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Fundraising Published Date, 2022

Your Organization Received A Mega-Gift. These Are The Five Steps You Should Take Next

Created By: Piper Hardin, CFRE, and CJ Orr
April 19, 2022

Updated on: May 30, 2023

It’s been long understood that major gifts have some of the greatest ROI in fundraising. Mega-gifts, which we’d generally define as $10M+ gifts, have even greater ROI (though we recognize the scale differs based on the size of your nonprofit). These gifts can change the course of an organization for years to come. Some individual donors, including MacKenzie Scott, Jack Dorsey, Bill Gates, Melinda French Gates, Michael Bloomberg, Mark Zuckerberg, and Priscilla Chan to name a few, choose to give in large and impactful ways, donating mega-gifts to nonprofit organizations around the world, and often with few or no strings attached. These philanthropists leave it up to the nonprofit to choose how and when to spend the funding. They are also giving increasingly larger amounts at a more rapid pace. For example, since 2020, MacKenzie Scott has invested over $14B to nearly 1,600 different missions. Months prior to news about MacKenzie Scott’s revolutionary philanthropy, Jack Dorsey announced his giving goals, expressing that he “wanted to work quickly and that he would be transparent about it”.  In less than two years, Dorsey has given away $428M, totaling 240 gifts.

As donors change the way they give, nonprofits simultaneously need to change their approach to attract–and capitalize on–these gifts. Nonprofits with a plan in place are more likely to be trusted with a mega-gift, be thoughtful stewards of the funding, and ultimately, receive additional transformational gifts. In this article, we will explore five key steps a nonprofit should take once they receive a large gift.

  1. Leverage, Leverage, Leverage

Mega-philanthropists want to make a big difference in the world and because of that, they are careful about the organizations and missions they invest in. They also don’t want to be the only one at the table, which is why it makes perfect sense to leverage a mega-gift when you receive one. Consider this the opportunity to call out to your other loyal donors – you may be surprised at who will want to see the impact of that mega-gift double or even triple.

It’s also important to keep in mind that one of the top reasons a donor ceases or refuses to give is that they aren’t aware of how their gift is being used. Be ready to explain the impact this additional funding will have on your community and those you serve. Should this happen, consider the following approach in your response:

  1. Create a sense of urgency.
  2. Explain why you need their support now.
  3. Talk about the additional services their funding will provide and the lives that will be changed.

There is still so much more to be done! And with funding, the impact will be next level.

  1. Step Back, Assess, and Plan Bigger

The advent of a mega-gift presents the opportunity to take a step back and assess whether you are on the right track as an organization. With a gift of this magnitude, you will want to be sure that you can put the money to its best and most effective use. Test your fundraising practices and plan your path forward with leaders in your community, your top donors, your board, and prospective funders to garner their continued support and to ensure your organization is accomplishing what is seen as crucial. Now is the time to think big and plan even bigger.

  1. Develop – or Refine – Your Strategic Plan

Receiving a mega-gift will allow you to deploy more resources to advance your mission. This naturally translates into the opportunity to craft or update your strategic plan, or blueprint, for how you will accomplish your goals and objectives. Make sure that your organization’s overall mission and goals are clearly defined. Set both short- and long-term goals and formulate a clear path to reaching these goals. Identify who on your team should be involved, and what other positions may be needed. People respond best to people, so it’s key to have the right players involved to get it done.

  1. Launch a Campaign

Now that you’ve received this boost in funding to achieve your goals, launching a campaign provides the opportunity to broaden your donor base and can enable you to further your mission and outcomes. In a nutshell, capital campaigns are fundraising efforts built around a defined period of time with the goal of raising a specific amount of money to build the organization’s assets and capacity. A campaign also gives donors an opportunity to make a bigger impact and unearth timely and ground-breaking initiatives that you may not have been able to accomplish without additional support and substantial investment. A campaign will also help to answer the aforementioned and dreaded question, “why do you need my money now that you’ve received this big gift?” The answer is simple; the work is never done, and continued support will guarantee the long-term, sustainable impact this mega-gift will jump-start.

  1. Implement a Major Gifts Initiative

We’ve said it before, and it’s been proven time and time again, that most mega-philanthropists don’t want to be the only one supporting a mission. More can be accomplished in numbers and that’s the end goal. Now is the time to invest in your team and implement a solid, consistent, and strategic major gifts program. Develop and build your donor pipeline, identify new donors who care deeply about your mission, put in place a meaningful cultivation and stewardship program, and have the right team in place to make the ask.

Still looking to hook your first-ever mega-gift? The best way to attract these impactful donations is to know – and compellingly express – how you would use the funds if you were to receive them. Mega-philanthropists want to guarantee that their investments will be put to the best possible use and that their gift will solve a problem, save a life, and/or make a difference in our world.

Additional resources on how to attract mega-gifts from Orr Group:

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