That’s Not a Major Gift

At least five times over the last week or so I’ve heard the statement, “$x level is NOT a major gift; don’t waste your time on those” or “Those low-level donors aren’t giving major gifts.  They’re nice gifts, sure, but they’re not major gifts.”

Let me tell you about Jane.  I adore Jane.  She was accidentally invited to a recognition event that her donation technically didn’t entitle her to.  She gave $50 per quarter, over one year, for a total of $200.  On a credit card.  For five years, faithfully.

Jane LOVES . . . no, she LIVES the mission.   And at this event she said to me, “I so wish I could do more; I’m retired and I know I can do the $200, but anything more and I’m worried I wouldn’t be able to pay it off, but I WISH I could do more.”  I reassured it that she was appreciated, we had a lovely conversation and now every time I see Jane – which is frequently – we talk about grandkids and dogs and wonderful, wonderful things.

We did have a brief conversation, early on, about giving $50 monthly.  Which she realized she could do very easily, she’d just never thought about it from a monthly perspective.  Jane now gives $600.

And that’s a major gift.

For Jane.

Does it meet the minimum institutional major gift threshold?  No.  Is Jane recognized as a major donor?  No; she doesn’t want to be.  Does Jane get a yearly stewardship lunch at a fancy restaurant?  No.  Sometimes I run into Jane at Starbucks and I do buy her coffee.

But everybody in administration knows Jane.  And sometimes we talk to Jane about ideas and upcoming ideas.  And we know that Jane is giving, right now, at the highest level she can.  And, oh my gosh, do we appreciate her.

There are plenty of other $600 donors who just write a check in response to direct mail.  And there are some major gift donors who do the same – they don’t want lunch or courting or schmoozing, they just respond.  God love ’em.  And they’re at or above the “identified major gift threshold.”

Can an Annual Fund Director afford to invest in every $100 donor to find their Jane?  Of course not, absolutely not – especially in large-volume shops.

But Janes – like cream – ALWAYS rise.  There’s always a Jane, popping up like a prairie dog going, “Anybody paying attention to me?”

And to say, “Don’t waste your time on Jane” means you missed out on a really lovely relationship.  That may – or may not – turn into a deeper engagement for both of you.

The trick is to recognize the Janes when they come your way and not have a preconceived idea that says, “Well, can’t do anything for her because it’s not a major gift.”

For Jane it’s a very major gift.



  1. […] and many modest donors upgrade to become major – or vitally important regular – donors with a little loving care. Major donors usually don’t start out that way – it’s rare that I’ve seen someone’s very […]

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