Let's Raise Some Money
Insights from Karen Climer about fundraising and nonprofit organizations

No, Mr. Major Donor. We Aren’t Interested In Making You Feel Important

December 14th, 2015 by Karen Climer

Recently, I was sitting at my desk, thinking about the weekend, when the phone rang.  This call was a fundraiser’s dream.  Someone who I had never heard of was just surfing the internet and came across a client’s website.  He had a family foundation, and wanted to make a major gift.  Could I let him know what naming opportunities we had?  Yeehaw!  He told me the gift size he was thinking about, but it really depended on the naming opportunities.

I talked to the client to be sure I had the most updated list of naming opportunities.  Well, it turns out the client isn’t too interested having anything else named.  The board will discuss it, but we don’t want anyone else’s name on anything.  Holy guacamole! He said he was considering a six-figure gift and we can’t put his name on a plaque?! Did I get this right?

Last week, in a meeting for a different organization, the prospect asked a hypothetical question about naming the building.  (That’s a buying signal if I ever saw one.)  The board member hemmed and hawed.  He said he would discuss it with the board, but what it comes down to is that the board member doesn’t want someone else’s name on the project.  Huh?!

Two different organizations.  Two different prospects.  But neither of them is really interested in naming something after the donor.

There are situations where it’s not appropriate to name something after a donor.  For example, the hospital might not want the cancer wing named after the R.J. Reynolds family.  Or if the lead gift to the new science building is from John Hairbrain, well, maybe you can get him to honor a relative (with a different last name).

That wasn’t the situation I was dealing with.  I was dealing with people who view donors as ATMs who should spit out money then blend into the background rather than viewing donors as real people who give because they want something in return.

It is imperative that we view donors as partners.  The vast majority of donors do not want their name on the building, but they do want something. Usually that something is that they want to feel like a worthwhile part of a worthwhile project. If you do that, the money will keep flowing. If you treat them like ATMs, the money will soon run dry.

Posted in Cultivation, Recognition

Leave a Comment

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.