Here are two things you already know:
- Stewarding a meaningful major gift relationship is not a process that should be rushed.
- Many community colleges feel pressured to rush the process in order to meet critical organizational needs.
It is not uncommon for fundraising professionals to find themselves in the position of choosing between funding urgent needs and taking time to develop deep philanthropic relationships. While there is no “silver bullet” for overcoming this challenge, here are a few practical approaches to help you improve the balance between funding your college’s urgent and important needs.
Ignore the Campaign Myth
When is the best time to begin developing major gift relationships? Today! Many colleges believe they have to wait until they are ready to construct a building or double the size of their endowment fund. Not only do you not need a large project to get started, the best time to foster this type of relationship is long before you launch a campaign or other major gift initiative
Do NOT Create a Major Gifts Program
Yes, you read that correctly. One of the reasons many colleges never get started is because they just don’t have the bandwidth to develop and implement a major gifts program – so don’t. The most meaningful relationships are built on small but meaningful interactions over time. Rather than getting bogged down in deploying a new program, get started by scheduling one cultivation meeting per week with a major gift prospect (you know who they are). But, here’s the rule: you are not allowed to ask them for anything (other then their feedback). You are only there to deepen your college’s relationship with them – for now.
Educate Key Stakeholders
Having key leadership that is supportive and engaged in the development of major gift relationships is a vital part of balancing short and long-term priorities. The more they understand that developing a pipeline of major gifts is not complicated or overly time consuming, the more likely they will be to help you find the balance between short term needs and long term relationship development. A small amount of education will also increase their willingness to play a role in developing these relationships.
In our experience, most colleges already have the capacity to develop major gift relationships (whether they are in a campaign or not) while still funding urgent priorities. Investing a little effort now in planting the seeds for major gift relationships will yield transformative results for the communities you serve for decades to come.
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