“The ‘big gift’ is the difference maker for nonprofits of all types and sizes,” says Ted Grossnickle, senior consultant and founder of Johnson, Grossnickle and Associates, a consultancy in Greenwood, IN. “For some smaller, community-based groups, the big gift may be $100,000 or so, but generally, I think the industry standard is considered $1 million or more.”

Unleashing the power of the big gift involves a great deal of research, courage and effort, according to Grossnickle. “Do your homework, conduct the research on potential major donors, build a solicitation profile and keep adding layers of information in order to prepare for the solicitation.”

According to Grossnickle, a key first step involves the formation of a solicitation profile for each potential major donor:

  1. Develop a rating procedure that is rational and objective, is conservative in nature and assigns a dollar range for a prospective donor that takes into consideration the following:

    • The donor's giving and known philanthropy.
    • Total value of the donor's key resources including real estate, stockholdings, income and foundation assets.
    • The donor's estate and trust planning requirements.
    • The donor's community involvement and connection to the organization.

    Once a complete solicitation profile is in place, Grossnickle recommends these additional steps in securing a mission-changing gift:

  2. Make stewardship a priority. The relationship with the donor must be fostered over time, with careful attention paid to relationship building that involves the key staff and board leadership of the organization.
  3. Involve donors' families. A spouse, adult children and grandchildren are often very influential in the giving decisions of major donors, and inviting family members to participate in discussions, dinners and facility tours will pay big dividends.
  4. Link to the organization. Whether it involves higher education, medical services for children, concern for the environment or caring for neglected animals, the mission and ethos of the organization must clearly align with those of the donor.
  5. Make the ask. This step is crucial, as the key staff or board member assigned to the ask must offer a sincere, informed and polished presentation of the organization's needs and requested donation.
  6. Follow through. Major gifts take time and endless stewardship, and it is often beneficial to help donors experience at least partial value of their gifts in their lifetimes.

Sources: Ted R. Grossnickle, Senior Consultant and Founder, Johnson, Grossnickle and Associates, Greenwood, IN. Phone (317) 215-2400. E-mail: ted@jgacounsel.com. Website: www.jgacounsel.com