If you build it they (are more likely to) come

This time last year one of my coaching clients asked for help with The Million Pound Challenge. Ie ‘if a donor wanted to donate a million pounds tomorrow, what would we spend it on?’

If you’re thinking that this would be a good problem to have, I agree, but nevertheless for most charities it would still be a problem. Would your charity have a clear, specific answer? And would it be one that your service delivery colleagues and chief exec could agree on?

During the coaching (and in several later conversations) we talked through the many challenges and various strategies for overcoming them, and my client and her colleagues worked hard.

The story took an exciting turn in November 2015

In the November coaching session, she explained that while she’d been away on leave, her team had been contacted by the executors of a will. Their friend had left instructions that a large portion of his estate be given to a charity that dealt with the issue that this charity addressed. If they were to receive a donation of £1m, would they be able to show the difference it would make?

Would this charity have got the gift anyway? Maybe. But thanks to the work already done, they were able to create a coherent proposal far more quickly. And critically, they were able to send the proposal without stressful disagreements with their various colleagues, because all the discussions had taken place without rush many weeks earlier.

My favourite part happened last week

They’ve just heard that the trustees of the same foundation would like to make a second gift. It is worth a further £1m, just 7 months after the first.

Even if you believe the first one was due to luck, we’re pretty sure the second million came about because of how well they responded to, and then stewarded, the first.

Does your charity have an answer to the million pound challenge?

If not here are 5 reasons it’s worth exploring:

1.Thinking / pursuing BIG will become easier. Firstly, I believe that getting prepared for something great increases the chances that it will happen. Though some attribute this to the so-called Law of Attraction, it’s easier to at least agree it happens because the fundraiser / charity that has done this ambitious work will behave differently. They will notice different opportunities and behave differently with donors and well-connected supporters.

I admit you could go to all the trouble of solving The Challenge internally…and you still won’t receive a seven figure gift. But there are four other valuable benefits to reward your hard work:

2. Valuable information. Some of the info you generate and   problems that it forces you to solve will help with smaller gifts
3. Improved relationships. You will build / deepen your relationship with your colleagues, which can only help solve other challenges and reveal other opportunities
4. Extra energy. Solving big problems feels a bit scary, and so releases dopamine into your system. This dopamine will feel good, and gives you energy to solve the challenges. As any Olympic medallist will tell you, this boost does not happen while looking at small problems.
5. Other gifts get easier. You will find it easier to think and talk big with your other donors. Even if you don’t ask them for £1m, you will find it easier to talk about and ask for eg £100,000, because thanks to the Law of Contrast, the smaller number will now feel more comfortable.

Would you like to increase major donor and trust income? Find out more about how the Major Gifts Mastery Programme will help.