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You Call That a Major Gift?

Let me tell you about Phyllis. She really is quite something. A few years ago, she was mistakenly invited to a recognition event that her donation amount did not really entitle her to attend. She gave $50 over four quarters for a total of $200 in donations for a year. She then continued to do the same over the next four years, without fail.

Phyllis loves and embodies the mission of this nonprofit. At the event, she said to the development director, “I really wish I could do more. Being retired, the $200 is doable for me, but any more and I’d be putting myself behind the 8-ball." The director re-assured her that her support was greatly appreciated and went on to have a very nice conversation with her.

Over time Phyllis and the director have had occasions where they’ve met at different events and talked about Phyllis and her family—her grandchildren, her cat, and her beautiful backyard garden.

At one point they had a brief conversation about the possibility of her giving $50 monthly. When Phyllis realized that was something she could easily do, she became a monthly donor. In effect, she became a $600 donor.

For Phyllis, that was a major gift. By the organization’s “technical” definition of a major gift, it wasn’t, so it wasn’t recognized as such.

Phyllis is okay with that, however. That’s not why she gives.

The point here is that there are plenty of $600 donors out there who write checks in response to direct mail solicitations. And there are also major donors who do the same. They don’t want to be recognized or honored. They just respond.

If you’re an annual fund director can you afford to invest time and resources in every $200 or $600 donor like Phyllis? Probably not, especially if your organization is larger.

But don’t make the mistake of demeaning gifts “of a certain size.” You never know when they will turn into something more.

The trick is to recognize that when the next Phyllis comes your way, don’t have pre-conceived notions that say, “Oh, she doesn’t qualify as a major donor. She doesn’t merit my attention.”

For Phyllis, her $200 that became $600 yearly IS a major gift.

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