Tooth Fairy Fundraising

Dear Kim,

How would a small nonprofit go about securing a major gift of $500,000-1 million? I know it’s not impossible. My organization is almost 30 years old and we haven’t really grown since 1990. I have just started here, but I can already see that half our time is focused on fundraising. We could do a lot more for the community if we could just take a year or two to be mission focused. Being mission focused would be the purpose of the large gift and we could stop raising money in nickels and dimes. How can we find a really major donor?

~Small Group Seeks Big Donor for Meaningful Relationship

Dear Small,

The only way I know that an organization finds major donors is by asking the people who already give money for referrals.  “Do you know anyone who could help us with a gift that is the same or bigger than yours?”  People tend to have friends in their own economic bracket, but some are a little better off and some are a little worse off.  We ask our donors to introduce us to their better off friends.  It is often surprising how quickly we find major donors using this method.   

Personally, I do not see the separation you are making between fundraising and program.  The strength of your program is measured in part by the number of people who take their hard earned money and give you some of it.  To want to take a couple of years off from fundraising is a sign to me that your organization needs to work more on integrating fundraising and organizing. If you were to find a major benefactor, and take two years off from fundraising, what would happen in the third year?  Your donors would be gone and you would be worse off than you were before. And do you want to be so beholden to one person? And do you really think that one donor would want to be the sole source of support for your organization for two-three years?

Rather than using this tooth fairy approach to fundraising, I would invest in an organizational assessment to see why you haven’t grown in all these years. What is the organization doing well and what needs improving? This assessment and the plan that would naturally arise from it will strengthen your organization far more than a one time very large gift, even if you could find such a thing.  

~Kim Klein