—to fund our treasured programs and causes, we’re often far too willing to take any gift from anyone.

The operative phrase is “any gift”.

I had just joined a new organization and was in a meeting where a particular donor and the gift they had made were being discussed.

Charlie, I was told, had been very generous having made a gift of $100,000. Believe me, that’s not an insignificant amount.

And yet—

I happened to know Charlie. I knew his financial capacity and, more importantly, his heart.

When I heard that he offered a gift of $100,000 I reflexively blurted out, “Well, I hope you turned it down.” When those words fell from my lips I saw the shock and disbelief register on the faces of the others in the room.

The collective look was “Are you serious?”

Yes, I was.

You see, Charlie was a very generous fellow and, properly approached, would have done $1 million. A few more questions as to the nature and circumstances of the solicitation confirmed my suspicions.

What they had received—through the hasty ask—was what I call the “hush and go away” gift. Charlie was saying in effect, “Here’s a gift, now go away.” The bridge may not have been burned, but it was badly damaged,

This organization was operating on the “any gift from anyone” premise. That’s because they (1) couldn’t imagine anyone in their immediate circle having capacity for anything larger and (2) they wanted to have the money right away. As in, “NOW!” (please). Working with Charlie to determine his real interests and abilities was just too darn complicated—and time consuming.

Principle 4 of The Eight Principles™ is Learn & Plan™. We need to first learn who will support us by their values and goals and then plan how to reach out to them. In Charlie’s case, there wasn’t much of either.

Sure you can ask anyone for a gift at any time. Getting the result you’re looking for requires serious pre-work and strategic timing, however.

Remember, money is the result and never the goal in fundraising.

Now that’s a sustainable fundraising idea!

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