By Bruce Berglund and Jan Brogdon

    Too often, major gift efforts are confined to the framework of a campaign. We ask for these gifts when we have a goal, but we really don’t work to cultivate those major gift donors between and before campaigns. In a time where capital campaigns were slowed or even stopped, some organizations used 2020 to grow a deeper connection with major gift donors. How can the learnings from their experiences, and yours, shape the way you move forward from here?

    Any of you that have worked with us know that we believe Case, Leadership, Prospects and a Plan are the key elements of successful fundraising. Consider how you can use this structure as you analyze your own situation.


    How did your case for support change? Were you much more direct and transparent about what you needed? Did that mean you were sharing a “better” story and not the whole story? Did the story evolve over the course of the year and did you find that donors were willing to hear from you, and support you, all year long?


    The DBD Axiom “Leadership is Everything” was on full display in 2020. Many volunteers stepped up to support their organization and their community as they recognized the urgency of the need. But some volunteers disappeared. What was your experience and learning in this area? What next steps do you need to take to develop a board that can lead the type of organization you are today?


    Nonprofit fundraising was an unexpected rousing success in 2020. Data from the Fundraising Effectiveness Project showed that from 2019 to 2020:

    • Charitable giving grew 10.6%
    • 5% increase in new supporters
    • 7% increase in “recaptured” (lapsed) donors
    • Gifts <$250 grew by 15.3%
    • Gifts of $1,000+ increased 10.4%

    What does your data show? How did your donors react compared to this nonprofit sector-wide performance? Are you pleased or disappointed? As you examine the results, make some time to assess the “why” behind your results as you plan for the future. Retention concerns loom large for many sector experts. What are you doing today to share impact, results and ongoing need within your programs to make sure those donors stay with you for another year?


    Plans for 2021 and beyond must reflect the changes brought on the pandemic and the acknowledgment that going “back to normal” may not be where your organization wants to go. How are you embracing what you learned in order to shape a culture of philanthropy? In a time when “business as usual” is out of reach, taking the time review and assess is critical to inform a plan built for the future.

    Ultimately, major gift donors will be critical in helping your organization move forward. Use the learnings of 2020 to connect with these donors – and all donors – in a new way this year and for years to come.

    If you are one of our Y friends and plan to attend the NAYDO conference in April, look for this session and join with our friends from the YMCA of Richmond, YMCA of Greater Charlotte, and Idaho Youth Ranch as they review and assess their major gifts experiences in 2020-21. Their insights will inspire you as you move philanthropic efforts forward.



    Image Credit: Tim Bish on Unsplash


    Posted by Bruce Berglund on Mar. 30, 2021
    Bruce Berglund

    Written by Bruce Berglund

    Bruce Berglund, CFRE, is the founder and President of DBD Group, a national firm providing comprehensive consulting services to nonprofits, faith-based organizations, colleges and more. Bruce is a highly sought-after writer, speaker and teacher.

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