One of the first things that small shops must do to ensure their success is to focus their time and energy on the tasks that are most urgent and mission critical.
Major gifts are that.
In fact, they are the most effective and efficient means of fund raising.
The difference in a small shop is that rather than being staff driven, development staff must forge strong partnerships with key volunteers in order to move the cycle of major gift work along. Whether the volunteers are board members, fund development committee members or other stakeholders, they must be engaged and committed enough to the process that they are willing to take concrete action. When these partnerships exist, they oftentimes can be, if not are, even more effective than larger, staff-driven efforts.
The key is ensuring that these partnerships are developed, as there is much reluctance to active participation in fund development because of the uncomfortable nature of the work. But in order to successfully close major gifts, this partnership needs to exist; otherwise the staff efforts will be limited and at times fragmented and futile. When there are strong partnerships, development for an organization can be powerful and inclusive. This partnership is developed through active engagement in the frameworks of major gift work and has many benefits beyond the work at hand.
While major gift work is oftentimes most successfully done in larger shops that does not preclude smaller shops from being able to successfully take the good and invent the rest as they establish a major gift effort within their organization. In fact, after comparing and contrasting small and large fundraising shops, quite simply the tasks are similar, the difference lies in the resources to work the gift cycle appropriately from identification and qualification to cultivation to solicitation and then stewardship.
Lessons are to be learned, but, most importantly, major gift work in small fundraising shops is absolutely critical to their long-term success. Time must be dedicated to establishing the appropriate steps and to ensure that the steps are implemented in the best and most efficient way possible. It will be those small shops that allocate this time to doing so that will excel and succeed in major gift work and ultimately in their fund development efforts.
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