Partner Best Practices for MORE Major Gifts

by Marcy Heim on February 26, 2020

You can’t do it alone.

I don’t care how efficient you are, or think you are, you can only have so much fundraising success if you try to do it all yourself.

I get it…it takes a great deal of energy and patience to bring on a volunteer, board member or program staff to help out.  Sometimes it just doesn’t seem worth it.

It is.

“Every master was once a disaster.” This quote from T Harv Eker reminds us that whenever we are learning something new – even if we have natural gift for it, it takes time and practice. 

If it takes time and practice, why bother?

  1. If you believe your mission is worthy of support, you will constantly grow and change to do your work better.
  2. Your givers and prospective givers deserve to have the best experience with your organization/institution you can create, and engaging others deepens their relationship and makes it richer.
  3. While you can be the lead or key contact for your givers, being sure there are others sharing the relationship keeps them connected should you leave your position. This honors your donors and ensures they don’t feel lost without you there.  It’s the right thing to do.

Best Practices to Engage Partners in Major Giving Relationships

1. Have a plan for your donor first.

Do your homework. Consider what you already know about a giver and chart out potential next steps and giving options. This is YOUR job.

2. Consider partner personalities to best match partners and tasks.

Did you know that the greatest fear of folks 55 and under is public speaking? Choose wisely for the volunteer you ask to speak at the Rotary or Kiwanis for your latest project. Who’s comfortable on the internet, who works well with spreadsheets, who’s naturally warm and gracious and would make a great call partner?

3. Make tasks repeatable with many donors.

Once I worked with a $1.2M donor on sharing why he made his gift. While we started to work with one specific major giver, I asked him to help again and again—in exactly the same way.

4. Have your ask written and share it with your partners.

Write your ‘best guess’ ask using Marcy’s 3-sentence ask ( and share this with partners. They can help you tweak it and support it!

5. Keep your partner relationships to the business at hand –NEVER a personal agenda.

Meeting with your board member to talk about her gift is NEVER the time to slip in a concern about the ED/CEO, criticize a priority, or have any other off-topic agenda. Never. (Look for more on this in the next TWO posts!)

6. Keep your partners accountable. Partners can have metrics too.

When you engage your partners to help, be clear on the what, why AND by when. Stay in touch reminding them and offering help if needed. Use board meetings to share board member actions taken.

7. Keep your partners in the information loop as to the donor status.

One consistent complaint I hear from Board, “They ask for my help, I do it and I never hear how it turned out.” I get it may take awhile – stay in touch.

8. Appreciate your partners in special and meaningful ways.

I sincerely believe we seek appreciation far more than recognition. Let your partners know they are helping and you are grateful in personal, authentic ways.

9. Remind them of the importance of their own giving/volunteering/serving stories. Yes, it is awkward to ask someone else to do something you haven’t done yourself. But it’s more than that. Why you gave and what it has meant to you is a story that brings JOY to the teller…and the listener.

10.Enhance their knowledge of our profession and artful development.

We don’t just go to lunch and receptions? Pulling your partners authentically into the process gives them hands-on experience about what we do to grow meaningful major-giving relationships.  MUCH more impactful than ‘telling’ them what we do.

Yes, it will take time to engage and coach a partner to help you with a major giver relationship. AND, YES, it will enhance the experience of your givers AND the partners. This will be reflected in the amount you raise – for sure! It will also inspire unexpected synergies and magnify amazing positive magic. Jump in! Start small but BEGIN!  I know you will be amazing!

Leave a Comment

Anti-Spam Quiz:

Previous post:

Next post: