With huge potential for growth in major giving, high net worth fundraising expert, trainer, academic and author, Marita Haibach challenges nonprofits to set their sights high and support their fundraisers in gaining the expertise they need to draw in the big gifts.
For years, the number of wealthy people and the size of their assets have been growing in many countries around the world, even during the Corona pandemic. Germany, Austria, and Switzerland have participated strongly in this growth. However, the Golden Age of Philanthropy predicted by The Economist back in 2004 has so far fallen far short of expectations.
As far as mega-donations and capital campaigns with billion-euro targets are concerned, we still look with admiration to the USA in particular. Now’s the time to reach out and make major gifts a major part of our future fundraising.
Moving on from the twilight era
Fundraising activities geared specifically at raising big gifts from private individuals led a twilight existence in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland until fairly recently. Large donations were always welcome, but generally they happened rather quietly. Since the 1990s, there have been a few pioneering organisations like Greenpeace, WWF and some others who demonstrated that major gift fundraising really can work here in Europe too.
Much has happened in the past decade and major giving is now seen as one of the most promising areas within fundraising. Many organisations have come to realise that an essential prerequisite for a significant increase in the amount and number of large donations for charitable causes of all kinds is the development of specific skills and knowledge. But how can we build sector know-how about approaching wealthy people to inspire their support?
Major donor fundraisers do not fall from sky: major gift fundraising training required
To approach wealthy people, qualified major gift fundraisers are needed. The job market for these professionals is growing steadily. More and more organisations want to hire major gift fundraisers. Often, they start with one position, but in many places, it quickly becomes apparent that one person does not have sufficient capacity to take proper care of all current major donors, let alone to expand the existing potential. At the same time, there is a lack of specialists in this area of fundraising who have the necessary skills to be able to raise large amounts of donations with system and strategy.
People need formal training to become confident and capable major gift fundraisers, and that needs investment. After all, these people will likely go on to bring in large donations and attract new wealthy donors. Giving them training is not only helping them develop the tools needed for the job but giving them an opportunity to meet others in the same boat; to network, learn and share.
Institutional readiness for major gift fundraising
Major gift fundraising involves hard work. Relationship building requires a lot of time and staying power, even though there are occasional examples of surprise major gifts. But particularly with new major donors, lead times are often long before an ask can be made. Patience, intuition, and sensitivity are important keywords, particularly when it comes to deciding when the right time has come to invite a major donor to make another large donation.
Despite the fact that waiting times are often inevitable, by the time a major donor is ready, organisations often find that they are well positioned for fundraising in general but are not prepared for major donor fundraising.
When gearing up for major donor fundraising, it’s important to ensure you have at least these five essential elements in your kitbag. They are: a convincing and motivating case for support; realistic funding projects and plausible financial needs; potential major donors, i.e. people who have the capability to make major gifts; committed leaders within the organisations as well as voluntary external leaders; and structural and personnel requirements (including major gift officers, and a suitable database). These need not only to be present but to be kept updated and tailored to that individual. So, be sure to review and adapt anything that needs changing along the way.
Understanding the potential for the future of major giving
The future of major gifts is big! We believe that it is possible to double the volume of individual donations in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland alone by the year 2030. An important prerequisite for this is that major gift fundraising continues to gain momentum and that the wealthy increasingly discover the joy of donating large amounts.
Major donors whose commitment becomes publicly known give a face to fundraising and encourage others to get involved as well. Their joy is contagious. Major donations underline the fact that nonprofit organisations need financial resources to carry out their work.
Successful relationships between donors and fundraising organisations will remain an individual challenge. Ultimately, it is the spirit of individual major donor fundraisers as well as the prevailing basic attitude and institutional readiness in the respective organisation that determines whether the major donor fundraising process is crowned with success.
Integrity and trust are just as important keywords as continuity and reliability. An indication of the untapped potential is that in these times marked by the Corona pandemic, many major donors more generously than ever supported “their” non-profit-organisation. The challenge now is for major gift fundraisers to be bold, to find and cater for their potential big givers and help them feel connected and engaged. It can take courage and sensitivity, but the reward is certainly worth the effort.
Dr. Marita Haibach has recently released the second edition of her major gift fundraising book with co-author Jan Uekermann. Published in German, Großspenden-Fundraising – Wege zu mehr Philanthropie. Grundlagen, Strategie und praktische Umsetzung is available here.
About Dr. Marita Haibach
Major giving consultant, trainer, academic and author, Dr Marita Haibach is one of the pioneers of fundraising and philanthropy in Germany and throughout Europe. In the 1990s and 2000s Marita a played leading role in the establishment of several nonprofit organisations that nowadays have a wide impact in fundraising and the foundation world, including serving as president for the European Fundraising Association (2004-2008), Deutscher Fundraising Verband, the Filia Women’s Foundation and the Pecunia Network of Women with Inherited Wealth.
In 2012, together with Jan Uekermann, she founded the Major Giving Institute, offering on-the-job training for active and systematic major gift fundraising in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. The Institute runs one course per year, with three 3-day seminars held over a period of six months.
Photo by Zac Durant on Unsplash
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