Why Harry Potter Won’t Save Your Major Gift Programme

Why Harry Potter Won’t Save Your Major Gift Programme

Rory Green | 9 April 2015

The second instalment for the Institute of Fundraising Scotland’s month-long blog series on Major Gifts, by Rory Green, aka Fundraiser Grrl.

We need a major gifts programme! If we had one, the gifts would come in like magic! 

Having a major gifts department is a wonderful way to help connect donors with the opportunity to make a difference, and advance your case. But please don’t think it’s as easy as the wave of a wand. Here is one of the biggest mistakes I see charities making when they try to start a major gifts programme:

J.K. Rowling sure has lots of money. Say, we need money. Let’s ask her!

Before asking J.K. to get her quill out and write you a cheque, here are two questions you need to ask: Wait!

Does this person care about our case?  

Here is one of my golden rules of fundraising: it is much easier to make someone who cares about your cause give you money – than someone who has money care about your cause. If, for example, you were raising money for a House Elves Shelter, Hermione Granger would make a much better prospect for a than Lucius Malfoy, even if the Malfoy family is wealthier than the Grangers. Someone who is truly passionate about your mission can help your major gifts programme a great deal.

Does anyone from our charity know this person?

It is very hard to cold call a billionaire and set up a meeting. It just is. Same goes for celebrities. And CEOs of major companies. It is much easier if you have someone open a door and make an introduction. If I wanted a meeting with Harry Potter, I might ask my board chair Ron Weasley to set it up. So, before you go cold calling millionaires, make sure you’ve had some discovery meetings with your own loyal donors and long-time volunteers and tap into their networks. These champions can help connect you to their friends and colleagues who also care about your cause and may have the ability to make a gift.

Is this a good time for this person to make a major gift?

It is easy to look at someone and assume that they have lots of money – but there are many factors that affect how much a potential donor is able to give. Take a look at what is going on in their lives: Are they supporting kids through school or university (like the Weasleys)? Are they in the process of acquiring a business? Are their assets liquid? Timing is an important factor when considering who to add to your potential donor list. 

You will be most successful in building and growing a major gifts programme when you find and work with people who care about you, who you know, and who at the right time in their life to make a gift. 

So, next time you find yourself Googling “richest people in Scotland”, or putting J.K. Rowling at the top of your prospect list – pause and think about who your real prospects are and should be to make a gift.



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