We Thought She Was a Million Dollar Donor, but We Thought Wrong. Here’s Why…

I was working with a client to land an elusive donor that everyone knew had the capacity to make a million-dollar gift. We did all of the research. We knew her background story and that she was interested in supporting the charity. We even had a personal connection that could facilitate the ask. After only a few meetings, the donor made her contribution. However, we weren’t quite sure how much she was going to donate since the last conversation left her with a few options. Everyone got super excited. A few of the staff even hoped that the million dollar donation might happen. The check came and it was a generous six-figure donation with restrictions. It wasn’t exactly what the development director had expected from an ultra-high-net-worth individual who was being cultivated for a much larger gift.

Here’s why she wasn’t a million-dollar donor right away.

1. It was her first gift to the organization.

While she was fond of the mission and believed in the great work the team was doing, she wasn’t ready to make a million-dollar donation.

2. Much of her net-worth was tied up.

This particular donor was an ultra-high-net-worth individual who didn’t publicize her giving much. She had multiple residences in various states. She also had a small family foundation. As with many major donors at her level, her liquid financial wealth was not easily accessible.

3. Once she donated, we never raised the bar.

The development director continued to allow the donor to drive the conversation and was shy about asking for more than a six-figure gift. This ultimately led to the continuation of the six-figure gift for several years. While that’s not a bad thing, it did in fact stall any future conversation about getting to a million-dollar donation. The development director also failed to steward a true relationship that could have ultimately resulted in a multi-million donation or even a large endowment gift (yes, the donor had that kind of capacity)!

So, what’s your takeaway? Don’t shy away from cultivating and soliciting potential million-dollar donors simply because they haven’t made a gift yet, but don’t expect big dollars right away. Start with a plan that gets the potential donor’s attention and interest and carry out smart cultivation actions that keep the donor’s attention. If you’re able to secure a five or six-figure gift, consider that a success. And of course, be thankful for the support you do receive.

If you need help building your million-dollar (or more) fundraising program, let’s chat. Email me at deanna@deannaackerman.com. There are some quick, simple solutions that will get you closer to the $1 million+ mark in 2021.