Book Review: It’s not just about the Money

Recently I started reading Richard Perry and Jeff Schreifel’s new book about major gifts. It’s called “It’s Not Just About the Money.” You may have heard of their company, the Veritus Group.

What are major gifts? Just the most successful way to fundraise, like ever. NBD.

Do you have a major gifts program? If so, do you have hard deadlines and timelines around your major gifts for your nonprofit?

Perry and Schreifel talked about how much people emphasize fundraising planning and timelines and deadlines for direct mail, but fail to do so for major gifts.

It’s a true thing.

We need to put more hard deadlines and calendars around major gifts. Don’t chicken out and let it poop off into the atmosphere like “we’ll get to it, someday!”

No! No! Asking for money face to face is the most effective way to fundraise. So don’t put it on the back burner.

Surprisingly, I enjoyed the schadenfreude. I’ll admit it. I skipped directly to Jeff’s story of his worst day on the job. How he made an ask of a board member, it totally flopped, the board member resigned, and oh, plus, he didn’t get the gift. He was lucky not to get fired after that episode.

One of the things I’ve noticed with major gifts is that people tend to just ask, blurt out their ask and then be surprised that it didn’t work.

What could they do better?

Stop being so impatient, and actually take time to get to know the donor, their lives, their needs, their values, what they’re going through, and give them space to get to know what you’re about too.

Schriefels and Perry talk about 4 steps to develop a compelling case for a major donor. They recommend:

1. Zeroing in on the need
2. Identifying and Talking about the cause of the need
3. Documenting what will happen if the need is not met
4. Your vision for your nonprofit.

Why? Then this will allow you to solicit big donors by communicating the consequence of inaction, the specific timeline, the specific amount you’re asking for and the promise of results.

There was a funny concept in this book that I liked-

Beware the Giant Hairball!

What is the giant hairball?

When you get pulled into everything else going on in the nonprofit- when you spend hours talking about other people’s programs, or stuck in a boring staff meeting that has nothing to do with what you are doing. That is the giant hairball.

I know this happened to me a lot- I would be asked to help fix people’s computers, or fix the copier, or copy a bunch of stuff that had nothing to do with my program, or asked to babysit the boss’s kids, or asked to organize the meeting room for the staff meeting, and sit there while the boss droned on without asking questions and everyone’s eyes glazed.

So, if you’re not getting results with your major gifts program or don’t know your donors well enough yet, it could be because the hairball is pulling your MGO in and not letting them escape.

If you’re wondering how to make your major gifts program more successful, you might like this next part.

Schreifels and Perry talk about the 10 bare bones essentials of a good major gift program.

1.  Design the right organizational home for major gifts. Major gifts is not marketing, or PR. Major gifts should be supervised by the development director.

2. Create the right job description. Too often, nonprofits just sort of shove major gifts under the development director’s wheelhouse- when they’re doing grants, appeals, volunteer management, planned giving, and everything else. Or, perhaps the job description is so vague that the major gifts officer fails-because they don’t have enough direction in the program.

3. Find and hire the right people. This book has a checklist on exactly how to hire the right major gifts officer.

4. Select the right donors.  Just because someone gives at a certain level doesn’t mean that you should get the major gifts officer to get a meeting with them. Maybe they give a lot but don’t want to talk to your MGO. It has to be someone who actually wants to have a relationship with your organization. The book talks more about how to select these donors.

5. Segment major donors into top-, middle-, and lower-giving potential. This way you’ll know how to prioritize your activities around each donor. It helps you work towards an ask. It may take two years to get to that seven figure ask, but it will be because you’re cultivating the relationship with that donor, not because you dropped the ball.

6. Set goals and make plans for every donor. When you treat major donors like partners, when you identify and serve their interests and passions, you can keep your major donors. How? This book shares how.

7. Develop offers. Once you know what your major donors want, and how much it will cost to get there, and the timeline, develop offers to present to your major donors. It’s all about identifying their goals, passions, pains and agendas.

8. Produce monthly donor reports. Whoa. Have you ever worked in an office where this happened? These reports should capture how the donors are performing month to month and year to year. It shows how well your MGO is performing as well. But even if this is scary, hey. It’s an early warning system that can show you if you’re getting off track, and help you adjust your goals or donor cultivation processes.

9. Have a process for integrating new donors.  So maybe some people are going to be jumping into your major gifts program from your direct mail program. You’ve got to allow for this.

10. Keep focused on the big picture. Make sure the caseload value is growing, advises Perry. Expect this program to be successful, and work hard.

I liked this book. I don’t know a lot about major gifts. It’s not a strength of mine. So even though I don’t know a lot, I thought it was well-written, and it taught me clear processes to succeed with major gifts. 🙂

Bottom line: Should you get It’s Not Just About the Money?

It's not just about the money

I think the answer is yes.

Full disclosure: I was provided a review copy of this book free of charge. However, I do not get any money or percentage or kickback if you buy this book.

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