I’ll preface this blog by saying it’s a bit of a tough-love message. Learning about the “Anti-Decider” has been a hard lesson for me over the years. And I confess, I still occasionally give my most earnest advice on this subject…followed in some regrettable cases with the kind truth of, “I warned you.”

My counsel to you is not about how to cultivate a donor that has decided to give you a generous gift, it is about the “Anti-Decider” that you may have overlooked.

Who is this Anti-Decider?

Far too many times, a charity will earnestly and successfully cultivate a donor – perhaps even a long-time supporter – only to have a gift thwarted or reduced by the Anti-Decider. Has this happened to you? Chances are, it was probably all your fault. (I warned you about a tough-love message.)

The Anti-Decider is most often an overlooked spouse. However, it could be the child of a donor or a business partner. In your cultivation strategy, you must consider ALL the folks that you need to engage, consider, cultivate and convince.

I often get something like this from a client:

“It is her fortune/business and she absolutely makes all the decisions in that household down to the paint in the garage.”


“He told me directly that his wife doesn’t care and doesn’t want to be involved.”

Trust me. You are taking a gamble not to involve (and I would add respect) the other decision makers, even if you’ve been told otherwise. Here are a couple of real-life lessons:

Situation 1:

We recently asked a highly engaged donor prospect for a million dollar gift. He accepted our gift request with a head nod.   Later, he came back to the charity with a $25,000 contribution.

“I talked it over with my wife and we really think this is all we can do.”

Wasn’t that the same donor that said he was the lone decider?   Yes, yes it was.

Situation 2:

Likewise, I had a well-cultivated donor that included a planned gift out of his estate. However, he died first. When his spouse died years later, the estate all went to the Humane Society. Not a penny to us. We didn’t properly engage her, at the time or since her husband’s death. All my fault.

So please take the time to learn from this hard knock.  Cultivate ALL of the potential deciders and show them you respect and acknowledge their role in deciding to make a great gift. It is easier to cultivate another raving fan, than deal with the disappointment of the dreaded Anti-decider.

Posted by Danny Maier
Danny Maier

Written by Danny Maier

Dan Maier offers fundraising counsel and strategic management for local and national nonprofits, YMCAs, camps, medical and social service organizations. He offers invaluable support to clients and their volunteer leadership as they look to enhance their development campaigns, prepare for crisis communications, strengthen their boards and more.

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