I’d rather do it myself!

by Marcy Heim on October 12, 2022

Why it better serves donors to engage partners in major giving relationships! 

You know what they say…”By the time I get someone to help me, it’s just easier to do it myself!” For many non-profits partners are vital in major gift relationships! 

Last Friday I had the total delight of being with an amazing collection of faith-based small non-profits. These organizations all had received grants from the Madison Christian Giving Fund – the program sponsor.  Few had anyone dedicated to fundraising. Most wore several hats including fundraising. All were passionately dedicated to the kids, seniors, homeless, moms or whomever they were helping.

Madison Christian Giving Fund

In my session, I highlighted major giving mindset, vibrant options for giving and using partners along with my signature tool – Ask for Anything Artfully! For these nonprofits, it’s crucial to use partners.  

Partners quote

ALL OF YOU can benefit from embracing others in your major giving relationship building. Here’s how!

Partner puzzle fits

1. Who are Potential Partners?

Partners go beyond the board – way beyond. How often I have heard, “If only my board would help!” Sure, the board can be a great help AND there are so many more potential partners. 

  • Other donors (of ALL sizes)
  • Other staff members
  • Recipients of your services
  • Alumni, members, students, etc
  • Faith family
  • Sports united folks (Badger fans/Packers fans/Little league parents)
  • Service group friends (Elks, Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions)
  • Your financial people
  • Volunteer financial people – planners, attorneys
  • Your organization’s volunteers
  • Spouses of Board members
  • Emeritus Board members
  • Past staff members now retired
  • Event or organization sponsors
  • Event table hosts or silent auction item donator
  • Vendors (your printer for example)
  • Parents/Families of those engaged with you
  • Your board and
  • YOUR organization’s unique opportunities!

2. What makes a good partner?

The criteria is pretty simple – an inkling for what you do, a perspective on what you do, some experience with what you do, some investment into what you do and the willingness to help. (notice I don’t say they have to be over-the-top supporters)

3. What exactly do partners do?

Partners are invaluable in providing help in the ways THEY are comfortable and strong. Partners do NOT need to ask for money – that’s the development professional’s role. What you ask of them needs to mesh with their skills and time availability. It can range from a quick conversation over coffee, to attending a retreat – from writing a card, to sharing their story. You are only limited by YOUR mindset around this. Think of everything YOU say and do. Who could also tell that story, make that point, share that experience, text that photo, validate your stories and demonstrate your impact?

PLUS – they can often be the reason someone WILL meet – just to engage with the partner – thus giving YOU the chance to secure the visit, zoom, call.

4. How do partners move the giving relationship forward?

They are not us – the paid fundraising staff. Enough said. They bring their personal experience and opinions. They may not always agree with everything the organization is doing. They may still be finding their way with the organization. They may not be major donors themselves (but it is best if they have given something). They are positive and share good energy for what you do.

For me, the best is that they take on part of the conversation when in person, on zoom on a group phone call.  This gives me the chance to sit back, listen and observe how the donor reacts, responds, and engages in a way I don’t get to see if I’m by myself.  That’s golden!

5. Are there challenges to look out for in working with partners?  Sure.

  • They can be difficult to schedule requiring us to be more ahead of the game.
  • It can take more time to walk through the goals of the interaction – AT FIRST – but this gets easier over time.
  • You need to remind them of confidentiality – don’t assume they get it.
  • You will find it gets complicated and your partners connect! That’s good, too.
  • You have more to get entered into the database.
  • You can’t control what partners say and sometimes it surprises you!
  • They cancel. Too many times and you need to move on.  
  • You have to watch how you talk about people! I think this is a GOOD

CHALLENGE! How are you talking about your donors? Manipulative, calculating, like an ATM or sincerely considering the gift most meaningful for them?  Always talk about your donors as if they are standing next to you.

Better utilize partners

6. How do you begin to better utilize partners in your major giving relationships?

  1. Make a list of potential partners and what donors they could help you with or what role they could take on with you.
  2. Begin with one or two of them. Make a plan to add more in a timeline that works for you. Maybe one/month.
  3. Talk with them about the way they would be most comfortable helping you – does it mesh with what you were thinking?
  4. Have them do that action with you once – make time to walk through it with them. 
  5. If it works – REPEAT. Give a partner a specific task/role to get good at! Every master was once a disaster – let them practice this one task/role and master it!
  6. Let them be on their own. You will find that for some tasks – tours, thank you calls – your partners can be on their own after some time. Celebrate that now partners are actually freeing up your time! 
  7. Enjoy sharing how we honorably do our fundraising work – how we serve – how we engage. Thank your partners. Celebrate with them. Stay in touch with the results of a major giving relationship so they know what happens!

Major giving relationships are just more fun when shared.  Drop the mindset that it’s too much work and embrace the party! Get ready to be bombarded with goodwill and connections that create constellations of joy in your life!

Invest in JOY®

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