Asking for a major gift is best done in person.

The Why is More Important than the How 

What’s your donor’s why? 

No, seriously. What is it?  

If you can’t answer that one question, you’re already fighting an uphill battle.  

I see it time and time again: Nonprofits and their gift officers get so caught up in the how, they ignore the why. But in the end, the details of how a donor gives are irrelevant. It’s why they give that matters.  

Focusing on the why is what turns prospects into donors, and turns donors into repeat donors. When you emphasize the why, you are being donor-centric in the truest sense.  

“But How Do I Find Out Why People Give?” 

It’s simple: You pay attention when they’re talking. You listen. You ask questions. You send out donor surveys. You form relationships. And you use common sense.  

For instance, which of the following is more engaging? 

Donate the full value of your stock portfolio tax-free by establishing a charitable remainder annuity trust. You will receive lifetime annuity payments calculated at a fixed percentage of the donated assets, and be eligible for a charitable deduction upon creation of the trust.

“Make a gift, receive income for life, and get a tax deduction! What’s not to like?” 


If that first description (yawn) didn’t make you fall asleep, you must be an accountant or a corporate lawyer. Seriously. The problem is, the majority of your donors aren’t — and they won’t get through the first sentence before they doze off and drool all over the mailer, blurring your award-winning design beyond recognition. 

Here’s another test. See if you can identify the donor-centric copy: 

“This year, we delivered life-saving medicine and medical care to 1,000 at-risk children.”  

“This year, you helped save the lives of more than 1,000 at-risk children, because your generous donations were used to supply medicine and provide medical care.”  

The second sentence focuses on why the donors really care: By making a donation, they were able to help change the world. 

Donor-centric fundraising is about focusing on that why. It’s about creating a collaborative fundraising atmosphere, and recognizing the donor’s role in continuing your nonprofit’s mission. It’s about transparency, gratitude, and trust. And studies show it leads not just to bigger gifts, but to more repeat gifts 

Now are you ready to start focusing on the why?  

Getting Started 

Here are some questions that will get you thinking:  

Which messages are most likely to resonant, emotionally, with our donors? 
How do our donors and potential donors perceive us?  
How would a gift play into a donor’s long-term vision or life goals? (Their why). 
How can we make donors feel more connected with our mission? 
What are my donor’s interests? 
Are our donors satisfied with our nonprofit? 
Do our communications put the emphasis on what we’ve done, or on what the donors have done?  


When the why is more important than the how, everyone wins. Donors feel good. Donations go up. Deep relationships are formed. And before long, being donor-centric becomes second nature. 

Stop worrying about the technical aspects of gifts, and start focusing on the why instead. It’s a simple step — and it will simply transform your nonprofit.   

The post The Why is More Important than the How  appeared first on Center for Major Gifts.

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