Four well-meaning (dangerous) myths about major gift fundraising

Having trained thousands of fundraisers to improved results over the last 12 years, I have found a handful of well-meaning myths that hurt any hard-working fundraiser’s ability to raise money. Have any of these Toxic Whoppers seeped in under your radar?
Harmful Myth 4. ‘Our cause is too hard to raise major gifts for…’
How many fundraisers do you think feel their cause is easy? Certainly some can be easier than others, but even the ones you’d think have it easiest of all, often have things in their organisation, strategy, size, that present big potential barriers to donors. To focus on how hard our cause seems, misses the point. If it was easy they wouldn’t have needed to hire someone smart and proactive like you. The question to focus on is not ‘what is hard / unfair?’, but what are our advantages? My blog on selling an unpopular cause helps you do this.
Harmful Myth 3. ‘It’s impossible to get any decent stories about my cause…’
There are a number or reasons why a fundraiser may think that it’s almost impossible to find concrete human examples to convey a) the urgent need for the work and b) the feeling that the service is effective. In the Major Gifts Mastery Programme I reveal proven techniques that help you find and tell stories and numerical outcomes that persuade tough-minded donors.
In the meantime, one thing you can do is ask your brain for an example, any example, of why your charity’s service is needed. Unless you currently meet the needs of the entire country / region, someone somewhere is suffering. As a start, be able to provide an example of one such person / animal and what is tough for them. This helps the donor feel why your service is needed.

Harmful Myth 2. ‘Very rich people and trusts won’t meet someone from a charity…’
What exactly are your strategies for persuading past donors to meet you for tea / coffee or new prospects to come to your brunch event? (ie what do you say and how do you say it, and through what medium?). If what you’re currently doing isn’t working, it is of course tempting to conclude that this is the donor’s or the cause’s fault. Tempting, and comfortable, but not helpful if you’re really serious about great results.
Here are seven tried and tested techniques to help you get more trust-building contact time with major donors. On the Major Gifts Mastery Programme we help everyone apply these in practice. One extraordinary fundraiser, Lois from National Library of Scotland, once used the strategies to secure 56 meetings with wealthy donors in between Day 2 and Day 3. Though not everyone will achieve these results, every single participant gains the confidence to take more action in this area, leading to a minimum of twice as many donor meetings. If you doubled your contact with your donors, what would that do to your donor relationships and ultimately, the number of people who donate?
Harmful Myth 1. ‘Your current ability is what matters most. Either you can or you can’t do the key skills of major gift fundraising’.
Most people instinctively think that ‘Talent’ is the key factor in your future success. You hear it all the time. In the excellent book GRIT, Angela Duckworth debunks this lie. Passion and perseverance in the long-term trumps so-called ‘talent’ every time. What is comforting about the Myth of Talent is it saves us from taking responsibility for improving our current knowledge and skills. But the danger is we are not aware of just how much greater our impact could be.

The truth is, once you focus on a specific skill that you care about improving, there are always plenty of things you could do to get better at it: What book could you read? What high achiever blogs on this topic? Who, inside or outside your organisation, is really good at it? Could you ask their advice?

As Professor Duckworth explains, though tactics like these and many others are always available, what holds us back from actually taking consistent action is a lack of belief that great progress is possible. This is why a key ingredient on the Mastery Programme is examples of how people just like you have taken action and achieved great results. Even if you don’t attend the Programme, a key thing you can do is seek out examples of fabulous results. This will help you believe, which makes all the difference to your ability to persevere at developing your skills.