May 2014: Get Your Board on Board with Major Gifts

In this Issue

Opening Remarks

Financial viability is one of the most tangible, if not the most important, element in the ability of an organization to build a sustainable future for itself.  And a vital component of financial viability is a robust major donor outreach.  In this edition of Transforming Challenges, Senior Consultant Tom Reid suggests some strategies for getting your Board involved in your major donor campaigns.

At The Reid Group, we have a passion for helping leaders and organizations transform their challenges into opportunities to create a better world. One of the ways we do that is through this e-letter, Transforming Challenges. Is there someone you know who could benefit from receiving it? Forward this edition to them and encourage them to subscribe for themselves. They’ll thank you—and so do we!

The Reid Group News

  • Preliminary Recommendations were sent on April 22 to the 75 Cluster core teams in the Archdiocese of New York working on the Making All Things New planning project.  The teams are now discussing the recommendations and formulating their Cluster Responses which are due June 8.  The Archdiocesan Advisory Group will issue Final Recommendations to Cardinal Dolan at the end of June.
  • We have been hired by the Diocese of Lafayette, IN for a three-part project:  to conduct a search process for a Diocesan Finance Officer, to facilitate a diocesan-wide planning process, and to facilitate a Chancery reorganization.  Maureen Gallagher and Tom Reid are the project team, assisted by our newest Reid Group consultant, Anne Skorski.
  • Greg Cascione and Tom Reid will offer a half-day in-service on major gift fundraising for the development staff at John Carroll University in mid-May.
  • The 12th and final pamphlet in the Strengthening Catholic Identity series, “Campus Operations & Stewardship,” will be published soon.  This series is a joint production of The Reid Group and the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.  You can find the series posted on our web site.
  • John Reid and Karen Castellon will meet with the Regional Planning Commission in the Topeka Region of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas on May 8 as they prepare Preliminary Recommendations for the three Clusters in the Region as part of their regional planning process.

So as you look at your individual or organizational future, what are your challenges? Could you benefit from skilled support? Give us a call at 206-432-3565 or send us ane-mail to start transforming those challenges into opportunities.

We are pleased to announce the next in The Reid Group teleseminar series.

Date: May 21, 2014

Time:  2 p.m. PT, 3 p.m. MT, 4 p.m. CT, 5 pm ET.

Topic:  How to Generate Major Gifts

The call will be hosted by Tom Reid and Greg Cascione, both Senior Consultants with The Reid Group.

In this Season of Spring, with life renewing itself yet one more time, it is a good time to ask: How well is your organization or community engaging its Board members and other shareholders? How are you involving your Board members in the work of obtaining major gifts?

During this teleseminar, information and practical suggestions will be presented for increasing your organization’s or community’s competency in securing major gifts. In addition, the conversation will also offer tips for engaging your colleagues in constructive conversation leading to a more effective fundraising program.

Feature Focus

Get Your Board on Board with Major Gifts

Tom Reid, Senior Consultant

Tom Reid, Senior Consultant

The rule of thumb for fundraising campaigns used to be that you get 80% of your contributions from 20% of your donors. And then, more recently, the percentages shifted to 90%-10%. In our experience at The Reid Group with a multi-million dollar fundraising campaign for a religious community, the giving split was more like 95%-5%. And one fundraising consulting advisor, For Impact, says it’s really 97%-3%.

So how important is major gift funding, anyway?

Pretty darn important, I guess. This doesn’t mean you forget about all your other, smaller donors. Any contribution, no matter what the size, is important. But your major givers need to be front and center in your development plan.

In our experience with clients, we notice that people often get overwhelmed by the thought of all the donors they should be contacting and aren’t sure where to start. (And we all know what happens when you aren’t sure how to start something—you don’t.)

An emphasis on major gift fundraising in your development plan helps you to focus on quality, not quantity. And the place to start is with your Board.

One benchmark of a successful fundraising campaign is 100% Board participation. While this level of participation is not achievable for every type of organization, there are a couple of reasons why it is important to reach out to your Board members first. One, their contributions give your campaign some quick successes in its beginning phase. Second, the contribution is a tangible illustration of the Board member’s own commitment to the campaign and to the organization. With that commitment firmly in place, Board members have more confidence in reaching out to other potential donors.

In addition to their own gift, Board members can help with major gift fundraising in a number of ways:

  • They can identify prospects out of their own contacts
  • They can act as the “connector,” connecting prospects to the organization
  • They can build the relationship with prospects
  • They can strategize about who should make the “ask” of prospects (this can be but doesn’t have to be the Board member)
  • They can follow up with prospects and donors with ongoing communication

With regard to the last point—ongoing communication—this is especially important in cultivating major gifts. This is also an area where many organizations drop the ball. When was the last time you were in touch with your donors? How consistently does your organization communicate with its donors, and especially major donors? What form do these communications take (letter, e-mail, phone call, coffee or lunch date, etc.) What do you share with your donors in these communications (news from the organization, the impact of their last gift, fundraising progress on your latest campaign)?

The care and feeding of your major donors and reaching out to new potential donors are ongoing tasks immensely important to the success of your fund development program. When you involve your Board in these tasks, you take giant steps toward the sustainable future you want to create for your organization.


The Art of Change: Faith, Vision and Prophetic Planning

Think about what your organization could do if the process of planning met the inevitability of change head-on—and it resulted in significant success.

Organizations large and small, religious and secular, for-profit and not-for-profit, successful and unsuccessful, go through change. John Reid and Maureen Gallagher of the Reid Group have been instrumental in helping many groups discover the power of Prophetic Planning. This book presents a complete overview with detailed information that any organization will find useful in understanding how to plan for change.

The Art of Change: Faith, Vision and Prophetic Planning, and its companion CD are now available from Liguori Publications as well as from

And that’s it for this month. Look for Transforming Challenges next month–and until then, have a good day and a great week.Kathy Johnson, Editor, Transforming Challenges
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