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Think Your Small Charity Can’t Play In the Big Leagues? Think Again! Three Steps to Every Large Gift

Have you ever thought that the smaller organization you serve can't raise large major and planned gifts? If so, you're not alone. Bigger gifts can feel very intimidating because they seem complicated and impossible to tackle. Where do you even begin? I'm here to demystify it and point you in the right direction.

There are 3 steps to every good, large gift and they must happen in a specific order. Try to tackle them in the wrong order and it's not going to go smoothly and very well may fizzle out.


This is the first and most important step. The donor's charitable GOALS must be developed fully and completely before you even think about moving to the next steps. It's all about discovering what the donor wants to accomplish; what difference to they want to make? This step will take time. It will involve an exploration of emotions and history. After all, "transformational" giving is an extension of the donor herself. It expresses her personality, history, values, and legacy. It's a way for her to give meaning to her wealth.

In my last article, we explored the "Meaningful Charitable Conversation" with questions and conversation starters to help donors develop their goals. As with all new skills - practice makes perfect. Mark Twain said "The secret of getting ahead is getting started". Let's get out there and start having those conversations to define those donor goals!


You've helped the donor define her charitable goals - now it's time to move to step 2 - TOOLS. No matter what project you are working on, you need to choose the right tools. In the case of giving, the tools are assets - stocks, real estate, life insurance, IRAs, etc. Which asset is best to use to accomplish the goals? The answer to that question requires specific expertise and this is where the donor's financial planner, CPA, and attorney are essential. Not all assets are created equally. They are taxed differently and are transferred by different means.

It is vitally important to remember that giving doesn't happen in a vacuum. Large gifts very often happen alongside other significant financial and life events of the donor. When done well, these gifts improve the overall financial and estate plans.


The final step is to determine "how" the asset will be transferred or which TECHNIQUES are best. Will it be during life or after death? Will it be a direct gift or given via a Donor Advised Fund, Gift Annuity, Trust, or some other means? Needless to say, the donor's full team of advisors should be consulted to determine the right techniques to employ.

You need not fear the techniques. You've already completed the most important step - GOALS. Throughout the process, you must continually return to the goals. Those are the reasons for the gift itself. The rest is just numbers. If you don't deal with financial numbers every day, they can seem intimidating. There are many advisors who can lend their expertise (me included) to make sense of the numbers. Get to know these people through professional networks like your local planned giving council and financial planning associations.

Don't Get the Cart Before the Horse!

Many planners start with numbers because that's where they live everyday. They love numbers. It's important, but you can't start there. If you do, you're just making the job much more difficult. Planning a large gift without first defining goals is like going on a road trip without a destination in mind. How can someone expect to end up in the right place with no destination? We must keep the destination in sight at all times.

Keep these three steps in mind the next time you are speaking to a donor. They will serve you well!


Dana is the creator of Turning Wealth Into What Matters™ - Strategic Growth Plans for Fundraisers and Professional Advisors.


  1. Jen Dobossy on December 20, 2017 at 10:02 pm

    You are doing great! I am proud of you with sticking to your tremendous social media presence!

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